The Jersey Financial Services Commission recently published a paper entitled “Revisions to Commission AML/CFT Handbooks”, setting out their plans for (big surprise) forthcoming revisions to their handbooks. As I was working my way through it, putting key dates in my diary (you can see why the compliance sector and I are natural bedfellows), it occurred to me that each jurisdiction in which I work has taken a different approach to what could – perhaps should – be a standard activity: the preparation and presentation of guidance to their regulated sector.
In the UK, we have “Guidance for the UK Financial Sector” prepared by the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group – a body made up of representatives of the trade associations in the financial sector. I’ll make no friends by saying this, but the JMLSG guidance is now hopelessly bloated: Part I is general, Part II contains sectoral guidance (with wildly differing levels of detail, depending on who wrote it), and Part III specialist guidance (e.g. on wire transfers, and equivalent jurisdictions). So the poor UK financial sector MLRO has to check all three volumes and cross-refer between them. MLROs in law firms, accountancy firms and so on have their own guidance produced by their trade bodies, which again is of varying levels of detail and (frankly) quality.
In smaller jurisdictions, attempts have been made to rationalise things a bit more. Jersey, for instance, offers a handbook for regulated financial services businesses, one for the legal sector, one for the accountancy sector and one for estate agents and high value dealers. Guernsey divides its audience into two: financial services businesses, and prescribed businesses (legal professionals, accountants and estate agents). The Isle of Man likewise has a two-way split, but along different lines: those regulated by the Financial Supervision Commission have their handbook, while those supervised by the Insurance and Pensions Authority have their guidance notes. Gibraltar has one set of guidance notes for everyone.
(A side point: what the difference between a “handbook” and “guidance notes”? Is the word “guidance” more legally charged and significant? Does a handbook sound more optional?)
I probably consult all of these publications more frequently than many people – for a start, as I have presumed to publish books for directors and staff in these jurisdictions on meeting their AML responsibilities, whenever a change is made in anyone’s guidance (or of course legislation) I have to update my publications. (Jersey last week – all done now.) And although I am normally very careful not to express preferences of any sort, I have to say that I find the Guernsey pair easiest to use. There is very little dispute about which category you fall into (FSB or PB – although of course some businesses offer both types of service), and both handbooks are written to the same level of detail. However, a little Guernsey bird tells me that they are rewriting things as we speak, so fingers crossed that the new versions keep what is good and improve on what is not.