While running customer identification and verification checks is part and parcel of the onboarding process for estate agents, under UK anti money laundering laws it is just one part of overall requirements, and those not complying fully face serious penalties.
As well as running initial checks, estate agents must also keep records of all checks to prove that they have been carried out correctly and must also regularly monitor their entire client database for any changes to their risk level.
This means keeping customer records for five years, even after the relationship has ended, and being able to recall customer check results immediately if HMRC asks to see them. Any agents that cannot show they have up to date records could face multi-million-pound fines and suspension from practising.
The easiest way to ensure a customer data base is up to date and regularly monitored is to switch to an online system that does it all automatically, as Martin Cheek, MD at AML platform SmartSearch explains:
“Keeping five years’ worth of customer records is a huge undertaking and can be a daunting task for any estate agent, particularly those who have not been good at record keeping in the past.
“At SmartSearch we understand that some clients may not have been maintaining a comprehensive customer database, so, not only can we host all new customer data on our system, but we can also retrospectively upload past and current customer data too, enabling all estate agents to plug any gaps and start with a clean compliant position.”
SmartSearch is an award-winning three in one compliance solution. First, it runs all the verification and screening checks you need to do on each customer, it then hosts the customer’s information and the results of their verification and screening checks on the system, enabling estate agents to prove to HMRC that they have run the required due diligence. Any historic customer details can be entered too, with checks run retrospectively. Thirdly, it constantly monitors the entire client database, ensuring all customer records are always up to date.
Cheek concludes: “Electronic verification is quicker, cheaper, more secure and more reliable than manual ID checks, and if you choose SmartSearch to run those checks, you will also get free hosting and monitoring for the life of the contract.
“Plus, thanks to our unique retro-batch upload service, even if your record keeping hasn’t been up to scratch until now, you don’t need to worry. You can retrospectively verify all existing and past clients so that if HMRC do come knocking, you can prove that you have all the necessary procedures in place and information to hand.”