Key AML compliance strategies for wealth and asset managers in 2024

Key AML compliance strategies for wealth and asset managers in 2024

In an era where regulatory oversight of the wealth and asset management sector is intensifying globally, the stakes for compliance have never been higher. This sector, pivotal to national economies, plays a crucial role in helping consumers manage their assets and achieve their financial goals. However, its significance also makes it a potential target for misuse by malicious entities aiming to launder money.

Napier AI, an AI-powered platform designed to strengthen AML defences and compliance capabilities, recently explored the FCC regulations facing the wealth and asset management space and what firms should know about them.  

The cost associated with failing to comply with regulatory standards is surging, not just financially but also in terms of the potential damage to a firm’s reputation. The importance of a robust anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) program is thus more pronounced than ever.

Heightened Regulatory Scrutiny in the United States
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), part of the US Treasury Department, unveiled a proposal in February 2024 aimed at bolstering AML efforts. This new rule mandates that ‘investment advisors’ – both those registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and exempt reporting advisors (ERAs) – establish formalized AML programs.

This proposal outlines several requirements, including the implementation of a comprehensive AML/CFT program, which encompasses appointing a dedicated AML compliance officer, conducting internal training, and undergoing regular testing. Moreover, firms would be required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to promptly notify FinCEN of potential money laundering activities and comply with record-keeping and the Recordkeeping and Travel Rule, among other obligations.

Initially, this regulation will apply to advisors managing assets of $25m or more, but it may extend to smaller, state-regulated firms in the future. A notable consideration for future regulation is the introduction of a Customer Identification Program (CIP), designed to enhance firms’ capabilities to identify customers and prevent money laundering.

Global Regulatory Developments
The United States is not the only country tightening its regulatory grip. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a ‘Dear CEO letter’ in March 2024, underscoring the need for improved resourcing and oversight of financial crime measures. The letter points out discrepancies in registered firms’ activities and their actual practices, which could facilitate money laundering.

Similarly, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) has provided guidance on assessing the origins of customers’ funds and wealth. This forms part of its customer due diligence obligations, with a focus on accurate and timely reporting of suspicious transactions outlined in its 2024 priorities.

Implications for Wealth & Asset Managers
The US proposal is a significant step towards enhancing AML efforts, safeguarding consumer assets, and equipping law enforcement with essential information to combat criminal activities. This initiative reflects a global trend towards ensuring that financial institutions conduct adequate due diligence and report suspicious activities promptly, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the financial system worldwide.

Adopting stringent AML controls is not just about regulatory compliance; it is a strategic differentiator in the marketplace, Napier AI explained. For wealth and asset managers, it’s about levelling the playing field and mitigating the risk of financial crime, thereby contributing to the stability and security of global economies.

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