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How Can You Ease the AML Burdens?

16th Feb 2024
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Wolters Kluwer provides software to tax and accounting professionals.

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Richard Hattersley wrote a piece recently entitled, “AML Burdens starting to feel like a full time job” in which he discusses some of the trials and tribulations that small practitioners, in particular bookkeepers, are coming up against when they’re considering the heavy duties of AML vs the much more appealing (not to mention fee earning) bookkeeping, advisory or compliance work. 

Anti money laundering software starting to feel like a burden to tax and accounting practices
Wolters Kluwer
 

Ben Cunliffe, Senior Product Manager at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK gives his thoughts to the recent article (13th February 2024) on AccountingWeb.

Rebecca Williams discussed in detail with Richard in the article around AML burden starting to feel like a full time job, she quite rightly stated “At this point in time, trying to keep up with AML, even if you understand the basics, has become a full-time job”. I’d completely agree, it quite literally is a full time job, which is why many firms who employ a MLRO (money laundering reporting officer) see them often knee deep in risk assessments, utility bills, passports and credit data. The real question here however is how can we turn this from a job we have to do, into a job worth doing? 

You may argue that the threat of fines, the reputational damages or in the most extreme cases, the risk of jail is enough, but is it enough to move firms from doing the bare minimum when it comes to AML?

 As a Senior Product Manager for a financial technology company, we have to do a tremendous amount for research across our market base to ensure what we’re building solves a problem for the market and resonates with the users. Otherwise we’re throwing time, effort and cash away. Working on our AML solution was no different in this matter, and I was privileged enough to get some great insights from sole traders to large global firms on effective AML practices.

I must have researched and spoken to easily over 100 finance professionals over the last 6 months or so about not just their AML process but their client onboarding process in general. Their attitudes ranged from “we do the bare minimum because we have too” to “We use cutting edge technology and trends to simplify and demonstrate AML compliance, and we turn a profit from it”.

Now whichever side of the coin you land on,  you do want to ease burdens, I am sure everyone can agree to that.

How can you achieve that?

  • Charge for your AML services: Make it clear that you charge for your AML services, this is a disbursement like any other and should be added to the clients bill, both for your time & for any software and technology you use to help you achieve this.
  • Use technology: There are so many tools that will allow you to get this process done quicker and easier. Nobody, this day in age, should be using a single data provider (or worse, paper-based AML methods). Many tools will act as data aggregators, scanning huge amounts of available data to match against positive and negative data sets. Biometric verification is also a must, especially when you’ve never met the clients you’re working with.
  • Automate where you can: Dovetailed with the right technology, you can automate your entire AML & KYC process, saving you a lot of valuable time. If you can use a piece of software to get the client to provide that data for you, you’re saving even more time. Remember that whilst AML compliance is for your protection, it’s the clients that make it necessary. So why should you do the heavy lifting? For example, our CCH iFirm AML + Biometric KYC software allows you automate your biometric checks within under 90 seconds. No paperwork, no manual checks. 
  • Make it clear from the outset: When you’re discussing your duties as an accountant or bookkeeper, make it clear to the client or prospect that you take AML very seriously and as part of your due diligence you will have to run detailed checks on them periodically.  At best they’ll be aware that these costs fall to them, and you’ll deter any prospects who are looking for a “lax” finance partner. At worst, they’ll be mildly perturbed that’s there’s an extra fee they’ll have to pay and potentially some extra question they need to answer. But in all cases, it means you’re covered.

Ultimately, AML & KYC compliance is an ever shifting legislative landscape. This isn’t a new concept to accountants and bookkeepers (a raft of MTD’s, Auto Enrolment to pensions, so on and so forth) but I’d argue it deserves a seat at the table.

Firms can spin AML to reduce their risks, reduce their own internal burdens and make money, I know they can, I’ve seen it done.

Learn more about our AML solution here.