The pioneering anti-money laundering (AML) firm, SmartSearch has told The Negotiator that its estate agency client numbers have doubled in the past two years.
The firm, which increased its overall client numbers by 45% in the first five months of 2019, has just enjoyed its best month ever – in June alone, it achieved sales of £1.1million and signed up 93 new clients.
Martin Cheek, MD, SmartSearch, says there are several factors, but the HMRC clampdown on estate agencies has been a key driver.
He said, “Recent fines – most significantly the £215,000 fine handed to Countrywide – and the fact that HMRC made surprise visits earlier this year to 50 other estate agents suspected of failing to comply with AML regulations – showed the estate agency sector that there will be serious consequences for anyone found not to be taking their money laundering obligations seriously enough.
“A large proportion of the estate agents that have come to us in the past two years is as a result of this increased pressure on estate agents to comply or face the consequences.”
The ‘go-to’ AML service for estate agencies
Launched in 2011, SmartSearch is the only organisation in the UK with the ability to verify individuals and UK and International companies in a single platform with full Sanction, PEP and adverse media screening and then ongoing monitoring.
Martin added, “Whether estate agents are unsure of their obligations, don’t have the resources to meet them or simply don’t think AML matters, the end result is the same; they are not compliant –that leaves them vulnerable and liable. Our platform offers a full-service solution that ensures estate agents are fully compliant with the latest Money Laundering Regulations and remain compliant with any future changes in the legislation.”
Old clients, new clients
The SmartSearch search removes the need for time-consuming, expensive and unreliable manual checks – and offers a retro service so that estate agents can upload their current and past client base within 24hrs to ensure all record-keeping is up to date.
Wilkinson Grant has been working with SmartSearch since 2016; its Compliance Manager Lynne Zendram said, “As estate agents are now considered by HMRC to be ‘front line’ when it comes to Money Laundering checks, we take this responsibility seriously and have been using SmartSearch for the past 12 months. The ongoing monitoring of such checks is also important.
“The service we receive from SmartSearch is excellent – from initial training to ongoing support – a far better system, level of service and support than our previous supplier of electronic AML checking! I have no hesitation in recommending SmartSearch for AML/PEP checking.”
Alisa Monro, Deputy MLRO associate at estate agency Douglas & Gordon added, “We have been using SmartSearch for three years – it has revolutionised the way we operate this as a company!
“The system is easy to use and the guidelines are clear. It is very user-friendly and so everyone in the company can use it with ease.”
Martin added, “We work hard to ensure the system works well for them, including launching SmartAML which enables estate agents to carry out checks via their smartphones when in a client’s property, making it quick and easy to stay compliant.”
To book a free demo, visit www.smartsearch.com