Anti-Money Laundering Transaction Monitoring Systems Implementation
eBook - ePub

Anti-Money Laundering Transaction Monitoring Systems Implementation

Finding Anomalies

Derek Chau, Maarten van Dijck Nemcsik

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eBook - ePub

Anti-Money Laundering Transaction Monitoring Systems Implementation

Finding Anomalies

Derek Chau, Maarten van Dijck Nemcsik

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Effective transaction monitoring begins with proper implementation

Anti-Money Laundering Transaction Monitoring Systems Implementation provides comprehensive guidance for bank compliance and IT personnel tasked with implementing AML transaction monitoring. Written by an authority on data integration and anti-money laundering technology, this book offers both high-level discussion of transaction monitoring concepts and direct clarification of practical implementation techniques. All transaction monitoring scenarios are composed of a few common elements, and a deep understanding of these elements is the critical factor in achieving your goal; without delving into actual code, this guide provides actionable information suitable for any AML platform or solution to help you implement effective strategies and ensure regulatory compliance for your organization.

Transaction monitoring is increasingly critical to banking and business operations, and the effectiveness of any given solution is directly correlated to its implementation. This book provides clear guidance on all facets of AML transaction monitoring, from conception to implementation, to help you:

  • Detect anomalies in the data
  • Handle known abnormal behavior
  • Comply with regulatory requirements
  • Monitor transactions using various techniques

Regulators all over the world are requiring banks and other companies to institute automated systems that combat money laundering. With many variables at play on both the transaction side and the solution side of the equation, a solid understanding of AML technology and its implementation is the most critical factor in successful detection. Anti-Money Laundering Transaction Monitoring Systems Implementation is an invaluable resource for those tasked with putting these systems in place, providing clear discussion and practical implementation guidance.

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An Introduction to Anti‐Money Laundering


Money laundering is generally understood as the concealment of an illegitimate source of assets, providing an apparent legal origin. People have various reasons to whitewash assets: they might want to conceal the original crime and not let their wealth become a whistleblower, or they may simply want to build up a reputation of being a successful and respectable member of the community. Since the late 1980s, there has been another reason to launder money. Law enforcement, initially as part of the US‐driven war on drugs, started to clamp down on the financial aspect of crime and new laws were enacted globally to criminalize the laundering of assets itself, whilst at the same time making it much easier for law enforcement to seize assets and for the courts to include confiscation of assets, both as a penalty and a measure of redistributive justice. Against the backdrop of a publicly perceived rise in profit‐driven crime, it was generally felt that criminals should be hit where it hurt the most: in their pockets. Criminalization of the act of money laundering and the emphasis on the law enforcement effort to go after the money are a natural extension of the age‐old adage that no man should profit from his own crime. Consequently, money laundering touched upon the core beliefs about a just society, where advancing oneself by evading the rules is felt as unfair towards those citizens who abide by the law. As such, money laundering (as any criminal offence) is a crime against society, against the public … and there is a public duty to fight and prevent.
By the late 1990s, another dimension was added: the counteracting of the financing of terrorism, and this was further fueled by the US terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This dimension worked as a catalyst for the development of ever more stringent anti‐money laundering regulations, adopted across the globe, and the emergence of what arguably can be called an entire new industry: Compliance. To a large degree, Compliance became a synonym for AML Compliance, AML standing for Anti‐Money Laundering (and we will use this well‐established acronym throughout the rest of this book), but even that is a pars pro toto, as it commonly also encompasses counter‐terrorist financing (CTF).
There were two main factors that contributed to the emergence of AML Compliance. First, there is the down‐to‐earth fact that law enforcement simply did not and does not have the capability or the capacity to do what is needed to detect money laundering. This is why financial institutions were recruited to partake in law enforcement as gatekeepers. Second, there was the shift in public perception about the role of private companies as Corporate Citizens and the intrinsic notion of good citizenship, linked to widespread notions on corporate moral responsibility, sustainability, and good standing and reputation. This is why the financial institutions, to date, accept the operational and cost burden of AML. Obviously, there is a clear financial incentive for financial institutions to be compliant: the fines imposed by the regulatory watchdogs for non‐compliance are enormous. But beneath this mundane motivator there seems to be a genuine acceptance by the financial industry of the role they have to play, as members of society at large, to disallow and prevent the abuse of their systems.
Accepting this role is one thing, it is quite another to live up to it. Being a money laundering prevention gatekeeper imposes all kind of practices that need to be established in order to keep compliant with all regulatory requirements. There is the practice of “know your customer” (KYC), which in a nutshell means establishing that a customer is who he claims to be. Then there is the practice of enhanced due diligence: risk assessing a financial institution's entire customer base on a continuous basis, specifically for the purpose of AML and CTF, and stepping up the monitoring effort or even reconsidering the relationship with the client in the case of high risk. Lastly, there is the practice of transaction monitoring: looking at behavior on the account to identify any suspicious1 or unusual activity. When such activity is deemed to be found and cannot be refuted by further analysis or investigation, then the financial institution has the obligation to report this to the local Financial Intelligence Unit, which in most countries acts as the conduit between the financial institutions and law enforcement, and quite often acts in an investigative capacity itself.
It goes without saying that complying with AML along the lines of these three practices impose a huge administrative burden on the financial institutions, requiring significant investment in front, middle, and back office operations. This applies in particular to transaction monitoring where volumes of customers, accounts, and transactions are significant, and meaningful analysis cannot be done by human labor alone.
And this is where AML software enters the scene. Financial institutions not only deploy electronic means to detect suspicious or unusual activity because of the sheer scale of the data, but also because regulatory watchdogs require them to apply computerized forms of analysis to avoid inconsistency and too much reliance on the (frailty of) human capacity to do so. Whilst computer systems carry out the tasks they can do more efficiently than humans, there is still a role for human analysts and investigators to further verify the validity of the initial electronic analysis. Thus AML transaction monitoring is typically divided into three practices: electronic analysis of transactions and the subsequent generation of alerts, the assessment by a human analyst with regard to the validity of the alert(s), and the subsequent filing of a regulatory report if one or more related alerts cannot be refuted as false positives.
The end‐to‐end process of data collection involves electronic and then human analysis; further investigation of more complex cases; and reporting to the regulators and being able to explain to the regulator how risks have been assessed and mitigated appropriately. All of this constitutes a complex operation, driving up the (manufacturing) cost of financial services delivery and potentially upsetting customers, especially when these customers find themselves unjustifiably subject to a financial investigation, often with the added penalty of not being able to execute transactions and do business. Striking the balance between satisfying both the regulator (compliance), banking customers (services delivery), and shareholders (keeping operational costs down whilst maintaining a good reputation) is of utmost importance for financial institutions today. It is the AML transaction monitoring software that enables financial institutions to do this.
The aim of this book is to explain various aspects of AML transaction monitoring software and will mainly focus on the electronic analysis, both from a perspective of the logic applied in this analysis and the challenges faced during implementation of that software in terms of data integration and other technical aspects.
We, as authors of this book, share a history with SAS, representing a combined 17 years of experience in the implementation, configuration, and redesign of the SAS Compliance Software. SAS has been considered market leader in a number of significant areas relevant for the practice of AML: data integration, analytics, transaction monitoring, case analysis, and reporting.
For any AML software to be taken seriously, is by definition complex. This is because AML transaction monitoring is a multifaceted process. This book aims to provide further clarity mainly on the logic applied to the rules. We hope to provide a good starting point for the beginning AML scenario analyst and administrator. We also hope this will benefit AML alert analysts and investigators, so that they may understand a bit better the output of what we call the alerting engine in terms of the AML and CTF alerts. To that aim this book will put the technical and analytical detail in its business context.
One could legitimately ask if this would not play into the hands of those whose actions we try to detect and allow them to improve their ability to evade detection. We think this not to be the case. Whilst much of the rule‐based approach is already in the public domain, the keys are in the actual thresholds financial institutions set as part of these rules for their specific customer segments.


Money laundering is commonly defined as the act of providing a seemingly legitimate source for illegitimate funds. In order to conceal the illegitimate origin, the proceeds of economic crimes need to be whitewashed. This will do two things for the criminal beneficiary. Firstly, it will cut the follow‐the‐money trail leading to the criminal acts, thus avoiding financial assets giveaways of the underlying crimes. But, secondly, even when it does and the criminal is successfully prosecuted and convicted for the criminal proceeds, when successfully laundered, the proceeds will not be subject to confiscation, since no link between these assets and the convicted can be proven. Even if the criminal is imprisoned, the criminal or their family will still be able to dispose of the assets and wealth build from a criminal life.
Anti‐Money Laundering, therefore, is, in its widest sense, a worldwide framework of legislation and regulations to prevent abuse of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering, and the practices and processes to comply with this framework. AML attempts to put in barriers to prevent abuse of the financial system by those seeking to conceal the criminal origins of assets and/or the link to their (criminal) ultimate beneficial owners.
What the legislation and regulations have in common is that they require private sector organizations, defined as Financial Service Providers, to put in place a mechanism to prevent the abuse of the financial system by perpetrators of financial crimes. Underpinning this effort is the adage that criminals should not be allowed to profit from their (economic) crimes and respectable financial service providers should not facilitate criminals in doing so. Some hold the view that AML regulations seek to recruit the financial service providers in the active detection of economic crime through the detection of money laundering that is often associated with it.
Compliance and AML cover a wide domain that includes many subdomains, such as customer acceptance (KYC, name screening), customer due diligence, handling of politically exposed persons, ongoing risk assessment, real‐time screening on remittance, transaction monitoring, sanctions screening, regulatory reporting, and more. Although there are tools and technologies available for each and all of those aspects, of equal importance is the awareness and understanding of the institutes' personnel about AML principles and regulations and how to apply these in everyday practice. The software is there to assist responsible staff to efficiently and effectively work through the vast amount of customer transaction data, sanctions, and watch lists, and to detect links and patterns that are impossible to see with a human‐driven and/or naked eye approach.
Within the various subdomains, transaction monitoring often incurs the highest spending by financial institutes. A transaction monitoring system basically looks at the financial transactions of customers over time and identifies suspicious patterns. Virtually any monitoring rule can be implemented, given the relevant data available. It is an after‐the‐fact control, instead of preventive. At the time when unusual, suspicious, or otherwise alertable behavior is detected, the money has most likely already been transferred and beyond reach of the financial institution. Reporting to the authorities may, however, still provide useful indications of abnormal behavior for investigation and, thus, be a starting point for an investigation, especially when the alert from one bank can be triangulated with alerts by other banks. In most countries the alerts will end up with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). This may lead to the unravelling of money laundering schemes and rings and possibly lead to prosecution and conviction of those responsible.
Central to AML is the concept of alerting. This has its origin in the gatekeeper function imposed on financial institutions by AML regulations. Counteracting money laundering and its predicate crimes is a task for law enforcement, governed by the rule of law. But in most jurisdictions, they lack the capability, capacity, and, more importantly, the legal backing to directly monitor the transactions of citizens. Financial institutions do, and one important driver of the AML regulations is to mobilize the financial institutions to contribute to the fight against crime by disallowing money launderers and criminals to reap the benefits of their criminal proceeds through the abuse of the financial institutions' infrastructure, products, or services. The main mechanism through which financial institutions contribute is by reporting suspicious or unusual behavior.2
Before they can submit a report, financial institutions must have identified a transaction or some behavior as reportable. This internal identification is commonly referred to as an alert. An alert, in this context, can be defined as something to draw attention to indications of possible money laundering or terrorist financing. There is no need to prove this (as that would bring the financial institution into the realm of law enforcement); it suffices to have assessed the likelihood of the alerted behavior pertaining to money laundering (or terrorist financing) as higher than average and worthy of further scrutiny.
Alerts are therefore indications that something may r...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright
  5. About the Authors
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Preface
  8. CHAPTER 1: An Introduction to Anti‐Money Laundering
  9. CHAPTER 2: Transaction Monitoring in Different Businesses
  10. CHAPTER 3: The Importance of Data
  11. CHAPTER 4: Typical Scenario Elements
  12. CHAPTER 5: Scenarios in Detail
  13. CHAPTER 6: The Selection of Scenarios
  14. CHAPTER 7: Entity Resolution and Watchlist Matching
  15. CHAPTER 8: Customer Segmentation
  16. CHAPTER 9: Scenario Threshold Tuning
  17. Index
  18. End User License Agreement