We’re not quite as bad as America, but in the UK we do have a fairly fragmented approach to AML supervision – as soon as I feel a flowchart coming on, as I do when people ask me just who oversees whom, I know it’s too complicated. But today things are being simplified a little bit.
As of 1 April 2014, regulation of the UK’s 50,000 consumer credit firms – including supervision of them for AML purposes – shifts from the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading to the FCA. AML supervision of estate agents – once also taken care of by the OFT – moves to HMRC. (And – in a move that I still slightly fear might be an April Fools’ joke – the regulation of estate agents is now apparently the responsibility of Powys County Council. Do you think the man from Powys was on hols when they were looking for a “volunteer”?)
It certainly simplifies matters to reduce the number of AML supervisors (after all, the FCA and HMRC are already doing it for others), but I do wonder whether they will in fact be able to make a better fist of it than the OFT. Despite a last-minute flurry of fines for naughty estate agents last Friday, the OFT was notable by its silence on AML matters – not least, I suspect, because of an understandable lack of expertise/interest in the subject. After all, if you’re a hotshot young AML zealot, you’re not going to apply to the OFT when the FCA and HMRC are on offer, are you? The FCA is already talking the talk (“We won’t shy away from taking tough, decisive action to make sure that the people who rely on these products are treated fairly. There will be some firms that don’t get the message, or won’t play ball, those firms should know that we won’t let them carry on.“) but there is no escaping the fact that 50,000 is an enormous number of new supervision subjects to acquire. And colour me cynical, but I’m guessing that AML has not been a huge priority for the 50,000 so far. Here’s hoping that the FCA tiger has not bitten off more than it can chew.