The AML rank and file

So here we are, with the final piece of analysis of our AML survey.  The last question was the most complicated: I asked “There are various things that could be done to change the way we approach AML (in principle, rather than in any specific jurisdiction or organisation).  Please select as many changes as you would like to see from the following list, and put them in order of preference, with the first slot showing the thing you would like most to see.”  And then I offered ten options.

When I “programmed” the survey, I used a light touch: I did not insist that all questions were answered, and for this final question, I did not require a complete ranking from one to ten – so some people did rank all ten, while others chose anything from one to nine.  Now that’s fine, until it comes to analysis.  Thankfully my husband is a maths whiz who enjoys a statistical challenge (as long as it comes with a cafetière of fresh ground coffee and a large piece of cake – cheap at twice the price) and he took this ragbag of responses, added some mathematical weighting, and returned an overall ranking for us.

So now – drum roll please – of the ten options I offered, the most favoured was “Oblige regulators/supervisors to publish more specific AML guidance, with government approval – i.e. so that you can point to it as a defence”.  Regulators/supervisors, please take note: remember that you are dealing with compliance people, and the clue is in the name.  People who work in compliance like to get it right, and in order to get it right, they need to know what is considered right.  If you need further convincing, the flip side option – “Oblige regulators/supervisors to publish less specific AML guidance, so that you have more latitude in your AML decisions” – was jolly unpopular, coming in at position eight.

Second most favoured option was “Reduce the legal burden on the MLRO”, followed by (quite a technical point, this one, in third position) “Give the consent regime more teeth, e.g. give FIUs the power to insist that accounts are closed/kept open”.  Again, I offered the opposite as well – “Get rid of the consent regime” – and this was the lanterne rouge of options, right down at position ten, so you really didn’t like that.

Penalties were of middling interest: “Increase the penalties that are levied on organisations for AML failings” was the fourth most popular option, and “’Personalise’ the penalties that are levied on organisations for AML failings – i.e. penalise individuals rather than organisations” was the fifth.  “Reduce the penalties that are levied on organisations for AML failings” came lower down, at position nine.  (For this set of solutions perhaps more than any other, I daresay the answers you gave depend on your own role; as the introductory questions showed, we had respondents who are regulators, legislators and law enforcement officers as well as MLRO/compliance people.)

And I will admit to being surprised at the order of options chosen at positions six and seven: “Increase the amount of due diligence information that must be gathered” was (one ranking position) more popular than “Reduce the amount of due diligence information that must be gathered”.  It’s not something I hear very often from MLROs – a desire to be required to gather more CDD.

So that’s your lot: we’ve sucked all the goodness we can from the bare statistics of our AML survey.  But I for one will be mulling over what I have learned, hoping to use it to improve my own efforts.  And I’d be very interested to hear your interpretation of it all.

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