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6342 Regulatory Compliance Management

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6342 Regulatory Compliance Management

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Course Code: 6342
University: University Of Canberra is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: Australia


You are a newly appointed Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) at a medium – sized regulated financial services firm based in a jurisdiction of your choice.
You have been asked by the Board of Directors to undertake a thorough review of the AML policies, procedures and culture prevalent in the firm.
A recent regulatory visit to the firm highlighted inadequate AML systems and controls. The board are concerned that the firm may suffer regulatory sanctions or negative publicity as a result.
Previously, the AML role has been fulfilled by the firm’s Regulatory Compliance Officer.
You conduct initial investigations and discover:
• the firm is expanding into the realm of providing complex in vestment and tax avoidance services for high – net – worth individuals (HNWIs).
• the Board has a high risk appetite for business, particularly in jurisdictions that are high on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index as jurisdictions where t he levels of corruption are high.
• the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the firm encourages sales techniques that may not be in the best interests of the customers. The CEO was formerly the sales director. He has introduced substantial staff bonus payments tied to new business targets. This has resulted in a corporate culture where Customer Due Diligence (CDD) is conducted but there is a lack of enthusiasm for the process.
• the CEO has made it clear that whilst he appreciates that CDD must be conducted, staff should not let this unduly inhibit sales, particularly for the new HNWI customers
• the files you examine indicate that information about source of wealth and source of funds is often basic and is rarely independently verified.
• previously the Regulatory Compliance Officer (much to her annoyance) has had responsibility for AML within the firm. When interviewed she stated that she had ‘neither the time, nor the training to properly fulfil this role’. She commented that ‘the CEO is aggressive and everyone doe s what he says’. She further stated that had it not been for the regulatory report, the firm would not have appointed a new MLRO.
• where a new HNWI requests to become a customer the internal procedure is that the application has to be passed to the CEO for final sign – off. To date no HNWIs have been refused despite the fact that many originate from high – risk jurisdictions and often have military or government connections.
In your review paper you need to cover:
• an assessment of the AML culture within the firm
• an analysis of the AML and CDD risks inherent in the way the firm is operated
• a schedule of recommendations to reduce AML and financial crime risk and better protect the firm.


Introduction – The nature of Money Laundering
The money laundering refers to the process by which the financial benefits obtained from an underlying activity are dissociated from their origin by making use of the various techniques (ACCA, 2011). The underlying aim behind the money laundering activity is to change the nature of such illegally obtained proceeds from tainted to untainted one; and to retain such financial proceeds by making it impossible for the regulators and the authorities to track their origin or destination. Any direct or indirect involvement in the above is regarded as the part of the money laundering process. The activity is linked to a number of other criminal active (FATF, 2018). Therefore, anti-money laundering practices are vital for an industry and nation as a whole.
The firm being engaged in the financial services sector, based at Singapore. The legal, judicial and institutional framework has been described as follows. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also known as MAS, which is also the central bank of Singapore is the prime regulating agency in Singapore financial services industry across various sectors (MAS, 2018). As the firm belongs to the financial sector, it is required to follow the regulations as laid down by MAS in relation to anti money laundering practices, the failure of compliance to which will expose the firm towards the risk of money laundering and related criminal activities. The firm is also required to follow the framework specified by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), which is the Singapore’s regulator of business entities (Thomson Reuters, 2018).
The report aims to examine the prevailing anti-money laundering (AML) culture within the firm. In addition to this, an analysis has been conducted of the anti-money laundering risks and the customer due diligence risks that are inherent to the scope of the operations of the firm in the light of the area of jurisdiction i.e. Singapore. The report ends with the set of recommendations in order to reduce the overall AML and the financial risks of the firm to an acceptably low level and thereby leading to efficient framework of working within the firm.
An assessment of the AML culture within the firm
Prima facie investigations suggest that there is an unhealthy anti- money laundering culture prevailing in the firm as of now. A few regulatory requirements have been fulfilled, just for the sake of the reporting requirements and to avoid the liabilities on account of the penalties. There is no proper AML framework so as to address the issues and define the roles and responsibilities. Following factors are suggestive of the above fact.

Initial investigations are suggestive of the fact that the board has a high risk appetite for the businesses located in the areas where the level of the corruption is high as suggested by the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. This can be regarded as a red flag area in the overall operations of the firm. This is because, the high risk appetite in the financial sector could be indicative of the other underlying factors that may be predicate to the money laundering and the related activities (Hilton and Ward, 2011).
On examination it has been found that the firm engages in the open account trade. The firm’s sector of operations being the finance, the firm may engage in to a finance activity via trade loans, receivable financing or the financing of the payables. This is also referred to as the open account trade. This type of trade is different from the documentary trade practice. While the documentary trade is also one of the practices adopted by the banks, which involves the use of the products such as the letters of credit (ABS, 2018). In documentary trade, the related trade documents such as invoices, transport documents and more may be examined by the banks; accordingly, information can be gained about the parties involved in the transactions and thus provides transparency. As the firm engages in the open account trade, the firm may not receive the information with regards to the underlying documentation. As a result, there is a little information about the background transaction and the parties involved. In addition to this, as indicated from the examination of the files, the information about the source of wealth and funds is of very basic level and is not verified independently. The lack of adequate information makes the firm more vulnerable towards direct or indirect involvement in the money laundering.
Investigations are also suggestive of the fact that the firm’s operations are managed whole and sole by the Chief Executive officer of the firm. There are not much distribution of responsibilities and the control and thus more or less, the CEO is in charge of every operations of the firm irrespective of the department. The CEO, earlier being the sales director of the firm, holds a high influence on the sales department of the firm. A quantity linked bonus scheme has also been introduced to the sales department personnel, which induces them to indulge into unhealthy sales practices from the customer’s point of view. The shrinkage of the overall control and authority in hands of one person is surely a red flag area in terms of the transparent business practices and reporting requirements.
In addition to the above, there is a lack of internal controls and procedures for the CEO. The applications of the financial services offered by the firm are finally sanctioned by the CEO, and the fact that there is no rejection in the applications to the HNWIs till date, raises a question on the independence and objectivity of the CEO, in terms of the fairness of the transactions.
Proper establishment of the records are one of the prime requirements of the healthy anti-money laundering practices. The lack of the proper documentary records of the firm and the failure to comply with the investigations and checks with regard to the CDD papers makes it almost impossible for the firm to keep the track of the customers and the underlying activities. Moreover, the audit trail can also not be established because of the poor records (MAS, 2013).

Analysis of the AML and CDD risks inherent in the way the firm is operated
The entities engaged in the financial sector must assign an anti- money laundering risk to each of its customers (SAS, 2018). The ratings are decided as per the risks exposed by a customer to the enterprise. There are generally three category of ratings namely, the high, the medium and the low. The analysis of the Anti- Money Laundering policies and the Consumer Due Diligence risks inherent in the area of operations of the firm has been described as follows.
Country Risk: The firm’s area of jurisdiction is Singapore, which is an international transport hub and financial centre and thus, the firm is exposed to inherent cross border risks in terms of money laundering. The country Singapore ranks fourth in the world in terms of the largest financial centres across the globe (ECD Conference, 2018). Since the size of the financial sector is large in Singapore, and comprising of a number of transactions, and the sector in which firm operates is internationally oriented and is cash intensive; the firm is more vulnerable to the said type of risk.
Geographical Environment of the firm and related risks: The country of operation of the firm i.e. Singapore has a strategic geographical location, being centrally situated in Asia Pacific (Samtani, 2017). It is regarded as one of the busiest ports in the world, being connected to approximately 600 ports in over 120 countries. Also it is well connected with the countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition to this, the country provides a major gateway to Southeast Asia. Being situated in a global hub which has a wide range of connectivity, the firm is exposed to higher level of money laundering risks.
High Customer Risk Rating:  On evaluation it has been found that there is high risk appetite for the business particularly in the jurisdictions where the level of corruption is high. The firm is expanding its business with inclusion of the tax avoidance and the investment consultancy service to the high net worth individuals (HNWIs). Also the volume of the transactions to the high net worth individuals is high, in order to meet the sales target as assigned by the Chief Executive Officer. Thus, it is clearly seen that most of the target audience of the firm is the high net worth individuals. The firm is highly vulnerable to the significant risks by managing the wealth of the HNWIs because of the connections and relationships of the HNWIs (Banu, 2016). Since the HNWIs are politically exposed, are connected to the government agencies, and have range of off shore bank accounts, there is a high risk of external pressure on the firm’s operations (Financial Conduct Authority, 2017).
Risk of Conflict of Interest: As evident from the findings of the investigations conducted, CEO being the ex-sales director seems to have a direct conflict of interest. CEO being the ex-sales director is very well acquainted with the sales staff and thus is in a position of influencing them according to his interest. As evident, he influences the sales department by not focussing on the CDD, rather to focus on increasing the volume of the sales specially to the high net worth individuals.
Risk because of the hierarchal structure: There seems an improper hierarchal structure, especially when it comes to reporting by the CEO. From the investigations, it seems like there is no check on the activities of the CEO, and as a result, he makes the full utilization of his authority. It can be asserted by the fact that the final sign off of the applications is done by the CEO, and the applications pertaining to the customers having the government and military connections are neither scrutinized nor rejected. As a result, the firm is vulnerable towards the risk of the money laundering activities resulting out of lack of the internal controls.
Thus, as per the discussion above it can be said that the overall risks posed to the firm by its customers is quite high. The risk score is especially high because of the nature of operations of the firm. As evident from the investigation, as the firm has failed to assign a proper AML risk rating to the customers and the operations, this has negatively affected the quality of the customer due diligence and the overall risk assessment of the firm is improper. As regarded by the CEO of the company, the exercise may be time consuming at first, and therefore it is not opted by the firm. But, the exercise is important specifically on the on boarding of the customer and throughout the life cycle of the customers as well.
Schedule of recommendations to reduce AML and financial crime risk of the firm
Monetary Authority of Singapore has prescribed a ranger of notice and guidelines for the financial institutions to prevent the laundering of monetary proceeds into serious crimes (MAS, 2012). These include transaction monitoring, rigorous customer due diligence, identification and assessment of the tax related risks and formation of appropriate framework for the mitigation of the said risks. A list of the recommendations have been prescribed to the management of the company on the lines of the guidelines of the MAS for the financial entities, which have been described as follows.

Governance: Effective governance is an important element of sound anti-money laundering culture of an enterprise. The tone of an effective and a successful anti-money laundering framework is needed to be set from the top. A clear intent and message must be conveyed from the board of the directors to the employees, including to the CEO. The anti- money laundering practices must first be adopted at the senior level of the management to set the example of the same to the others.
Policies and Procedures: It is recommended to the directors that a set of anti-money laundering policies and procedures along with the respective roles and responsibilities of the staff must be formulated and the same should be regularly updated to take into account the emerging risks. These should be easily understandable and accessible to all the personnel. 
Customer Due Diligence: as in the case of the firm, the CEO does not support the CDD mechanism in order to focus on the sales, which is incorrect. Customer due diligence is important for the sector in which the firm operates. This allows the effective management and the monitoring of the issues arising and the risks identified with the customers consistently (United Nations, 2016). Know your customer or the KYC process must be set up within the firm, which will allow the firm to obtain the information about its customers, especially the high net worth individuals and the politically exposed persons. The firm should conduct CDD for the HNWs as well. The information may include the areas like the country of origin, the passport details, the taxation and the business related information, information with respect to the agents if any, details of the principle counter parties, the place of existence of such counter parties, external confirmations from the third parties, sole beneficiaries, nominees and much more. The process must be extended to regular visits at the client’s place of operations and accordingly the confirmations can be obtained in relation to the information already supplied to the firm. The information must be obtained in the advance. In addition to this, the information obtained during the customer due diligence process must be periodically reviewed and related documents and details must be updated as per the relevant changes in the business of the client, industry specific changes and changes in the regulatory requirements.
Information Sharing: The information obtained as above about the customers and the compliances must be disseminated among the staff in an efficient and regular manner so as to make them aware and updated about the same. This would enable them to identify the suspicious nature of the transactions. The feedback must also be obtained and considered wherever necessary from the employees.
Training and Feedback: As discovered from the findings, and the interview from the earlier regulatory compliance officer, it has been noticed that the firm operates as a one man show and everyone is bound by the instructions of the CEO. The same is not correct. It is recommended that the employees of the firm are trained and educated on the lines of the regulatory compliance management. And the training and compliance must not be only for the sake of the regulatory report, but the practice will actually enhance the transparency and efficiency in the firm’s operations. The training must comprise of both the components namely, the specific training and the targeted training. This will enable the detection and the prevention of the money laundering risks for the firm in timely manner (ICAEW, 2018). The training must be provided at the regular basis and must be refreshed from time to time as per the risk assessments conducted. Relevant industry publications, regulations as issued by the MAS, and Singapore Stock Exchange in relation to the finance sector and the case studies of the same industry must be studied and considered for the purpose of providing the training. Accordingly, the policies and procedure must also be modified.
Record Keeping: As indicated by the investigation, the information about the customers is quite inadequate and basic and the same must be improved. It is important for the firm to retain adequate and systematic records so make the regulator and the stakeholders assure that the internal control systems are adequately in place and operating effectively. Record keeping would not only able to monitor the compliance, but also enable the independent testing for the quality assurance (Yap, 2015). 
Independent Assurance Checks: The management of the firm is recommended to get the independent assurance and testing done on the regular basis of the records and operations of the firm. The third party assessment would enable the management to evaluate the robustness of the systems and the practices, without the influence of those in power in the hierarchal structure. The assurance must be done initially by the trained staff of the firm and must be later on be done by the third party. The assurance check would help examining the overall framework, policies, procedures, and internal control system of the firm. It can be done with the help of the sampling technique. In that case, the samples for testing must be carefully obtained and the areas of concern must be thoroughly checked. The root causes of the issues must be evaluated and the same must be incorporated in the policies and the procedures of the firm.
Revising the bonus scheme: The next recommendation is based on the bonus payments and the targets. The incentives and the targets must not be set according to the volume of the sales, as prevailing in the firm as the current practice. The bonus linked with the high volume of sales is not in the best interests of the customers. Achieving targets in terms of the sales quantity only effects the quality of the operations, customers and the customer due diligence process gets on the back drop. And therefore, it is recommended to the firm to not to set the incentives on the basis of the volume itself. In addition to this, the maximum bonus amount must be capped to limit it to an extent.
Avoid mis-selling practices: In order to increase the volume of the customers, the firm must avoid the mis-selling practices, as defined by the Financial Services Authority. The customers must be treated fairly and adequate and relevant information must be supplied to them, in order to retain them (Financial Services Authority, 2013). In addition to this, the customers must be suggested the suitable products as the firm is planning to enter in the business of the investment consultancy and thus it would not only save the customers from the detriment but also protect the firm against legal troubles in future.

As per the investigations conducted, and as discussed in the previous parts, it can be concluded that the firm is operating on high risk with regards to the money laundering activities and the customer due diligence. As the firm operates in the financial sector and is based at Singapore, which is by default a highly vulnerable country by the reason of the central location in the Asia Pacific region, the unavoidable inherent risk for the firm is already high. There has been a consistent addition in the risk score of the firm in the way the firm is managed and operated by the CEO. The fact that the firm’s major customers are the high net worth individuals also exposes it towards the risk of direct or indirect involvement in the criminal activities because of the political and government connections of such individuals. The firm is not operationally efficient as there lacks a proper framework and benchmarks for the internal controls and operations. The firm is governed by the regulations prescribed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. According to the MAS regulations, financial institutions are required to follow certain guidelines. A list of recommendations have been suggested to the board of the directors of the firm on the lines of the MAS guidelines such as, clear definition of the governance roles and responsibilities, formulation of the anti-money laundering policies in light of the financial reporting requirements and the applicable laws and regulations, engagement in the customer due diligence practices, effective information sharing, training and feedback from the employees, and the record keeping of the necessary documentations. The inherent risks by the area of operations can be mitigated by the transparent business practices and thereby would enable the firm to lower its overall risk score in terms of money laundering.
Banu, S. (2016) “The Risks of Banking with HNWIs” [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
ECD Conference. (2018) Financial Centres of the World: Singapore. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 24/07/18].
Financial Conduct Authority. (2017) Guidance on the treatment of politically exposed persons (PEPs) under the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
Financial Services Authority. (2013) Risks to customers from financial incentives. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
Hilton, J. and Ward, B. (2011) The Value of Establishing a Money Laundering Risk Appetite. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
Samtani, R. (2017) Hong Kong vs. Singapore: Weighing Asia’s financial hubs. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 24/07/18].
SAS. (2018) Customer Due Diligence: A Proactive Solution for Mitigating Regulatory and Reputation Risk. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
The Association of Banks in Singapore. (2018) Best Practices for Countering Trade Based Money Laundering. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 28/07/18].
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. (2011) Accountants and Money Laundering. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 29/07/18].
The Financial Action Task Force on money laundering. (2018) What is Money Laundering? [online] Available from: [Accessed on 28/07/18].
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. (2018) Anti-money laundering 3: Systems and controls. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
The Monetary Authority of Singapore. (2012) MAS to Designate Tax Crimes as Money Laundering Predicate Offences. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 28/07/18].
The Monetary Authority of Singapore. (2013) Internal Controls. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 24/07/18].
The Monetary Authority of Singapore. (2018a) About MAS. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 28/07/18].
Thomson Reuters. (2018) Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 28/07/18].
United Nations. (2016) FATF Recommendation 5: Customer due diligence and record-keeping. [online] Available from: [Accessed on 22/07/18].
Yap, K. (2015) Accountants Contribute to Anti-money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism. [online] Available from:’s%20Reputation%20as%20a%20Trusted%20Financial%20Hub%20-%20ISCA%20Journal%20May%20Issue.pdf [Accessed on 22/07/18].

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