The Exeter Property Circle Annual Summer Party took place on 13th June, and OneSearch were in attendance to meet, greet, and pass round the canapés!

After the event, OneSearch’s James Shepherd said: “The sunshine may not have come out to play for the Exeter Property Circle Summer networking last night, but, at least everyone else did! Was an absolute pleasure for OneSearch to sponsor such a fun event at the lovely Southernhay House Hotel. Great to meet some new faces across the region as well 🍾🥂⛈”

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such as manually checking documents, face-to-face meetings, and waiting for postal deliveries for documents have become outdated.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.”

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.

In the ever-evolving world of Anti-Money Laundering (AML), ongoing monitoring plays a crucial role in mitigating risks and ensuring compliance. This is especially true in the realm of conveyancing, where large sums of money are changing hands.

This coffee-break article aims to shed light on ongoing monitoring in AML for conveyancing within England and Wales.

What is ongoing monitoring in AML for conveyancing?

Ongoing monitoring is the continuous process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating money laundering risks throughout the conveyancing transaction. It involves regular reviews of customer due diligence, monitoring transactions for suspicious activity, and reporting any concerns to the authorities.

How often should ongoing monitoring be done?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often or how long you need to monitor your customers’ activity. Instead, regulations require ‘ongoing monitoring’ that adapts to each business relationship. This means regularly checking conveyancing transactions (and sometimes, where necessary, the source of funds) to see if they match your understanding of the customer, their business, and their risk level. Basically, the higher the risk, the deeper your ongoing monitoring should be.

We empower you to customize your monitoring for each customer, allowing you to focus on those who pose the highest risk.

When should ongoing monitoring take place?

Ongoing monitoring for AML in UK conveyancing should ideally happen throughout the entire client relationship, not just at the beginning.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Continual Basis: The Law Society recommends a system of file reviews or reminders to ensure ongoing monitoring is applied
  • High-Risk Clients: All clients should be monitored, but those identified as high-risk require enhanced due diligence and more frequent monitoring
  • Trigger Events: Specific situations can trigger the need for additional CDD checks, which essentially act as a form of ongoing monitoring. (Change of name, inconsistent transactions, reluctance to meet in person)

Why is ongoing monitoring important in conveyancing?

Conveyancing deals are particularly susceptible to money laundering due to the high transaction values and the involvement of various parties. Ongoing monitoring helps to:

  • Identify suspicious activity: By regularly reviewing transactions and customer information, red flags like large cash payments, unusual source of funds, or inconsistencies can be identified and investigated
  • Mitigate risks: Early detection of suspicious activity allows for taking timely action, such as seeking clarification from the customer, refusing the transaction, or reporting to the authorities
  • Demonstrating compliance: Robust ongoing monitoring demonstrates to regulators that firms are taking AML obligations seriously and have measures in place to combat financial crime

How can I implement ongoing monitoring in my conveyancing practice?

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Develop a risk assessment: Identify the ML risks specific to your practice and tailor your monitoring procedures accordingly
  • Train your staff: Ensure your staff is aware of their AML obligations and how to identify and report suspicious activity
  • Use technology: Consider using technology solutions to automate some aspects of monitoring, such as transaction monitoring and sanctions screening
  • Seek professional advice: Consult with an AML expert for guidance on implementing effective monitoring procedures

What are some resources available to help me with ongoing monitoring / AML?

The first theme of National Conveyancing Week 2024 focuses on the exciting and untapped opportunity of material and up-front information to reduce transaction delays and drive efficiency in conveyancing.

There is no doubt that change is needed. Depending on who you speak to, transactions are currently taking place in the region of 20-22 weeks on average, and this is only increasing. In this article, we will ask whether the current transaction times are a matter of embarrassment and what is holding us back from leveraging material and upfront information in conveyancing.

A matter of embarrassment?

Those within the UK’s property sector are acutely aware of the protracted transaction times in 2024. The truth is that conveyancers are working harder than ever to achieve completion as early as possible. One recent opinion from within the industry has ruffled a few feathers. Ruth Beeton, co-founder of Home Sale Pack, is quoted as having stated:

“The UK boasts one of the strongest and most desirable property markets on the global stage, but despite our obsession with bricks and mortar, our protracted property transaction timeline is quite frankly embarrassing”.

This is an understandable point of view, but should we really be embarrassed?

Robin Wells, Head of Sales Operations for OneSearch, takes the view that transaction times are frustrating rather than embarrassing:

“Yes, it is frustrating. In 2011, 12 weeks was kind of the expected time for a standard residential conveyance to go through from notification to completion. I think we’re now looking at 20, 22 weeks”.

Elizabeth Jarvis, Managing Director of OneSearch, believes that there are some valid reasons for the length of completion times which are often overlooked:

“I think that it’s the fact that it’s [transaction times] increasing, which is uncomfortable to be in an industry where despite everybody’s best efforts, we can’t seem to get it together to get that back down to where it was a number of years ago. I know that there are some very valid reasons for it that there’s a lot more diligence, and things have crept into the process”.

This raises an important point; the increase in property transaction times, in part, is due to the greater lengths that conveyancers now go to protecting homebuyers and sellers and, ultimately, the reputation of the sector as a whole (i.e. due diligence checks, AML and KYC).

What will enable the proper adoption of upfront information?

One of the frustrations with the state of transaction times is that the promise of technology has not yet led to a wholesale improvement in the experience of property buyers and sellers. Elizabeth Jarvis believes that where upfront information has not taken hold in the past, there are now strong indications that technology will be a key enabler:

“I think now, from what I can see, is chinks of light where there is some better communication, and I think there’s a lot more general interest from the conveyancing sector in technology and re-looking at that technology which obviously is going to work a lot better now than when it was first conceived. I think, broadly speaking, we would all agree that the whole concept of having data upfront is a good one. There were reasons why it didn’t quite work the way it was hoped. But I think that it’s seen a return to that is happening”.

Elizabeth also takes the view that the key to making upfront information work and to bringing down transaction times is the use of technology to connect all stakeholders in the process:

“It’s no good to have upfront data if everybody in the process isn’t making use of it and they’re not speaking to each other. It’s the interconnectedness, the connectivity of people in the process working together with it”.

Final words

The fact that upfront data is first on the agenda for the National Conveyancing Week 2024 is extremely positive news for the UK’s conveyancing sector. What is now needed is for all senior stakeholders to come together to create a unified strategy for improved conveyancing efficiency using the latest technology as a foundation to enable the full use of material and upfront information. As Elizabeth Jarvis says, the good news is that there are strong signals that this is already happening.