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.

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.”