Blog post

AML Program Effectiveness: Policy and Automation

When many compliance professionals make plans for determining a strategy for managing your financial institution’s AML program, the use of software, such as SimpliRisk, may be at the forefront of planning. There are many situations for which software can be the proper tool for alleviating some of the risks. Developing risk models for measuring your member or customer base as a business segment is one such mitigation strategy where software can easily assist in making the job easier to manage. Developing
specific rules to catch outliers within your portfolio is another step many take regarding the use of software.

As effective as software is in crunching large volumes of numbers to determine hot spots for review, there are times where the use of software is better meant to assess a policy’s effectiveness, as opposed to
being that front line of defense. Often, when establishing AML monitoring rules, a compliance professional is left wondering, “How do I establish a threshold to gain insight on what is worthy of review?” Often, the answer lies within the financial institution’s already established policies.

For example, all financial institutions have a good grasp on the basic patterns of structuring and Currency Transaction Report (CTR) evasion. This goes beyond industry-wide best practices, as the rules for situations involving cash transactions is very clear, as seen in FinCEN’s Notice to Customers: A CTR Reference Guide. It is common knowledge that the thresholds for monitoring CTR evasion involves aggregating transactions involving cash at a threshold above $10,000. Similarly, Monetary Instrument Log (MIL) evasion is established by monitoring the cash purchases or exchanges of monetary instruments within aggregated thresholds of $3,000 and $10,000. Both instances require looking at the results of both queries and comparing those results against the daily paperwork at the branch level.

However, as simple as this might seem, there are gaps. One of the most common gaps involve transactions that appear outside of the system. For instance, a person walks in with $5,000 in cash and wishes to procure a monetary instrument for an equal or lesser amount. This request may appear to
be commonplace and inconsequential, until the AML professional realizes that these transactions are not being easily captured. In essence, these transactions often do not trigger a rule because the transactions are not tied to a distinct account.

To alleviate this monitoring gap, a common practice by many financial institutions involves policy. While not all people conducting such transactions are necessarily doing so with the intent to obfuscate the source of funds, it is well known that bad actors do employ such a tactic, and as such, a policy of
deposit prior to purchase is commonplace. Similarly, a policy of not executing non-customer cash purchase transactions may be put into place as well.

One last point on this topic involves persons negotiating checks for cash. It is important that a financial institution, specifically smaller ones, gain an in-depth knowledge of Regulation CC, which governs ‘funds availability’ for various deposits. While many transactions require immediate or next-day funds availability, checks not deemed ‘on-us’ allow for longer delays of full funds availability to ensure the funds guaranteed by the instrument are available within the account at the other financial institution.

Becoming knowledgeable on Regulation CC and other regulations will greatly assist in tightening your policies on higher risk transactions. As is always the case involving policies affecting consumers,
publishing all changes, such as changes to your Regulation CC policy, in accordance with all rules and regulations is mandatory. Managing and understanding various controls through policy gives the AML professional better insight into establishing risk-based thresholds for monitoring compliance, both inside and outside of your financial institution.

About the writer

Dave Gowan

Dave brings a unique blend of experience as a former investigator and compliance officer with multi-billion dollar asset financial institutions. Dave has a 15+ years of career experience from the armed forces; to financial crime / fraud investigation; to complete compliance officer responsibilities. Dave brings a pragmatic and practical approach to the industry, grounded in fact and working knowledge of financial regulations. Dave has been with PayLynxs for over 4 years.