Coronavirus outbreak spells the end for ‘outdated’ paper-based ID checks

The spread of the coronavirus means firms relying on paper-based ID checks need to switch to electronic processes now to avoid a freeze on their business, according to anti-money-laundering experts SmartSearch.

New restrictions on movement and the fear of contamination of documents have triggered a rush to adopt electronic verification (EV) as firms wake up to the effect of the virus. Relying on documents makes it impossible to comply with regulations, which means firms will not be able to serve clients or take on new business.

Firms trialling SmartSearch’s award-winning AML platform usually take between 30 and 45 days to commit to the service. In the last two weeks this has dropped in some cases to just one or two days – with some even taking up the full service on the same day.

John Dobson, chief executive of SmartSearch, said: “In spite of all the evidence that EV is more reliable and more cost-effective, more than half of firms in regulated sectors still rely on document-based identity checks. The coronavirus pandemic spells the end for this outdated approach.

“As long as the current restrictions on movement are in place, prospective clients will not be able to present documents in person. If documents are sent through the post, will firms want to take the risk that their employees are exposed to contamination? And if those staff are working remotely, will it be permissible to send documents containing sensitive personal data to their home addresses?

“Electronic verification solves all of these problems – no documents are required and the whole process can be carried out remotely regardless of location.

“We can get firms set up to use our service inside 24 hours, allowing business that would otherwise be frozen to proceed, with absolute peace of mind that all the required due diligence requirements have been met.”

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