Exploring the need for certified anti-money laundering experts

5 min

Costing the UK economy over £100 billion each year, the subject of money laundering lo...

JCW Resourcing

By JCW Resourcing

Costing the UK economy over £100 billion each year, the subject of money laundering looms large, casting a shadow over the integrity of financial systems and the trust of individuals and businesses. Anti-money laundering (AML) measures are the one constant for protecting against this pervasive threat, consisting of various regulations, policies, and procedures designed to deter criminals from disguising illicit funds as legitimate income. 

As money laundering becomes more sophisticated and criminals continue to discover new means of exploiting global organisations, ensuring your business remains compliant and protected from money laundering is essential. One way of doing this is to acquire certified anti-money laundering specialists. 

In this guide, we will delve into anti-money laundering, defining what it is, the regulations, regulators and industries most susceptible to money laundering. We will then explain why AML is important and how talent plays a factor.

This guide explores the following:

  • What is anti-money laundering?
  • What are the anti-money laundering regulations in the UK? 
  • Who regulates anti-money laundering in the UK?
  • Which industries are more susceptible to money laundering?
  • Why AML is important and how talent plays a factor

What is anti-money laundering?

Anti-money laundering is defined as a set of laws, regulations, and procedures that all aim to prevent criminals from disguising illegal funds as legitimate income. AML policies support the likes of banks and financial institutions in combatting financial crimes, such as fraud, tax evasion, corruption, drug trafficking and terrorism. It also helps organisations monitor suspicious activity and remain financially compliant with the appropriate regulations. 

AML policies and procedures are designed to detect and prevent each step of the money laundering process. For example, banks typically require customers to provide proof of address and identification when opening an account and often monitor transactions for suspicious activity. 

Anti-money laundering is essential for helping to prevent criminals from using their illegal assets to fund further criminal activity and their personal lives whilst protecting the integrity of the financial system. AML also plays a pivotal role in protecting consumers and businesses from being victims of financial crimes. 

Within the compliance and financial crime sector, certified anti-money laundering experts are crucial to the success and efficiencies of AML policies. They can be highly valuable to the financial security of your business. More on this later. Before we explore the importance of AML and how talent plays a factor, let's delve into three burning questions: 

  • What are the anti-money laundering regulations in the UK? 
  • Who regulates anti-money laundering in the UK?
  • Which industries are more susceptible to money laundering?

What are the anti-money laundering regulations in the UK?

There are several primary anti-money laundering regulations in the UK, each of which is designed to identify and prevent money laundering from impacting people and businesses. The main AML regulations in the UK consist of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), the Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) 2017, the Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) 2019 and the Terrorism Act 2000.

A certified anti-money laundering specialist will understand these UK AML regulations, help you adhere to them and keep you updated with the biggest financial crime trends you should know. To provide further context, let's outline each one below.

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA)

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) is a UK anti-money laundering regulation that highlights the offences that determine what constitutes money laundering and helps recover assets that have been illegally obtained. POCA strives to stop money laundering from affecting financial institutions and prevents illegal activities from occurring. Working with authorities within AML regulation, POCA helps to limit the capabilities of criminals who cover up and attempt to transfer their dirty money.  

Under the regulations of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, banks and financial institutions must display AML policies that can identify activities of money laundering and suspicious activity. A common obligation they must follow is customer due diligence (CDD). These are verification and identification checks on their customers to understand the nature and purpose of their business relationship whilst determining whether they are at risk of being involved in money laundering.

Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) 2017 

The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 require businesses to undertake customer due diligence checks on all new customers and to monitor existing customer relationships. MLR 2017 also requires companies to have a duty to report any suspicious activity, defined as any transaction or activity that gives rise to inklings of money laundering or terrorist financing, to the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU).

This anti-money laundering regulation also requires financial institutions to conduct enhanced due diligence (EDD), which is additional checks for customers, such as businesses with complex structures or politically exposed persons (PEPs), at a higher risk of money laundering activities. MLR 2017 was brought in to implement the EU obligations of the Fourth Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) to strengthen the money laundering controls in the private sector. 

Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) 2019

The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (MLR 2019) are a set of amendments to the above-mentioned MLR 2017. The MLR 2019 was established on the 10th of January 2020. It introduced several changes to the UK's AML and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) regime, making it more difficult for criminals to use the UK financial system to launder their money or finance terrorism.

Additionally, these regulations were brought in to implement the EU Fifth Money Laundering Directive (5MLD). MLR 2019 requires organisations and individuals to conduct money laundering risk assessments before implementing their products and services. It also encompasses a tighter review of CDD and EDD as an annual legal duty to review new and existing customers' identification and verification information. 

Terrorism Act 2000

Finally, the Terrorism Act 2000 is a piece of UK legislation that defines and sets out offences relating to terrorism and, in relation to money laundering, the financing of terrorism. It requires financial institutions to monitor transactions, report on suspicious activities and conduct CDD to ensure finances are not being elicited to fund terrorist groups or acts of terrorism. If found guilty of terrorism finance offences, criminals can face up to 14 years in prison. 

Who regulates anti-money laundering in the UK?

Various regulatory bodies are associated with enforcing anti-money laundering regulations in the UK. However, three primary authorities that are typically involved in the conversation of anti-money laundering are the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA): The FCA is the UK's main anti-money laundering regulator, primarily overseeing financial institutions, including banks, crypto companies, and other organisations in the financial services sector. It also has the authority to investigate money laundering offences across all industries.

The National Crime Agency (NCA): The NCA is the UK's lead agency for investigating and tackling serious organised crime, including money laundering, human, weapon and drug trafficking. 

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC): HMRC oversees and investigates money laundering offences for businesses outside the finance space that the FCA does not regulate. These organisations can be anything from estate agents to lawyers. 

If you’re wondering how your business can remain compliant with these various regulations, check out our guide on the 5 ways to improve your financial compliance strategy.

Which industries are more susceptible to money laundering?

In the UK alone, over 100,000 businesses are required to comply with anti-money laundering regulations. Of course, we couldn’t name all these organisations. So, instead, we’ve listed the industries that are more susceptible to complying with AML regulations.  

  • Financial institutions, including banks, money service businesses, and investment firms
  • Casinos and gambling establishments
  • Professionals operating in the sale and purchase of property, including estate agents and brokers 
  • Dealers in precious metals, gems, antiques and other high-value transactions
  • Accountants, tax advisors and other professionals who provide financial services
  • Firms within the legal sector, including lawyers, barristers and solicitors 
  • Trust and company service providers
  • Businesses that deal in cash-intensive transactions, such as bars, restaurants, and nightclubs

The UK has ramped up its enforcement of anti-money laundering regulations, issuing significant fines to companies failing to comply with MLR. More recently, in June 2023, HMRC issued £3.2 million in anti-money laundering penalties across 240 UK businesses. 

Not only is financial crime compliance crucial for your business, but it’s also imperative to be aware of and adhere to the AML regulations associated with your organisation. You should consider hiring a certified anti-money laundering expert to help ensure you stay protected against AML penalties. Scroll to discover more about the importance of anti-money laundering and why you should hire an AML specialist.

Why AML is important and how talent plays a factor

As we’ve alluded to, anti-money laundering is important for many reasons, including helping to protect the financial system against criminal activities, such as money laundering and terrorist financing. It also helps to protect businesses and individuals from being defrauded or victimised by financial crime. 

Additionally, AML helps to maintain public confidence in the financial system. For example, if people don’t believe their assets within the financial system are safe and secure, they would be less likely to use them, which would have a negative impact on the economy. AML regulations also help global businesses and financial institutions comply with international regulations and standards, as many countries worldwide have enacted their own AML laws and regulations.

Talent is critical in anti-money laundering, providing businesses with strategic solutions and the necessary skills and experience to identify, detect, and report suspicious activity. As regulatory bodies become stricter and continue to clamp down on businesses, whilst criminals within the money laundering space continue to develop more sophisticated tactics, hiring certified anti-money laundering specialists has never been more critical.

Certified anti-money laundering experts have a deep understanding of financial crime typologies and the latest technologies and trends. They also have the ability to build relationships with other stakeholders, such as law enforcement and regulators, helping your firm remain protected within the realm of anti-money laundering. 

For added context, here are some of the ways that talent plays a factor in AML:

  • AML professionals develop and implement anti-money laundering policies and procedures
  • Anti-money laundering experts monitor financial transactions and identify suspicious activity
  • Certified anti-money laundering experts investigate suspicious activity and report it to the appropriate authorities
  • An AML professional can develop and implement risk management strategies to mitigate the risk of financial crime occurring within your business
  • Certified anti-money laundering professionals can train your wider team on AML policies and procedures, promoting a culture of compliance within your business. They can ensure your employees maintain the compliance of your business whilst giving them the confidence to work without the fear of causing human errors that could lead them to be exploited by financial crime
  •  An AML specialist will ensure that you stay updated with the latest trends and developments in financial crime, meaning you’ll never fall behind the competition 

Ultimately, certified anti-money laundering specialists can play a vital role in protecting your business and the financial system from criminal activity. Without skilled, experienced and certified anti-money laundering professionals, financial institutions would be more vulnerable to financial crime.

Final thoughts on the need for AML specialists

We've explored how anti-money laundering policies and regulations serve as the first line of defence against money laundering and terrorist financing. AML is vital for disrupting the three phases of money laundering: placement, layering, and integration.

In the UK, a complex web of AML regulations, including the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) 2017 and 2019, and the Terrorism Act 2000, underscore the commitment to effectively combat money laundering. These regulations necessitate comprehensive knowledge and expertise, making certified anti-money laundering specialists valuable assets for businesses striving to remain compliant.

As we mentioned, key authorities such as the FCA, NCA, and HMRC oversee the UK's regulatory landscape, each playing a pivotal role in enforcing AML regulations across diverse industries. Speaking of industries, numerous sectors are particularly vulnerable to money laundering, including financial institutions, casinos, real estate, high-value transaction dealers, and legal firms. Recent penalties and fines imposed by HMRC serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of non-compliance.

AML is not just a matter of regulatory compliance; it's vital for maintaining public trust in the financial system, protecting companies from fraud, and upholding international standards. Talented and certified anti-money laundering professionals are at the forefront of instilling the above. They are pivotal in safeguarding our financial system, businesses, and individuals from the pervasive threat of financial crime. 

Certified anti-money laundering experts go above and beyond, developing, implementing, and updating AML policies whilst also monitoring transactions, investigating suspicious activities, and ensuring that businesses remain up-to-date with the ever-evolving landscape of financial crime. Their expertise extends beyond mere compliance, encompassing risk management, training other staff, and outlining strategic solutions that fortify a company's defences against financial criminals.

In a world where financial crimes continue to become increasingly sophisticated, the importance of certified anti-money laundering specialists cannot be overstated. They are not just a safeguard for your business but also a competitive advantage, keeping you ahead of the curve in the fight against financial crime. As we progress in the relentless fight against money laundering, the guidance and skills of certified AML professionals will continue to be indispensable, ensuring the integrity and security of our financial systems and the trust of businesses and individuals alike.

Discover how you can protect your business from money laundering by reading our guide: How to prevent money laundering from impacting your business.

Seeking support from a specialist compliance recruitment agency?

Are you part of a rapidly expanding enterprise searching for the top compliance specialists and anti-money laundering experts to fuel your growth? If the answer is yes, look no further. Our tailored strategic solutions set us apart from other financial crime recruitment agencies. We’ll help you construct a robust hiring strategy, enabling you to access the talent necessary to safeguard your brand's future.

Contact us today to discover how we can cater to your compliance and financial crime recruitment needs.