According to recent research only one in six estate agents fully understand their legal anti-money laundering (AML) obligations.
The findings also showed that just over half of UK estate agents ‘strongly’ believe that they are prepared for a spot-check AML investigation, which according to the research, can happen with just 24 hours’ notice.
This is worrying, especially when almost one in three do not even know if they have an anti-money laundering process in place.
There could be many reasons why this is happening. For example, one in five estate agents blame insufficient support from HMRC for not being up to scratch, while others find keeping up to date with AML processes is simply too time consuming and expensive.
Time consuming AML
But whatever the reasons are, having the correct AML processes in place is absolutely vital for estate agents, not just for their own AML obligations (and to avoid fines) but also to assist credit agencies and lenders in the wider fight against money laundering.
In cases where someone is trying to purchase a property, estate agents are the first organisation that a fraudster will encounter, so getting the AML checks right at this early stage can help prevent lenders and other credit companies being stung as it will reduce the number of fraudulent transactions making it any further down the line.
The easiest way for estate agents to comply with all AML regulations – and ensure that they always comply as the regulations change – is by using an electronic AML platform.
Electronic identification is now widely recognised as the most reliable, secure and efficient source of information for identity solutions.
The Fifth Money-Laundering Directive calls for electronic identification to verify customer information, and eventually, electronic identification will rid the need for manual checks- which are open to errors – altogether.
John Dobson is CEO of AML verification platform Smartsearch.