UK conveyancing firms and law firms are under ever greater scrutiny to carry out rigorous Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks, and for good reason. According to Europol, 70% of criminal enterprises now use money laundering techniques to hide their ‘ill-gotten’ gains.

In response, the SRA has massively ‘upped the ante’ in the past 12 months, ramping up desk-based AML compliance assessments, resulting in record fines in 2024. So, the question is, what can you do to ease this burden on your business while ensuring consistent AML compliance when dealing with international clients? 

Enhanced AML checks for international clients 

One of the main challenges for conveyancers in 2024 is knowing exactly when to carry out enhanced AML checks for international clients and how to do so effectively and efficiently.  

Remember, you must complete EDD AML checks when dealing with a customer who is not physically present when carrying out ID checks (e.g. international clients), a ‘Politically Exposed Person’ (PEP) from a high-risk third country identified by the EU, or presents a higher risk of money laundering. 

What are the challenges of vetting international clients? 

Carrying out AML checks on international clients to the standard required by the SRA and CLC can be especially challenging, because: 

  • Your staff may never meet the client in person 
  • There may be language barriers 
  • Domestic checking processes, services and software may not work for clients in other countries, and 
  • It can be difficult to establish the Ultimate Business Owner (UBO), the Source of Funds (SOF) or if the person is a PEP or on a sanction list in another country. 

Due to these challenges, there is a high risk of wrongly identifying or failing to recognise an individual as a high AML risk.  

How can I ease the burden of international AML checks? 

Using systems and processes designed for a domestic clientele to deal with international clients is a risk to your business. Easing the burden of international AML checks requires ‘fit for purpose’ systems, processes, and training geared specifically to international clients.  

While your staff may be familiar with how to spot AML ‘red flags’ for domestic clients, they must also be trained on how to do this for international clients. Likewise, you must have AML conveyancing processes and workflows for onboarding and the ongoing monitoring of international clients. Remember that not all third-party AML services and software are capable of handling international client AML checks.  

Implementing an automated workflow AML solution that can handle both domestic and international clients is key to reducing the administrative burden and AML risk for your business. 

Introducing OneSearch AML for International clients 

OneSearch International AML with Facial Recognition is a new, easy-to-use technology solution for conveyancers with overseas clients which will easily integrate into your existing systems. OneSearch International AML with Facial Recognition provides: 

  • A combined digital ID verification and real-time facial recognition capable of dealing with clients in other jurisdictions 
  • International PEP and sanction screening using real-time information from over 350 datasets, including domestic and international government websites and public transparency projects.  
  • Adverse media screening 
  • Law enforcement and Special Interest Person (SIP) screening for international clients and 
  • Headshots for PEPs sourced from official international government websites to reduce false positives during the PEP screening process. 

Final words 

Without fit-for-purpose training, processes, and systems to deal with international clients, it is all too easy to miss money laundering red flags and risks, which can lead to fines and serious reputational harm. With OneSearch International AML, you can relax knowing that your firm is meeting its AML regulatory requirements, and any AML risks will be picked up early or at any point throughout the transaction.

Tired of spending hours on Anti-Money Laundering checks?

We’ve all been there. But what if you could streamline the process and get it done in minutes?

See how it works in the video below:

Get ready to say goodbye to lengthy AML processes and hello to a smoother conveyancing experience!

We are delighted to launch our new innovative AML check designed to enhance the way property professionals manage compliance and transactional due diligence.

OneSearch AML harnesses market-leading technology and offers conveyancers an up to date Know Your Client checker in the fight against fraud in the sector, all whilst ensuring adherence to recently updated industry standards and guidelines.

Ongoing monitoring
New digital advancements have meant that previous methods of identity verification within the legal setting such as manually checking documents, face-to-face meetings, and waiting for postal deliveries for documents have become outdated. Now, with biometric scanning, NFC technology, secure encryption, and cloud-based storage, ID checks are a far more safe, accurate, and effortless part of the conveyancing process.

Furthermore, OneSearch AML offers ongoing monitoring checks, which provides post-sale examinations of any changes, developments, or updates to customers profiles over a 12-month period.

Robin Wells, Head of Sales Operations at OneSearch added:
“The launch of OneSearch AML underlines our ongoing commitment to empowering conveyancers in navigating their day-to-day workflow, and in this case, support for any complexities that run alongside AML due diligence.
“For us, we know and understand the complexities of KYC regulations of our clients – assessing risks, identifying suspicious activities, and especially ongoing monitoring are all imperative to our customers and to the industry as a whole. OneSearch AML solution delivers quick, secure, and accurate cover across all these areas.”

Challenges in Anti-Money Laundering Compliance
The launch aligns with insights from the SRA’s Anti-Money Laundering annual report, revealed in October 2023, which highlighted certain areas needing attention within law firms. Among the observations, it was noted that a portion of reviewed firms, specifically 66 out of 224, require additional support to fully comply with anti-money laundering regulations. Unfortunately, the legal sector often faces challenges regarding money laundering, contributing to a broader concern around the flow of approximately £100 billion in illicit funds through UK businesses and financial institutions each year.

Elizabeth Jarvis, Managing Director at OneSearch said:
“The message from the SRA annual report was clear. All legal firms need to ensure they are committing time and resources to counteract modern money laundering attempts, and we offer our strongest support with OneSearch AML.
“The service has been created to be the single, comprehensive solution for our customers, easing any worry or burden they may have over how best to comply with all relevant standards and guidelines.”

Are you feeling the weight of Anti-Money Laundering compliance? You’re not alone.

New industry standards and guidelines are adding complexity, and the cost of non-compliance can be significant. 

Our new infographic reveals the hidden costs of manual KYC checks, missed deadlines, and non-compliance penalties. You’ll also discover how OneSearch can help you significantly reduce these costs and improve your bottom line. 

As we enter May, conveyancers across the country are looking ahead to a predicted busier few months. 2024 is still expected to be a year of positive developments in the UK property market, with interest rates and affordability pressures remaining favourable.

Conveyancers are now making changes to their systems, policies, and procedures in preparation for a much busier 2024, especially in the area of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks. So, as a conveyancing practice preparing for the coming year, what do you need to know about AML compliance in 2024?

Laser-like focus by regulators on conveyancer AML compliance

With the publication of SRA’s Anti-Money Laundering annual report 2022-23 in Autumn 2023, it is now 100% clear that regulators are demanding nothing but absolute compliance by law firms and conveyancers with their AML guidelines. During 2023, both the SRA and the CLC uncovered widespread AML code breaches and non-compliance AML by UK law firms. According to the CLC, of the 52 conveyancing practices they inspected:

  • 19 had inadequate AML documented policies or procedures
  • 18 had inadequate AML client due diligence procedures, and
  • 15 had inadequate AML firm-wide risk assessments.

Similarly, the SRA’s own assessments revealed that only around one-third of firms were not fully compliant with their AML obligations.

As the CEO of the SRA, Paul Philip, stated in October 2023:

“Over the coming year [2024], we will increase our work in this area, including undertaking proactive sanctions inspections and desk-based reviews to check how well firms are managing their risk and whether they are complying with licences issued by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation. Where we find sanctions breaches, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action”.

Three-level risk assessments

In 2024, the regulators want to see that all conveyancers are now carrying out detailed risk assessments at the three levels of the:

  • Client
  • Matter, and
  • Organisation

It is not enough for conveyancers to use a ‘check-box’ approach to the three types of risk assessments. The regulators are looking for a detailed, consistent, and integrated approach when it comes to conveyancing risk assessment. Effective policies and training will be vital in ensuring that risk assessments are conducted properly and at the level required to meet the compliance requirements. Risk assessment templates should also be tailored to the organisation, geography, and the type of service being provided.

Conveyancers must go beyond the AML basics in 2024

Regulators have made it clear that they expect law firms and conveyancers to go beyond simply AML check measures; this includes carrying out (where necessary):

  • Source of funds checks
  • Source of wealth checks
  • PEP and sanction checks
  • Enhanced checks

Again, clear and up-to-date policies, coupled with effective training, will be key to making sure that every member of your conveyancing team is carrying out these enhanced checks when they need to and in a consistent and thorough manner.

The SRA and the CLC are also keen to see the wider adoption of proactive, ongoing monitoring measures, which is a key requirement of the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. Monitoring involves continually monitoring the risk profile of existing clients to automatically detect problems and take action if they arise. Indeed, the SRA has said ongoing monitoring is “one of the most effective controls firms can put in place to protect against money laundering”.

Introducing OneSearch AML

OneSearch AML is a new-generation automated digital ID verification solution for commercial and residential conveyancers that overcomes all AML compliance challenges identified by the CLC and SRA. It can be easily integrated into your existing conveyancing system, making its adoption and use extremely straightforward for your team members.

OneSearch AML automatically takes care of all the AML checks and processes necessary for compliance in 2024, including:

  • Verifying the identity and addresses of your clients using a simple automated workflow through a mobile app or online portal.
  • Combining ID verification and real-time facial recognition technology to spot masks, impersonations, or fakes with easy-to-use anti-spoofing liveness tests.
  • Using biometric scanning, NFC technology, secure encryption, and cloud-based storage to ensure that ID checks are safe, accurate, and effortless.
  • Carrying out a range of national database checks, including enhanced checks, seamlessly and automatically, ensuring that you know everything you need to know about your clients and,
  • Ongoing monitoring of AML and KYC data, ensuring that any changes, developments, or updates to customer profiles are carried out automatically over a 12-month period.

Final words

If you haven’t started taking action already, now is the time to do so.

2024 is expected to be a busy and successful year for the conveyancing sector in the UK. By putting in place everything necessary to underpin your AML compliance in the coming weeks and months, including workflow and monitoring systems coupled with effective training, you can relax in the knowledge that when instruction numbers pick up, you will remain AML compliant.

As a ready-made and proven solution for AML compliance in 2024 and beyond, OneSearch AML makes the transition to full compliance as simple and straightforward as possible.

When carrying out Anti-Money Laundering checks on clients, all regulated industries must identify PEPs and sanctioned individuals during onboarding, to comply with KYC and AML requirements.

In this post, we take a deep dive into what they are, who meets the criteria, and explore best practices for your firm, safeguarding you and your business from any financial or reputational perils.

What is a Politically Exposed Person?

A PEP is an individual who is or has been entrusted within a prominent public institution, making them susceptible to corruption. Under anti-money laundering legislation, if a client is identified as a PEP, enhanced due diligence (EDD) is required.

Who specifically classifies as a Politically Exposed Person?

Overall, the list of PEP individuals includes, but is not limited to, heads of states, heads of governments, ministers, MPs, members of high-level judicial bodies such as high courts, as well as family members and close business associates of all the above.

Based on Money Laundering Regulations and UK Government guidance, PEPs are listed into tiered categories depending on their role. For example, Heads of State and Government would be regarded as Tier 1 while mayors and members of local councils would be Tier 4. Under UK Government guidance the expectation is firms should be identifying Tier 1 & 2 PEPs as a minimum.

My firm has identified a PEP, should we cease working with them?

If your client has been flagged as a PEP, you should apply enhanced due diligence measures to the case. This will differ on a case-by-case basis, but this does not automatically mean you should cease business.

Law society guidance suggests you must:

  • Get senior management approval for the business relationship
  • Take adequate measures to establish the source of wealth and source of funds
  • Closely monitor the business relationship throughout

If you know or suspect a money laundering offence is taking place, you must make a disclosure to your firm’s money laundering reporting officer (MLRO).

What about Sanctions?

In addition to enhanced due diligence, all firms are also required to ensure they are not working with sanctioned individuals.

Sanctions and sanctions lists serve as a critical safeguard against financial crime. Businesses use sanctions checks to prevent themselves from getting involved with sanctioned entities. This way, businesses not only avoid the risk of non-compliance fines but also safeguard their reputation in the process. Conducting both PEP and sanction checks is crucial for businesses to minimize the chances of engaging with high-risk individuals or entities and to maintain a robust due diligence process.

Where I can I find out more?

OneSearch AML empowers you to navigate the complexities of due diligence with ease. Our innovative technology simplifies the onboarding process, saving you valuable time without compromising security.