Winter is Coming: With a Storm of KYC and AML Regulations
The ever-evolving regulations are creating challenges and complexities for the financial institutes, both in national and international markets. Financial sector deals approximately with 200 regulatory changes per day and these numbers are rising. Most of the time, businesses fail to concede these regulatory requirements and face heavy fines. Since 2008, global banks have been fined more than $321 billion collectively for not following Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations.
Even with a compliance cost of almost $100 billion globally in a single year, crimes like money laundering, terrorist financing, and cyber frauds are increasing. Financial Institutes (FI) do not only find it challenging to comply with KYC and AML regulations but increased fraudulent activities make these things even worse. Financial institutes often fail to identify fraudsters and face fines and even get banned.
Fraudsters and money launderers are exploring new ways of carrying illegal activities. An undercover agent who infiltrated Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel responds, “You can launder money in so many different ways, it is as unique as snowflakes.” To counter these challenges, regulatory authorities are making updates in regulations almost every day.
Changing Regulations with the Changing World
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, regulatory authorities put forth several noticeable amounts of regulations, but now almost after a decade, some regulators and lawmakers think it is time to analyze what is working and what is not and make necessary amendments accordingly.
Banks and financial institutes are the protectors of the financial systems and the responsibility to prevent financial crimes lies with them. In the last decade, these institutions have worked tirelessly to establish reliable KYC and AML procedures and systems. However, changes created by technology and globalization demands modifications in regulations.
For instance, high demand for virtual currency has made regulators reassess in place regulations and make amendments to regularise cryptocurrency. As most of the cryptocurrencies are not backed up by any central governments the potential of its use in illegal activities, especially terror financing and money laundering, already threatens the authorities and businesses.
The authorities are making amendments and the newest laws to regulate all these advances in financial systems. Here are some recent changes by notable global regulatory authorities:
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organization, which strives to eliminate money laundering and terrorist financing globally. The organization has been very keen on recommending necessary changes required to comprehensively deal with financial crimes.
Noticing the recent trends of money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF), FATF recommends member states to perform legal screening of Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) of every business. Owing to the exploitation of virtual currency by criminals, FATF also recommends regulating cryptocurrencies. According to a report, $4.26 billion worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen by cybercriminals, only in 2019. FATF expects members to implement these regulative reforms in their respective states for combating ML and TF.
European Commission’s AMLD5 and AMLD6
As a part of an action plan against money laundering and terrorism, the European Commission has introduced new regulations in the 5th and 6th AML directives. Every European country is required to implement these regulations as a part of its national action plan on AML and CFT.
The most prominent law in AMLD5 is the regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges and service providers. Before this directive, e-wallet providers and crypto exchanges were not covered under the financial regulations. AMLD5 made it compulsory for crypto businesses to perform KYC for identity verification. Furthermore, member states are required to maintain a central register for Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBOs) of the crypto businesses.
AMLD5 also lowers the threshold for the prepaid cards to decrease the risks of money laundering through these cards. According to the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), drug cartels use prepaid cards as a source to launder money earned from illegal drug sales in the USA. European countries are required to implement AMLD5 by January 10, 2020.
While the European Union’s member nations are striving to implement AMLD5, the European Commission published a new directive i.e. AMLD6 in their journal. This new directive will make AML and KYC regulations more stringent. By setting a clearer definition of money laundering and increasing the minimum liability for predicate offences, the EU aims to make AML and KYC more robust.
The key elements of AMLD6 are:
- Addition of Cyber Crimes in Predicate offences. Predicate offences are crimes underlying money laundering and terrorist financing. Initially, cybercrimes including online identity theft, credit card frauds were not included in predicate offences. Once AMLD6 is implemented the businesses will require more enhanced KYC checks to avoid indulging in unlawful activities.
- Inclusion of the entities that are aiding criminals to launder money in money laundering crimes. The addition of ‘enablers’ can make money laundering tracking easier.
- The punishment for money laundering and terrorist financing is increased for up to four years including other penalties.
RegTech: A useful KYC solution
While the aforementioned are major regulatory changes in the world, many countries are also regulating businesses to perform enhanced due diligence and KYC at national levels. Financial Sector is obliged to follow these regulations.
However, the financial sector is not lagging and is taking measures to remain compliant with rules. Since the finance sector always remains one step ahead in adopting innovative technology. One of the latest addition to the finance sector’s arsenal is Artificial Intelligence (AI). The finance sector can adopt AI to make KYC/AML screening more robust, cost-effective, and time-efficient.
RegTech (Regulatory Technology) refers to the use of technology-based solutions to help in compliance with financial regulations. RegTech is enabling rapid development in the financial sector regarding compliance. AI-based identity verification and AML screening solution are both cost-effective and time-efficient. Businesses should adopt AI-based KYC and customers due to diligence solutions (CDD) when onboarding customers to remain compliant with regulatory changes and avoid any offence.
KYC laws are continually modified to catch up with the latest techniques for perpetrating financial crimes. A recent example is AMLD6 by European Commission, which intends to make KYC and AML compliance stricter. The financial sector must adopt effective measures to maintain the integrity of the institutions as well as meet the regulatory requirements. They are the first line of defence against money laundering and need to act accordingly. To ensure that businesses remain in compliance with these changes, RegTech industry is rendering efficient AI-based solutions for KYC checks.