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The realities of AML compliance

10th May 2024
Brought to you by
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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In the UK’s intricate financial landscape, the topic of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance often elicits a sigh from even the most experienced accountants and bookkeepers. Known for its endless box-ticking, time-consuming manual processes, and the looming fear of significant professional and financial repercussions from non-compliance, AML is a critical but challenging aspect of any financial practice.  

However, the deployment of appropriate tools and processes can significantly simplify AML compliance, ensuring that your practice not only meets the required standards but is prepared for any compliance verification by entities like HMRC or various accounting and bookkeeping institutes.  

Here’s how you can tailor your process to your firm-wide risk assessment, and use technology to structure and automate your AML workflows efficiently. 

Importance of AML compliance in the UK 

AML compliance is vital due to the UK’s prominent position in the global financial market, where the prevention of money laundering is crucial for maintaining the integrity of financial transactions. Effective AML practices prevent the financial market from being exploited for illegal activities, thereby sustaining economic stability and promoting legitimate business operations. 

Overview of AML regulations and guidelines in the UK 

The UK’s AML framework is defined by several key regulations, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2017. These are supplemented by guidelines from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and professional bodies that are members of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), like ICAEW, ACCA, and ICAS. These bodies set the compliance framework that practices must follow, tailoring their guidelines to the specific risks associated with different types of clients and transactions. Where a practice is not governed by professional body they will usually be directly regulated by HMRC. 

Obligations and compliance measures 

Financial institutions and regulated entities like accounting practices are mandated to implement rigorous measures to prevent their services from being used for money laundering. These measures include: 

  1. Appointing a compliance officer: Responsible for overseeing AML compliance and reporting to senior management. 

  1. AML training: Ensuring all employees are aware of AML regulations and compliance procedures. 

  1. AML policies and procedures: Developing and regularly updating comprehensive AML policies tailored to the practice’s operations. 

Technology and AML compliance 

While technology, such as automated due diligence and transaction monitoring systems, is invaluable in streamlining many aspects of AML compliance, it’s important to consider that it’s not a panacea. While technology will assist in checking your client’s information against databases like the DVLA or the Home Office and identifying Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), it’s important to make space in the process for a manual review of tech-generated reports to inform your decision-making. 

The critical role of robust procedures 

It’s critical for firms of all sizes to evaluate their AML procedures continually – with some sole operators updating processes annually or quarterly. Checks should include not only the verification of client identities but also ongoing checks during the course of work.  

  • Look out for consistency of the information provided by clients regarding their location, trading activities, and sources of funds 

  • Document this information and share regular updates –and remember that if discrepancies arise, obtaining and recording explanations is essential. 

Continuous adaption and education 

The dynamic nature of AML regulations requires continuous adaptation and education to keep up with evolving standards. This involves regular training for staff, revising internal policies, and staying informed about global AML trends and regulatory changes to avoid oversights that might lead to severe penalties. 

Summary 

While AML compliance poses significant challenges to accountants in the UK, the correct use of technology and close adherence to regulations can greatly simplify these processes. By implementing robust compliance systems and utilising modern technology, you can ensure that you meet your legal obligations and maintain your reputation while protecting the financial system from abuse. 

BrightManager can make keeping on top of AML in your practice much easier, with automated ID checks and secure document management for record-keeping. If you’re interested in exploring how technology can help you to facilitate AML compliance, book a demo of Bright’s products below.