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How to explain Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks to your clients

AML checks can sometimes hold up your client onboarding process – here’s how and why you need to explain them to your clients.

Money-Laundering is still a real and present threat in the UK. HM Revenue & Customs recently hit hundreds of UK businesses with money-laundering fines, with the penalties for breaching these Anti-Money Laundering rules coming to a staggering total of £3.2 million. To help combat this activity, it’s increasingly important for your firm to have robust AML procedures in place. 

But how do you convey the importance of these AML checks and procedures to your client base? Will they understand the need to comply with these checks, and how should you communicate the value of protecting the financial integrity of their company and your firm?

In this post, we’ll outline:

  • The value of explaining AML checks to your client base
  • How an engaged client base helps your Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO)
  • Your template for outlining AML checks to your clients

The value of explaining AML checks to your client base

Including an explanation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks when onboarding new clients to your accounting firm is a must. With the regulatory environment being strengthened, it’s important that your clients are aware of the need for these AML checks, and that they know what’s required of them when you request data, documentation and financial information. 

We know chasing clients to complete checks is one of the biggest time sinks during onboarding, so explaining the requirement for these AML procedures is vital.

  • It helps to build trust with clients – when clients understand the reasons for AML checks, they are more likely to trust that the firm is taking their security seriously. This can help to build a strong relationship between your firm and your clients.
  • It helps to prevent compliance issues – if clients are not aware of your firm's AML requirements, they may be more likely to make mistakes that could lead to compliance issues. By explaining the AML checks to clients, you can help to ensure that clients are aware of the rules and that they’re complying with them.
  • It helps to improve efficiency – when clients understand AML checks, they can be more proactive in providing the necessary information. This can help to speed up the onboarding process and free up your MLRO to focus on other tasks.

How an engaged client base helps your Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO)

There’s an obligation for your firm to have a dedicated Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) to manage your AML processes. For your firm's nominated officer or any member of the team for that matter, explaining AML checks to your clients helps to keep them educated and engaged by the process. This can have a number of advantages for you and your firm.

These benefits can include:

  • Reduced workload – with written explanations about AML procedures during onboarding, you can help reduce the amount of time you need to spend explaining the rules to clients. This can free up time to focus on other tasks.
  • Improved communication – a clear explanation of the AML process and associated checks can improve communication between the person in your firm managing the process and the clients (or potential clients) you’re dealing with. This enhanced insight into the AML process helps ensure there are no misunderstandings about the rules and that clients are aware of their AML tasks and key responsibilities.
  • Increased compliance – detailed explanation of AML regulations can help ensure that clients are complying with the rules, and also being proactive about it. This can help to protect the firm from legal liability and financial penalties and reduce the risk of penalties for clients. If you’re doing this and it’s also included in your AML policy, it’s only going to look favourable in the eyes of your supervisor during a practice review if you’re demonstrating this sort of proactive education.

Your template for explaining AML whilst onboarding clients

Overall, explaining AML checks to clients is a valuable way to build trust, improve efficiency, and reduce compliance risks. As such, building an education component about AML into your client onboarding should be a key part of your firm’s AML compliance programme.

To make things easier, we’ve drafted an AML template for you, that explains in simple terms why AML checks are needed, and what the client’s responsibilities will be. 

Here’s your template to use, revise and customise for your clients:

Dear [Client Name],
As part of our commitment to maintaining high standards of integrity and compliance, we want to explain the key reasons behind the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks we carry out.
These AML checks are part of our onboarding process and an ongoing regulatory requirement we have as accountants to help combat financial crime. These checks help to protect our firm but also make sure that we’re working with the business, and people who are who they say they are, and so we might know any risks that could be present. 
To help you understand the why, and the value of these AML checks, we’ve summarised some of the key points below.
Key reasons we carry out  AML checks:
Regulatory Compliance: Conducting AML checks ensures that we comply with the UK's legal obligations, and helps us as accountants to protect the legitimacy of the financial system in the UK.
Risk Mitigation: AML checks help us to identify potential money-laundering risks associated with clients and transactions, allowing us to implement appropriate measures to mitigate these risks and compliance issues.
Enhanced Security: By identifying and preventing money laundering activities, we protect your business from potential financial losses, reputational damage and possible legal consequences – as your accountant, it also gives us a picture of what we’re dealing with.
Better Decision-Making: AML checks provide us with a comprehensive understanding of your business activities, so we can make informed decisions and provide tailored services that meet your specific needs.
Comprehensive Due Diligence: By conducting AML checks, we gather essential information about your business. This means we get a clear picture of who you are, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to get to know each other better. 
Regulatory Reporting: As your trusted advisers, we’re obligated to report any suspicious activities to the relevant authorities promptly, so we need to carry out these checks to understand if there might be any ‘red flags’ or associated risks.
We’re committed to meeting all of our AML compliance obligations, and we also want to make the onboarding process and any information requests as seamless as possible.
You’ll receive another email shortly including details about the next steps in our onboarding process relating to AML, including the procedures for sharing financial data and documentation.
If you have any AML-related questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Kind regards, [Accounting Firm Name]

Tip 🤖

Our template is written in fairly formal language – if you’re leveraging AI to help your firm, it’s easy to copy the above template, drop it into ChatGPT (or your AI writing tool of choice) and ask it to “make it more colloquial”, “tailor it to your firm's tone of voice”.

And well if you’re not using AI, perhaps this is an easy place to start – we’ve done the hard part for you 😉

You might also be able to incorporate this into your existing onboarding content, or communications flow – however you choose to use it, we think going deeper and explaining more about ‘the why’ behind AML checks can help.

Your one-stop shop for running and recording AML checks

Leveraging technology to help with AML checks, risk assessments and client onboarding is nothing new – keeping it housed in one intuitive workflow can make it easier to manage your workflow.

A solution like Firmcheck helps your firm:

  • Meet your compliance requirements and carry out in-depth ID and address verification using our mobile-friendly web-based biometric integration
  • Have a robust risk-based AML process
  • Capture your whole AML workflow in one place, through a centralised system, including approvals and determinations

Firmcheck is the central hub for all your AML activity as an accountant. Our solution helps you seamlessly gather the data you might need from clients, and keeps it secure in one, easy-to-use system. 

Schedule a demo today – we'll give you a quick overview of how Firmcheck works and get you going in no time.

(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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