KYC: How compliance can improve business performance – post event summary
Know Your Customer (KYC) is not just a set of regulations to comply with. With the right data, processes, and technology, it can be a valuable tool to understand our customers better and thus be able to support them throughout their challenges, while at the same time shielding business owners from unnecessary risk. We wanted to delve a little deeper into this issue and so hosted a webinar with leading experts on the regulatory environment and financial crime to delve into the topic. Our panel of experts discussed what organizations need to do to de-risk their operations and how they can set themselves up for future success.
Our expert panel was made up of Graham Barrow, Director and Presenter of the Dark Money Files podcast, Viljar Kähari, Co-founder of PWC Legal Estonia and Gandolfo Iacono, CEO of LexisNexis Russia CIS & Eastern Europe.
Chaired by our Director of Global Markets, Brynja Baldursdóttir, the webinar drew in over 500 registrants and 300 attendees from 33 different countries, all eager to better understand the opportunities compliance technologies can bring to a business.
Brynja began the session by explaining that KYC is not just a box ticking exercise, it is a necessity for better business in 2021. The key thing to consider is that KYC is all about trust.
To begin, Graham contextualized the important role that KYC plays in protecting the financial system from ‘dark money’. Dark money, “which is any money that enters the financial system for which you cannot show for certain where it comes from”, has real victims that do not show up on paper. Dark money must come at a cost to somebody. Better KYC processes are not just protecting customers and businesses, it also protects taxpayers in corrupt countries and potential victims of money laundering all over the world.
Part of the issue with stopping or at least resisting the flow of dark money according to Viljar Kähari, is that “banks interpret KYC requirements very differently. It seems that client onboarding and monitoring processes are sometimes much more important than actually understanding a client’s business and monitoring transactions.” This alludes to what Graham believes the larger problem to be, that, “there really is a big difference between banks being compliant in terms of the anti-financial crime requirements, and stopping dirty money entering the system.”
Understand your customer
To shift from just being compliant with regulations to stopping financial crime with compliance we must progress from Knowing Your Customer to ‘Understanding Your Customer’ (UYC), a phrase Graham coined during the discussion. He commented that this is “because if people are intent on laundering money, they will provide beautiful documentation to get into the financial institution, but that documentation will need to be lies.” If we can go beyond knowing our customer to understanding them, then we can see through even the best lies. “Because if you force people and criminals to lie when they create the accounts documentation, you then have good documentation to monitor the downstream transactions. And that is the control. It is getting them to say in detail what they want you to hear and then monitor in detail what they actually do. It’s the difference between those two things, which is your control.”
Data, data, data
Our panelists agreed that the bridge between KYC and ‘UYC’ is data. Graham commented that “the ability to take KYC data, and feed it into your transaction monitoring system intelligently, is probably the single most important thing we can do. But we must sell one idea to all our customers. The idea that KYC is not an ordeal we have to put the customer through. It is the most important thing we can do to protect them.”
There are barriers that compliance teams need to break through to get to this next level of KYC. Gandolfo says, “the issue is that we see compliance or AML as a cost centre”. Compliance departments need to be seen as an asset hat needs serious data and software,” and many managers are not aware of this. Managers need to see the value that effective compliance brings in potential fines avoided. Viljar concurred, “compliance departments are overloaded. They do not have the resources they need; they do not have access to different databases.”
The perception of compliance needs to change for organizations to allocate the resources teams need to resist the flow of ‘dark money’. Viljar stated that “changing the mindset of compliance officers from an inspector to a business advisor is more important and necessary today. Because we cannot assume that all clients are criminals unless they can prove otherwise. It is the common understanding now because you need to provide a massive amount of information and documentation to show that you are getting your money legally. And that is why I’m thinking that the compliance function must become more proactive at finding practical solutions rather than just saying ‘that this work cannot be done.’”
To make this organizational culture shift it will take time, but our panel agreed that a realistic alternative is to outsource KYC and AML, provided there is not a “homogenization of risk appetite”. Viljar noted that when a company does not have access to a public register, “there are several service providers who can easily help to solve this problem. Just the banks and other regulated financial institutions must trust service providers and user services.”
Change of mindset
Summarizing the event Brynja rounded up the discussion by pointing out that the most important takeaway from the webinar is that as an industry, we need to start changing our mindset from knowing our customer, to understanding our customer. We need to vastly improve international cooperation in terms of legislation and regulation, and we can refine processes around KYC in terms of increasing shared services, using data and technology in a smarter manner which ultimately should make sure that we as businesses make our processes reflect our appetite for risk. It is time to make the switch from simply knowing, to understanding our customers.
This virtual event was a huge success from our perspective which gathered an incredibly engaged audience. Thank you so much for all your brilliant questions – our panel enjoyed the lively debate!
If you would like to re-watch the session, or if you were unable to attend, please use this link to learn about the benefits KYC compliance can bring to your business.