FEAS Secretariat spoke with the Chief Executive Officer of Central Securities Depository of Iran Mr. Hossein Fahimi about the key strategic initiatives of CSDIran, major challenges during the global pandemic and how CSDIran is keeping up with the new global trends.
1. What are the key strategic initiatives CSD Iran is working on at the moment?
In line with the raised concern level, Central Securities Depository of Iran has implemented several additional measures with immediate effect. CSDI believes knowledge, caution and preparation can help protect employees and business against the deadly coronavirus. Providing education and information on the virus itself is brief, and reiterate only what official sources have issued. The notices are being circulated among the employees via automation software. Health and safety infographic leaflets have also been prepared by the Human Resources team to be distributed.
The company is increasing its cleaning protocols and reducing physical contact. CSDI requires its employees to conduct temperature screening. Individuals who are unwell are also urged to go on Leave of Absence. They can only return to work if they submit a health certificate approved by a doctor. The company ensures that workplace is ventilated and are adequately equipped with facilities for hand washing and has increased the frequency of cleaning commonly used areas. CSDI has also urged staff to play their part.
Attendance Management System from the very first days of the outbreak changed, so that instead of using fingerprints, employees can use their smart cards and now facial authentication is used. Unnecessary meetings are meanwhile cancelled, however work continues via video-conference and/or tele-conference.
The company also distributed face masks, hand hygiene and personal prayers rug among the staff as a precautionary measure. Lunch is served packed in paper boxes together with disposable plastic spoons and forks. This is while no salad or raw vegetables are being served and tea and coffee are served in disposable paper cups.
Ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of employees who may be concerned about coronavirus, a physician and a psychologist that have weekly presence in the company are continuing their work in this very special period to help the staff.
CSDI also conducted own coronavirus testing program for staff, calling on a lab specialists to come over and conduct the test on the employees twice over the time.
2. What was CSDI’s role in the Charity Campaign against Corona Virus Outbreak?
From the beginning of the spread of the virus, the Iranian capital market joined the campaign to find and implement solutions in the field of prevention and protection of its human assets and market players as well. On the other hand, in the economic field, the capital market made valuable efforts to overcome the crisis while interacting with the country’s medical staff fighting the virus throughout the country. Hence it announced the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to battle the economic impact of the outbreak through issuing special charity securities, dubbed “Corona 1” and “Corona 2” to help fund efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
According to Iran FaraBourse, the initiative was launched in coordination with the Health Ministry to address financial concerns of medical researchers and manufacturers of medical equipment in the fight against the deadly virus.
The money went to the Ministry of Health for research, prevention and treatment of the infectious virus. The participants also received a certificate of commendation.
In “Corona 1” Charity Securities, both individuals and legal entities could participate. Participants could only purchase and there was no sale to these securities. The money put into purchasing these securities was directly used for the medical aims fighting the outbreak.
In “Corona 2” Charity Securities, both individuals and legal entities could participate. Participants could purchase these securities. The money was put into fixed income funds and the like and the interest allocated to these capitals was used for charity aims, however the capital itself remained in property of the owner. The buyers could then sell the securities or retain the money when the investment is due. They can also sell the securities prior to due time.
CSDI’s role here was that we:
In addition to government fees, CSDI applied no fees for any of the entities working under the Securities and Exchange Organization (SEO) such as brokerage firms.
All the information regarding each recently traded security of “Corona 1” and “Corona 2” was reported to the higher entities benefiting from the trades i.e. the Health Ministry on a daily basis.
It is worth mentioning that the fund collected via the charity campaign was used to provide masks, plastic gloves, sanitizers and hospital gowns and other necessary equipment for the medical staff to prevent, diagnose and treat the patients. The same facilities were also prepared to be distributed among those less-privileged in the society that can hardly provide such preventive measures for themselves and their families.
3. As the world goes digital, especially during the times of global pandemic, how is CSDI keeping up with the new developments and global trends?
The CSDI has for long had digital technology. The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes. It has forced us all to find new ways of working, interacting and living. It has raised questions about where we want and need to invest for the future. It has shown us our strengths and highlighted our weaknesses. It has set us new challenges, not the least of which is to try to find a cure. Digital technology is a key component of our collective effort to tackle the virus and support our new ways of living and working reality during this exceptional time.
The ability to verify a user’s identity online without the need for in-person identity verification speeds up customer acquisition, reduces customer abandonment, and drives growth.
Digital customer acquisition and onboarding is becoming increasingly important to financial institutions in response to changing consumer preferences.
Historically, digital onboarding presented a two-fold challenge; achieving adequate risk and compliance objectives while ensuring a low-friction customer experience. This was particularly difficult for the mobile use case because of the small screen size and difficulty associated with manual data entry. Recent hardware and software advancements, however, have turned what was once a mobile liability into a strength.
CSDI has offered our considerations for applying an appropriate digital identity verification platform.
Created by Central Securities Depository of Iran, the e-KYC Comprehensive Information Gathering System (CIGS), strives to change the way authentication takes place, making it more secure and convenient online rather than in-person.
In order to improve the situation and make online identity authentication more secure, the CSDI has created a series of interoperable technical standards that facilitate the creation of secure and fast identity verification experiences.
When users register on the Comprehensive Information Gathering System or CIGS, they are then required to have their identities verified.
They have two options; they are either prompted to verify their identities in-person. Here they have to refer to branches of select banks and credit institutions, brokerage firms or government electronic service offices.
For those applicants who choose to have their identities verified in-person, the CSDI has provided a special service in collaboration with Iranian designed and made traffic app to help them find the closest brokerage firm, get driving directions and a live traffic map.
The second group decides to choose online verification method. In order to authenticate a user’s identity this way, the customer’s device must be connected to the internet to perform the verification. In fact, the customer should first download and install an app then have his/her identity verified.
4. CSDI online services are on 24-hour standby to provide efficient and high-quality services to its customers, do any of these services face major challenges during the pandemic?
I should say, definitely yes. Capital market players are all required to register into CSDI’s e-KYC system, Comprehensive Information Gathering System (CIGS). As part of the registration, everyone is required to have one’s identity verified.
As the malicious Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic spread and prolonged the lockdown, the on-site authentication of identity was almost impossible and the registration was about to come to a halt.
There were many challenges. Just as an instance, the ability to verify a user’s identity online without the need for in-person identity verification sped up customer acquisition, however made us face challenges.
Here the CSDI envisaged at the time to perform an online verification of the parameters and exploited the knowledge of its own software architecture, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its great potential.
In a stage during the online verification, the applicant is required to record a video of himself reading a random sentence provided by the system. However, those verbally impaired and the illiterate could not complete this part.
CSDI has alleviated this problem with instead providing three gestures shown with hand depicted by the system and the applicant should show those gestures while recording the video of himself. This way everyone can use the online verification of their identities without any limitation.
5. In your personal opinion, what will life look like after COVID-19 pandemic? What are the major challenges that humanity will face in the near future?
The passage of time during this pandemic has often felt unbearably slow. But the transformations we have been living through are lightning fast.
The pandemic has shown us our strengths and highlighted our weaknesses. It has set us new challenges for which we should try to find a cure.
But what will the world look like after the coronavirus pandemic?
Well, no one can predict the future, but we can see trends. The more we are able to spot them, the better our chances of securing our future.
There are now fears about what life post-covid-19 will look like, which can take an emotional toll. It can drain one’s energy, creativity and ability to stay innovative.
I believe every crisis is also an opportunity. Many of the innovations we enjoy today were invented during the crises in the past or right after them. Crises and challenges can be used as a driving force. This also applies in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
This time is a good opportunity to reconsider some of our priorities, such as in our approach to the environment. After spending several weeks locked at home, we would use every opportunity to go outside. I firmly hope that most of us have realized how important it is to protect the nature.
I think we should be grateful for everything that life has to offer and more attentive to little things. During the crisis, there was a huge wave of solidarity that arose in the society. People were sewing facemasks, cheering medical staff, and helping elderlies with shopping. I hope that this will continue and that we will become more considerate and solidary to each other.
Let’s take this time to turn challenges into opportunities and be the leader that will rise to the ‘occasion’.