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Building an AML-compliant customer onboarding process

Delve into the essentials of crafting an AML-compliant customer onboarding process. Learn the key steps, best practices, and tools that ensure a seamless, secure, and regulatory-aligned start to your client relationships.

Winning new clients is a core part of your growth strategy as an accounting firm. But when you start a new engagement, are you carrying out all the required checks? 

In an environment where fraudulent and criminal activity is on the rise, it pays to be as tight as possible with your Client Due Diligence (CDD) and AML checks – protecting both your clients and the security and reputation of your firm. 

Why is AML compliance such a key part of client onboarding?

Knowing who your clients are (and whether they ARE who they claim to be) is fundamental to your due diligence when onboarding a new client. Taking on a client who has actively or inadvertently become involved in fraudulent or criminal activity could be catastrophic.

Not only would your firm be engaging with a criminal entity, but you may also be damaging your reputation as a brand and your trusted relationships with existing clients. 

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance is a critical component of client onboarding for excellent reasons. At their core, the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (MLR 2017, as you may know them) have a risk-based approach. There are multiple ways a prospective client might come up short during your onboarding process from an AML perspective, and by taking a risk-based approach you can more easily identify red flags.

Taking AML seriously as part of your onboarding process can help your firm in several ways:

  • Risk mitigation – part of your role as an accounting firm is to prevent financial crime and ensure you’re not trading with entities carrying out criminal activity.
  • Protecting your firm’s reputation – an association with clients engaged in illicit activities can severely damage the firm's reputation as an adviser.
  • Safeguarding client trust – having robust AML compliance procedures reassures your clients that their financial affairs are handled with integrity and transparency.
  • Avoiding unwitting participation – your firm could unknowingly become involved in facilitating financial crimes and could face legal consequences as a result.

How to improve the customer onboarding process 

Getting your onboarding done right means putting AML compliance front and centre of the new client process, and making sure you fully understand all the risks when dealing with a prospective client – it’s worth noting that heightened risk doesn’t always mean you don’t have to work with a client, just having the right measures in place to make good decisions can help ensure your ongoing engagement with a higher risk client is more considered.

There’s no hiding the fact that scrutiny on AML in accounting is gathering momentum, add to that the evolving regulatory landscape, things are becoming more urgent, and more challenging to understand. But the positive news is that tech is here to lighten the load for you.

Firmcheck is a simple-to-use AML management software (we are biassed) that uses technology to streamline the AML process and remove many of the hurdles and headaches that come with the Know Your Customer (KYC), CDD and AML compliance components of onboarding. 

Embracing these tech benefits doesn’t just save time; it helps you build a more robust and mature AML process that is compliant – in essence, freeing up your time on AML admin, and reducing risk at the same time. 

Here are just a few of the ways that Firmcheck can help:

  1. Biometric verification – with easy ID and biometric verification, you can verify your clients' identities anywhere, leveraging our live selfie ID capability. Clients can verify their ID and address via a mobile web app, with all the findings of the verification then delivered in Firmcheck with a pass/fail recommendation.
  2. Integration with Companies House – integration with UK Companies House (UKCH) makes it easier to check entity and individual details as you need them. This speeds up your AML workflows and ensures you verify the right people.
  3. Built-in access controls – each user is assigned an access level. Your Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) has control over who is approving and collaborating on AML checks, restricting data only to those who need it, and putting decisions in the hands of those who are authorised to do so.
  4. Manage ongoing due diligence – once you’ve onboarded a client, we have a separate workspace for existing clients, with the dates of their next required check clearly shown. All elements that need reviewing or updating are displayed, making it easier to manage your ongoing requirements – reviews and checks are one of the easily forgotten requirements you have as an accounting firm.
  5. Group checks together – to speed up the management of your AML processes, you can group assessments on entities together. This makes it easier to cut down the volume of work and bring some much-needed efficiency to the checking process. 
  6. AML training for your team – our AML training is easy to digest and gets your practice team up to speed with the latest updates and changes in AML. The training also helps your team boost their skill set and become more confident with AML.
  7. Safe and secure AML data  – using AML software keeps your data in one system, making it more secure, and controlling your team’s access to the data. An added benefit is if you ever need to retrieve records or decisions for any reason they’re easy to find.

With Firmcheck as your AML platform, you’re ready to start onboarding clients in the most efficient and streamlined way, with none of the problems of a manual, offline process. 

What a client sees when you run a Biometric Check from Firmcheck

Firmcheck: your AML management solution

At Firmcheck, we’re moving towards a future where being AML compliant is efficient and painless. We know how important it is to tick the right compliance boxes when onboarding new clients – and how vital this compliance checking process can be to your risk management and reputation as a firm. 

Firmcheck is becoming the AML platform of choice for accountants – curious to learn more? Book a Firmcheck demo, and see how we can help you to level up your AML maturity (p.s. we’re also actively seeking feedback, so if you’re unhappy with your current provider, we’re all ears about what to build next 👂)

Book your Firmcheck demo today 

(NB: This article doesn't constitute legal advice and is intended for general informational purposes only. Always consult with a legal expert or compliance consultant for guidance specific to your firm.)

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