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Why Anti-Money Laundering Should Be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions



anti-money laundering

Why AML Should be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions

The to-do list for any financial executive is surely daunting. From navigating technology changes to managing talent effectively, there’s many initiatives competing for attention.

One issue that’s been in the headlines for many years is anti-money laundering (AML). When criminals are able to successfully hide the illicit origins of their cash, both the financial institution and society suffer. So, what makes AML more important now than it has been in the past?

Rising up the Priority Ladder

Today’s infographic from McKinsey & Company explains the factors which have brought anti-money laundering urgently to the forefront in recent years.

1. Regulatory Action

Enforcement actions related to AML have been on the rise. Since 2009, regulators have levied approximately $32 billion in AML-related fines globally.

2. Threat Evolution
Criminals are using more sophisticated means to remain undetected, including globally-coordinated technology, insider information, and e-commerce schemes.

3. Reputational Risk

AML incidents put a financial institution’s reputation on the line. There’s a lot at stake: today, the average value of each of the top 10 bank brands is $45B.

4. Rising Costs

Most AML activities require significant manual effort, making them inefficient and difficult to scale. In 2018, it cost U.S. financial services firms about $25.3B to manage money laundering risk.

5. Poor Customer Experience

Compliance staff must have multiple touch points with a customer to gather and verify information. Perhaps not surprisingly, one in three financial institutions have lost potential customers due to inefficient or slow onboarding processes.

It’s no wonder anti-money laundering has now become a top priority for many CEOs in the financial industry.

A Wave of Innovation

In the last five years, there has been an explosion of “RegTech” startups—companies that address regulatory requirements using technology.

Global RegTech Investments, 2014-2018

YearAmount Invested (USD)

Over 60% of these are focused on solving Know Your Customer (KYC) and AML issues. What does this technology look like in practice?

Customer onboarding

A hypothetical U.S. retail firm, ABC Electronics, applies online to open an account at AML Innovators Bank. Their information is verified and screened using a fully automated process.

If they are determined to be a lower-risk client, they will be fast-tracked through the approval process with decisioning in six hours or less. For high-risk clients, decisioning occurs within about 72 hours.

Transaction Monitoring

ABC Electronics requests to send multiple international wire payments to various beneficiaries. Each transaction is automatically screened based on various factors:

  • A same name or subsidiary transfer carries the lowest risk
  • Transfers to a known, similar industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry medium risk
  • Transfers to an unknown industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry high risk

These transaction scores, combined with algorithms that track a client’s expected vs. actual transaction behavior, will update ABC Electronics’ risk rating in real time.

Management oversight

As risk updates occur, ABC Electronics’ rating is integrated into AML Innovator Bank’s overall portfolio risk.

Senior risk management teams will be able to view a heat map that highlights the highest risk areas of the business.

Structural Change, Big Gains

Just as financial crimes continue to evolve, so do AML schemes.

How can organizations stay ahead of the game? They can focus on actively managing risk, deliberately investing in technology and analytics, and prioritizing areas where RegTechs will have the highest near-term impact.

By investing in AML, financial institutions create competitive advantages:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Superior customer experience
  • Scalability
  • Readiness to adapt to new regulations
  • Reduced reputational risk
  • Ability to attract top talent

With such benefits on the table, one thing is clear: Anti-money laundering efforts are more important now than they have ever been.

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Personal Finance

Ranked: What People Value Most in a Financial Advisor

Positive reviews and recommendations are some of the least important factors—so what do people look for in a financial advisor?



A bar chart of what people value most in a financial advisor, with the specific qualities removed to encourage people to click into the full article.



The following content is sponsored by Morningstar

Ranked: What People Value Most in a Financial Advisor

Are advisors putting their focus where it matters? You might think that positive reviews and recommendations would be a top consideration for people choosing a financial advisor. However, other qualities appear to be much more important.

This graphic uses data from Morningstar’s Voice of the Advisor report to outline what people value most in a financial advisor. 

The Qualities Investors Value

Morningstar surveyed 400 people: 100 Caucasian women, 150 women of color, and 150 men of color. The values below show how often people chose an item as most or least important when working with an advisor.

QualityMost ImportantLeast Important
Expertise and knowledge in financial planning and investments60%11%
Personalized financial advice that meets my specific goals and needs54%16%
Ability to understand my risk tolerance and appropriately align my investments47%17%
Specialization in specific financial situations, such as retirement planning45%17%
Ability to communicate complex financial concepts in an understandable way42%22%
Transparent fee structure and pricing for my advisor’s services42%22%
Trust and rapport established during the initial meetings with my advisor36%24%
Ability to incorporate investment options that reflect my values22%41%
Positive online reviews or ratings about my advisor’s services22%46%
Recommendations from friends or family who had a positive experience with my advisor20%47%
Commitment to diversity and inclusion, making me feel comfortable and respected20%47%
Recommendations from other professionals, such as accountants or attorneys19%50%
Shares a similar background or cultural understanding10%68%

Participants were asked the following question: “On each screen, we will show you 3 items to think about when working with a financial advisor. Select which one is most important and which one is the least important of the items. You will see more than one screen and items may appear more than once.”

Enjoying this content? Dive into more insights in the Voice of the Advisor Report:

Report cover titled Four Opportunities to Elevate the Advisor-Client Relationship through Personalization with additional report pages shown. There is also a red button that says Click for exclusive insights.

Even among a survey pool that was mostly people of color, the majority of respondents didn’t think a commitment to diversity or a shared background were important.

Instead, three of the top four factors were related to personalization.

Personalization: A Key Quality in a Financial Advisor

People cared deeply about personalization regardless of gender and race. It was even more important to those with more than $250,000 in assets, suggesting that personalization may become more critical as a person’s portfolio value increases.

Even investors not currently working with an advisor and non-investors noted that personalization would be a top quality they would look for in a financial advisor.

Within personalization, people noted risk management was a very important element. Financial advisors can highlight their ability to tailor financial plans based on each person’s risk tolerance in order to attract clients.

Looking for tips on how to grow your advisory business? Get insights on what investors want, and how other advisors are evolving, in Morningstar’s Voice of the Advisor report.

Report cover titled Four Opportunities to Elevate the Advisor-Client Relationship through Personalization with additional report pages shown. There is also a yellow button that says get the free report now.

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