8 Ways to Protect your Firm from Money Laundering

Posted by

Jan Hagen

on 17 Mar 2022


Even though new anti-money laundering rules appear every year, the basic building blocks remain the same. We've got eight simple tips for how you can protect your business.

8 Ways to Protect your Firm from Money Laundering

The crackdown on money laundering continues

According to HM Treasury, serious organised crime costs the UK a staggering £37 billion a year. So it is understandable that the government is keen to reduce it.

Money-laundering regulations aim to reduce this figure by making it harder for criminals to use the financial system to launder their ill-gotten gains. Secondly, it enables the authorities to recover any proceeds of crime and take the financial incentive out of crime.

The private and public sectors need to work together; otherwise, it simply will not be effective. Even though this is a goal to be applauded, it still means that regulated businesses have to comply with laws and regulations that continue to evolve at a pace that requires constant vigilance and flexibility.

The pressure to know everything about customers is becoming greater and greater. The inevitable outcome is that data sets requiring monitoring are becoming so large that firms are forced to rethink and re-engineer the way they mitigate and manage financial crime risk.

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Top tips to protect your firm from money laundering

These tips aim to help your firm tackle the challenge of keeping pace with ever-changing regulations and guard against money laundering.

1. Make sure your AML programme reflects your business

Too many firms rely on external consultants to help put together an almost off-the-shelf AML policy and procedural framework that doesn't reflect a firm's day to day business activities.

2. Make sure the flow makes sense

Too often, there is misalignment within a financial crime risk management framework. The risk assessment should drive the policy. The policy drives the procedures. The procedures need to reflect actual business as usual, and the subsequent controls should monitor that the entire process is aligned and working.

3. Have a clear technology plan

With data sets that require scrutiny becoming larger and larger, it is almost impossible to have an effective financial crime risk mitigation strategy without technology components. Whether this is within client identification, client and transaction monitoring or managing the outputs from all these processes in one clear view. The regulators are clear that they expect a clear technology plan. Even if you choose not to use technology for certain activities, you need to articulate why you believe a manual process is better.

4. Understand your tools

When using third party PEP and sanctions list, make sure you understand where the data come from and how they are maintained. When using analytics to monitor behaviour, trends, and transactions, make sure you explain the underlying rationale for the deployed algorithms.

5. Be sure to conduct risk-based due diligence

Risk-based due diligence includes all customers, associates, consultants and third parties. The higher the risk, the higher the level of due diligence is required. Regulations are emerging that require firms to provide more and more detail about what they do in this respect and why they believe that what they do is appropriate. Over time there will be increased clarity about what constitutes standard and enhanced due diligence, so firms need to review their current practices against new emerging regulations.

6. Make sure your training is focused

Everyone in a firm should be able to explain how their firm and its products and services are most at risk from financial crime. In the same vein, everyone should be clear on how to respond to unusual activity to determine whether this unusual activity gives rise to concern or possibly suspicion.

7. Regular reviews

Regulations require regular internal control reviews and reassessments. These should be hardcoded into your financial crime compliance programme with a frequency that reflects the risks your business is exposed to because of the types of clients it deals with, the products and services it sells and the jurisdictions it operates within. They should be essential, non-moveable processes in your AML compliance program.

8. Ensure the financial crime team have adequate resources

The risk assessment and associated risk mitigants will drive the required resources decision. Without sufficient resources, a firm cannot revisit the risk assessment. A financial crime team needs adequately competent staff and an efficient toolkit to manage financial crime risk. Not having that is a big red flag to any regulator.

There is much detail behind each of these statements. But if you feel confident that everything is appropriately covered and documented within your firm, you are on track to have an effective financial crime risk strategy.

EU money-laundering directives

Every year, the EU continues to pile the pressure on member states to fine-tune their laws and regulations through a series of anti-money laundering (AML) directives. There was a long wait after 4MLD, but at the start of 2020, we saw 5AMLD followed swiftly by the 6th AML Directive. Although, the basic building blocks remain the same.

It seems that 6AMLD will be the last of the numbered directives. The EU's latest AML package was unveiled in July 2021, consisting of four legislative proposals - a directive and three regulations.

These bold recommendations, which implement the European Commission's (EC) May 2020 Action Plan, represent the most significant revamp of the EU's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation to date.

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