We as conveyancers deal with all manner of clients including those who we have represented for years and know well, those who live locally and can pop into the office, those who seem legitimate and friendly but we’ve never met them face to face and those who repeatedly instruct us from all over the country (world?).
The question is; do you really Know Your Client? You should!
- You have a legal duty to know your client under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007.
- You don’t want to be committing a criminal offence under POCA 2002 if your AML policies and procedures are not robust enough.
- You want to maintain a professional approach.
- You want to avoid any negative press should we become indirectly involved mortgage fraud case — reputationally this could kill your business.
- If, like me you are a Director or Money Laundering Reporting Officer of a law firm, you’ve’ probably been kept awake the odd night or two (or more!) worrying about whether you are adequately complying with all the rules, laws and regulations relating to money laundering, mortgage fraud and identity issues.
It’s certainly a topic which the lenders, the regulatory bodies and media are hugely interested in. Hardly a day goes by without a story being reported on involving money laundering, mortgage fraud, identity theft or deception of some kind. It’s big business — no I’ll rephrase that — it’s huge business! Make no mistake about it the residential property sector is a “hotbed” for criminals whether it’s an individual making a false mortgage application or a sophisticated gang operating on a much larger scale. We, as conveyancers are at the centre of this sector so unless we are extremely lucky we will all at some time be dealing with a client who is not whiter than white — whether we are aware of it or not!
The debate as to what conveyancers should or shouldn’t be doing to help tackle this potential risk is a lively one. My own opinion is that we are not supposed to be super sleuths — we trained to be lawyers not detectives. However, that being said I do believe we have to be vigilant and ensure that we do what can reasonably be expected of us as lawyers. This means at the very least appointing a MLRO, regularly training our staff, having robust AML policies/procedures and keeping adequate records.
So back to the question I posed earlier; Do you know your client?
Your answer is a critical one as Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) are key areas covered by the ML Regulations.
How we identify our clients varies from practice to practice. Some firms rely on traditional paper identification, some rely on electronic identification (EID), some a mixture of the two. My firm relies on the latter approach on every case. It helps me sleep a little easier at night!
EID is not a new concept but in today’s busy law firm where time is precious and volumes are down, efficiency and improving profit margins are critical to survival. EID searches can assist on both fronts. They are efficient and they can improve your bottom line. They are also a great weapon in your armoury when tackling the risks posed by a criminal or criminal gang seeking to use your firms to launder their dirty money.
Here are a few of the key benefits of EID;
- Efficiency:- the speed of the system provides an immediate response.
- Effectiveness:- the level of checking is more robust than manual processes.
- Consistency:- The automated, single system ensures a consistent approach by your organisation, removing the risk of human error.
- Confidence:- Management have increased confidence that their agreed tolerance levels are being adhered to instead of relying on a personal interpretation of information.
- Increased Productivity:- Its quicker than a manual process so your staff can spend more time winning business and getting on with fee earning tasks.
- Secure data storage:- The data is stored in the system and yours making data retrieval easier. There is also an audit trail which could prove critical if you had to defend your procedures in a later criminal investigation or regulatory audit.
How does it work I hear you ask? It’s simple; the web based system works in a matter of seconds by matching the client data which you input against a number of other databases which have been collated and centrally held by the service provider including shareholding, credit institutions, landline telephone numbers and the electoral register. The system will also check to see whether there are any “alerts” in respect of the data for example whether the person is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP) or if they have a HM Treasury sanction registered against them. You decide your tolerance level based on your attitude to risk and the system returns a Pass or Fail. Easy and Simple! You can then print off the result or drag and drop it into your Case Management System or it could all be completely automated — whatever you decide is best for you.
We at TCS believe we can assist our fellow conveyancers to start using EID searches to benefit their businesses. For those firms who are already using an EID search provider we are confident that we can offer you an improved and cheaper service.
We have teamed up with LMS and Equifax, the latter being a global leader in this space in an exclusive joint venture to bring this unique opportunity to you.
Why Use Our Service? Why Equifax?
- It’s being promoted by conveyancers for conveyancers.
- LMS buying power has meant we can drive the very best pricing available in the market place.
- It will be supported by fantastic customer service levels.
- Equifax are a global company who are market leaders in supplying business and consumers with information and data to support their operations.
- Equifax were established over 100 years ago. Their headquarters are in Atlanta and they employ over 6900 people in 14 countries
- Equifax stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
So in a nutshell, this is a “win-win” for our fellow conveyancer, us and Equifax.
If you are considering using EID for the first time as part of your Anti Money Laundering policy, you are open to looking at a new, improved and better value alternative or would simply like further information as to how our exclusive product could assist you and your business, please call Lee Hartshorn on 0843 216 2930 or register your interest at [email protected]
The first 25 firms to sign up to use the service will also be placed in a free prize draw with the winning firm receiving their first 100 searches free of charge.