AML screening and monitoring is a critical aspect of compliance for financial institutions worldwide. Despite the ongoing efforts of financial institutions and regulatory bodies to combat money laundering, the statistics indicate that the results are not as promising as they should be. 

According to recent reports, anti-money laundering activities are only able to recover a mere 0.1% of criminal funds. This highlights the need for stricter AML screening and monitoring requirements to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing activities. 


In this blog post, we will delve into the essential requirements for AML screening and monitoring and discuss how financial institutions can leverage AML software to enhance their AML compliance measures and effectively detect and prevent money laundering.


What is AML Screening?


AML screening and monitoring is the process of conducting necessary checks to assess the likelihood of customers engaging in money laundering activities by verifying their identities and cross-referencing them against watchlists. This is just one component of a comprehensive AML framework, which also comprises monitoring transactions, evaluating associated risks, and reporting any suspicious activities.


Organizations may execute the AML screening process in varying ways, depending on their unique policies, methods, and preferences, as well as the jurisdiction in which the checks are being performed.


AML Screening and Monitoring is similar to sanctions screening only that sanctions screening has to do with transaction screening while AML screening and monitoring encompasses sanction screening.


What is AML Monitoring?


Anti-Money Laundering Compliance does not end after the initial onboarding process. Ongoing AML monitoring is necessary to ensure ongoing activities remain in compliance. This involves monitoring various activities, including surpassing thresholds, suspicious behavior, changes in status, recording of communications, employee surveillance, watchlists, market trends, new regulations, trade data, and other monitoring requirements related to market and transactions.


For financial institutions, meeting AML/KYC regulations during customer sign-up is just the beginning. Continued AML monitoring is essential long after the initial sign-up to prevent fraud, money laundering, or terrorist financing from entering the system


Why is AML Screening and Monitoring Important?: Objectives of AML Screening and Monitoring


The primary goal of AML screening is to detect and prevent illicit activities like money laundering, terrorism financing, and fraud. Typically, AML screening is conducted during the customer onboarding process to proactively deter illegal activity.

Moreover, AML screening is enforced to ensure regulatory compliance, rather than solely as an idealistic measure. It verifies that individuals and organizations adhere to AML laws and regulations.


At a more detailed level, AML screening has various objectives, including:


  1. Providing safety, security, and reassurance to all parties involved, such as individuals, organizations, customers, and potential customers. 
  2. Safeguarding the reputation of entities that perform AML screening operations
  3. Ensures that the data used for AML checks is up-to-date, allowing firms to adhere to evolving legal mandates as new entities are added to relevant sanctions lists.
  4. To achieve financial stability, security, trust, and compliance with organizational intelligence, a functional AML compliance program should address both the micro and macro aspects of AML screening processes.



How is AML Screening and Monitoring done?: Processes of AML Screening and Monitoring.


The AML screening and monitoring process involves the collection and analysis of customer information, such as identities and transactions, to determine their legitimacy or suspiciousness. This identification process primarily relies on verifying customer information against the sanctions lists established by government agencies and financial authorities.


In industries regulated by AML legislation, new users must undergo the AML screening process upon approaching the website. Their registration data is entered and compared against watch-list databases.


Any potential customer identified as a known money launderer on the watch-list would fail the AML screening process. Essentially, the screening process is most effective when it gathers comprehensive customer information and cross-references it with the most authoritative databases.


When a customer is verified to be who he or she claims to be., such customer will still be monitored in cases of near-misses.


What is checked during AML Screening and Monitoring?


1. PEP Checks:


PEP checks refer to the process of identifying individuals in prominent government or public sector positions, along with their close relatives and associates, who may be more likely to engage in money laundering activities due to their political connections, wealth, or status. 


Additionally, these individuals may pose a risk due to their association with negative media coverage or their vulnerability to being targeted by money launderers with bribes or blackmail.


Conducting PEP checks isn't solely intended to expose dubious political figures. Rather, it helps organizations comprehend the broader risks associated with dealing with politically exposed persons.


2. Crime and Watch-list Screening:


Screening for crime and watch lists involves verifying an individual's information against databases that contain names of known or suspected criminals.

This screening process is a crucial aspect of AML screening. It is important to understand how they work separately:

Crime screening aims to identify individuals involved in financial crimes, like money laundering.

Watchlist screening aims to identify individuals involved in high-risk activities such as terrorism financing.

The lists in use are constantly updated, so ensuring the database is up-to-date and preferably checked in real-time is a key part of AML screening due diligence.


3. Sanction Checks:


Sanction checks involve verifying an individual's information against specialized databases that cover government sanctions.

Government sanctions are penalties or restrictive measures imposed by one or more governments against an individual's name. Individuals who are deemed a threat to national security or associated with malicious entities may be placed on a sanctions database.

In some cases, individuals may not be directly listed on the sanctions database but are sanctioned due to their association with a named entity, which includes family and business associates. According to OFAC's 50 percent rule, the ownership structures of business partnerships must also undergo scrutiny for sanctioned individuals.


Why is it Important to Conduct AML Screening and Monitoring?


Proper AML screening is crucial because it helps achieve crucial business metrics, such as:

  1. Ensuring the safety and security of your organization and customers
  2. Maintaining compliance with AML regulations, improving reputations, and avoiding noncompliance penalties.
  3. Contributing to the international effort to combat money laundering, terrorism, and organized crime by curbing it within your domain and adding to the international crime-fighting knowledge base.
  4. Conducting proper anti-money laundering processes is likely to bring more safety, efficiency, and AML intelligence to individuals, organizations, and nations.


It's important to remember that AML screening processes are not only the product of authorities reporting suspicious behavior but also of individuals and organizations, big and small, who carry out their routine checks, including those related to customer due diligence (CDD), KYC, and more.



Who Should Carry out AML Screening?


Depending on the local jurisdiction, entities involved in financial transactions or other high-value verticals that are frequently exploited by money launderers should conduct AML screening. This screening is a legal requirement in major market economies like the US for companies conducting business on US soil or with US entities (or involving US persons abroad).


Organizations that handle large sums of money, are particularly responsible for conducting AML screening. They include:

  • Financial institutions (banks and mortgage providers)
  • Stock traders, casinos, iGaming companies
  • Forex businesses 
  • Investment firms
  • Insurance companies 
  • Real estate agencies
  • High-value retailers (such as art dealers).


To ensure compliance with AML laws and regulations, entities must implement AML frameworks with screening processes. These processes aim to detect and prevent illegal activities such as money laundering, terrorism financing, and fraud before they occur. 


By conducting AML screening, organizations can enhance their reputation, maintain financial stability, and ensure regulatory compliance.


What are the AML Screening Requirements?


The AML requirements are continuously becoming more stringent due to the increased awareness of the prevalence of money laundering through disclosures such as the Panama, Paradise, and Pandora Papers. As a result, lawmakers are tightening regulations and demanding higher standards, while closing loopholes.


For instance, the EU's 6th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) has expanded criminal liability to cover employees and officials of organizations and entities working on their behalf. Furthermore, a Pan-EU AML agency is in the works to enhance requirements, coordinate and communicate better between regulatory agencies, and eliminate loopholes.


In the United States, regulations have evolved significantly from the original Bank Secrecy Act to the recent Corporate Transparency Act, which focuses on uncovering beneficial ownership. This is essential as complex layers of global shell companies and legal structures make it challenging to identify the actual owners of a business.



What are the available AML Software?


AML compliance software is designed to streamline AML screening and monitoring for financial institutions. This AML software helps institutions identify potential money laundering and terrorist financing activities, as well as comply with various regulatory requirements using advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.


AML compliance software can accurately analyze large amounts of transactional data and flag suspicious activities in real-time. 



Flag Suspicious Activity using AI-Powered AML Screening and Monitoring Software!


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