Law Firms’ Credibility Undermined Through Anti-Money Laundering Processes, Conference Told – Cumbersome, legacy anti-money laundering processes are undermining the credibility of some law firms by leaving them exposed to criminals, potential fines and reputational damage, Europe’s largest legal conference has heard.

In a robust speech to the London Law Expo, SmartSearch chief operating officer Collette Allen has called on legal firms to catch up with the digital tools which would help to prevent financial crime and stop more lives being ruined by monetary scams.

SmartSearch is the UK’s leading provider of anti-money laundering (AML) software, whose services are already being used by one in three of the UK’s top legal firms.

Ms Allen told the conference: “It is no longer acceptable to persist with legacy, cumbersome, manual processes when they leave you open to sophisticated criminals and potential regulatory fines.

“Given the global shift towards digitisation, the time has come for many legal firms to reflect on their compliance procedures”.

Ms Allen also said that legacy, manual AML processes unnecessarily lengthened and complicated firms’ transactions with clients and led to increased customer drop-out rates.

However, as well as challenging the sector, Ms Allen was sympathetic to the pressures that AML regulations were bringing to bear on individual law firms. Keeping pace with the ever-changing rules, she said, had meant onerous compliance challenges.

These, she added, had been magnified by the pandemic.

Ms Allen demonstrated the levels of sophistication and detail that electronic verification had brought to the AML process by providing tools like instant individual and company checks without documentation, allowing on-going sanction and PEP checks and making due diligence and KYC procedures more robust and efficient.

And she gave advice to firms on the challenges of choosing the right digital solution – ensuring that it used transparent and high-quality data sources, integrated with existing systems and was not resource-heavy.

Finally, Ms Allen gave examples of firms which had increased their competitive advantage after their AML processes had been “transformed” and “significantly improved” by joining the digital compliance revolution spearheaded by companies like

“We are focussed on helping law firms to prevent money laundering”, she added, “regardless of which system is right for you, there’s no denying that law firms need to digitise and consolidate their AML processes. Not just to stay ahead, but to protect themselves and their clients from reputational damage, crime and fraud.”

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