By Antoun Massaad
The world has opened up for business like almost never before in the past decade but with every opportunity comes risk. How do firms ensure they don’t miss a great deal and yet safeguard their money and reputation?
‘Knowledge is power’, as the saying goes and the more you know about a business, the more protected you are when considering working with them. Just as no one would go into business with a partner they didn’t know and trust, so no business owner should contemplate selling to or buying from an individual or company they know nothing about.
The questions any business owner should ask are, what do I know about this company’s financial status? Could my reputation be tarnished by association? Is this company held in high esteem in their own country or the wider world by officials or reputable businesses? For these reasons, it would be wise to carry out bankruptcy and reputation checks, PEP screening and global compliance checks.
Similarly, don’t take appearances at face value. A company can look squeaky clean but do you really know who owns it or is associated with it? In order to get to the bottom of who really is the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of the business you’re checking, you need to go to a reputable business intelligence specialist. Only then can you be assured that your business associates are people you really want to work – and be associated - with.
Of course, the easier it is to get access to this information, the better, as every successful business owner is time poor. That’s why it’s best to use a service where copies of reports can be downloaded. Better still, set up a subscription with a reputable agency and you can download at your leisure at a time that suits you and, if you pay for these packages in advance, you may be eligible for extra discounts and access to free downloads.
That said, it’s no use if the service is outstanding but the breadth of information is limited. Most services offer KYC reports and Business Information reports as standard but how many KYC reports are available in English? There are millions of individuals and businesses all poised to work with you in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region but how many of them are searchable? In order to really know who you’re doing business with, you need to use an intelligence service that has access to as many records as possible. And what about doing business in countries where identity verification is a must, such as Russia? You really should ensure that your intelligence provider has a wide remit in terms of countries and individuals covered.
However, reams of information are of little help without analysis or constant updating. How many times have you looked at your intelligence reports on a business and then realised that the data are years out of date? Ideally, you need an intelligence service that reminds you that you need an update. In addition, try to find a service that provides interactive reports, so you can click on the shareholder and see other businesses that shareholder is linked to and have the option to purchase reports on those companies too.
Every business owner’s first priority is actually doing business, so look for a service that reminds its clients to update the reports they ordered a year ago and takes them straight to the point of sale to edit or add to their order.
In other words, don’t leave doing business to chance. Just as you wouldn’t dream of walking around an unfamiliar city without a map at night, so you shouldn’t consider doing business with a faceless entity you know nothing about. Be prepared, stay informed and reap the business benefits.
Antoun Massaad is the co-founder and CEO of Cedar Rose, the MENA region’s leading Business Intelligence services provider. With unrivalled insight into the region and access to its most comprehensive database of individual and company records, Cedar Rose works with some of the world’s largest companies to provide KYC, AML and Due Diligence solutions that are helping to bring business practices in the region up to international standards. See what Cedar Rose can do for you at www.cedar-rose.com.