In the ever-evolving landscape of the UK legal and property sector, the battle against money laundering and organised crime has taken centre stage, with solicitors, conveyancers and estate agents facing heightened scrutiny and regulatory demands.
In our comprehensive review of the year 2023, we delve into the critical aspects of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) compliance, shedding light on the challenges and responsibilities faced by the sector over the past 12 months
We examined the anti-money laundering regulations, and what estate agents needed to know to ensure compliance in 2023
The UK property sector has long been a target for laundering dirty money, with criminals exploiting rental and sale properties to generate an apparently legitimate source of funds. In January 2023, we discussed how letting agents could best meet their AML obligations, and help tackle the serious economic and social harm caused by money laundering, organised crime, and terrorism.
Also in January, we drilled down into The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, with a focus on the specific obligations placed on estate agents.
Legal Eye were sponsors and speakers at this year’s Annual Conveyancing Association Conference
As the new year got underway, the Conveyancing Industry wasted no time in getting together to tackle the challenges of the near future at the Annual Conveyancing Association Conference on 7 February.
Legal Eye was proud to be one of the sponsors of the conference, and our MD, Paul Saunders was on the speaker programme alongside some key figures in not only the conveyancing world but the legal industry as a whole.
We shared the most common AML/CFT breaches by law firms
In late 2022, HM Treasury published its ‘Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism: Supervision Report 2020-22′. Amongst other things, the report covered the most common AML/CFT breaches reported by the UK’s accountancy and legal sectors. We took a look at these common breaches, and provided some advice on what firms could do to protect against violations, and the resulting penalties.
Legal Eye was proud to support the inaugural National Conveyancing Week
As we moved into Spring 2023, Legal Eye was proud to be associated with a brand-new initiative, designed to improve the experience of home movers and professionals involved in the home moving process. National Conveyancing Week took place from 20-24 March 2023, and was attended by property lawyers up and down the country.
We took part in a webinar designed to help estate agents comply with their AML obligations
On a mission to help agents comply with the relevant regulations and industry requirements, in March 2023, our MD Paul Saunders spoke to Kerfuffle about all things AML compliance. Watch the webinar in full here.
We discussed how to give an M&A deal the best possible chance of success
As more and more law firms look to merge, acquire departments, or downscale, a robust approach to planning and mitigating risk is critical. In March 2023, we looked at some of the things firms can do to give any potential deals the best possible chances of success. Our number one recommendation? Preparation, preparation, preparation!
We released the Legal Eye AML Spring Update
In April 2023, Legal Eye put together a comprehensive AML guide for firms across the. The guide covered:
- New legislative requirements for 2023
- SRA Thematic Report on MLCO and MLRO roles
- Independent AML Audits
- Risk assessment key points
- Developments in Crypto Currency
- And more.
You can download our in-depth AML update booklet here.
We provided some top tips to help estate agents flagged for an AML audit
Estate agents must report any suspicions of money laundering. And, as well as flagging homebuyers for potential AML breaches, they must also raise internal reports where they know or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a colleague is engaged in (or is about to engage in) money laundering. In April 2023, we provided some advice on flagging a potential transaction.
Legal Eye’s annual conference was back!
Taking place on 18 May 2023 in the impressive Edwardian Hotel in central Manchester, the annual Legal Eye Conference was even bigger and better than in previous years! Bringing together a jam-packed agenda, the full day event focused on “Managing AML in 2023”.
This year’s theme was especially timely given the 2023 Risk Outlook from the SRA, which highlighted the ‘new normal’ and the need to ensure an increase in its proactive monitoring and regulating of AML arrangements within the profession.
Thank you once again to our keynote speakers, Taranjeet Singh Babra from the SRA, the CLC’s Sebastian Harrison and Amy Hayes, and Jason Chapman from LeO. Thanks also go to our headline sponsor X-Press Legal Services, gold sponsors Armalytix, Groundsure, InfoTrack and Move Reports, along with lunch sponsor First AML and networking drinks sponsor The Cashroom.
DATE FOR YOUR DIARY: The 2024 Legal Eye risk and compliance conference is back on 16th May!
The SRA updated its guidance on the workplace environment
In February 2022, the SRA first published a Workplace Culture Thematic Review. As part of this review, the regulator examined how firms were supporting their people. In May 2023, the SRA updated its guidance with new “fair treatment” rules designed to prioritise employee wellbeing. You can find out more about the new Code of Conduct here.
Legal Eye & Groundsure launched climate risk training to conveyancers
In Spring 2023, the Law Society published new climate change guidance outlining the legal duties that solicitors owe to their clients regarding climate risk. The advice also sets out how firms should assess and reduce the impact of their operations when it comes to climate change.
To aid compliance and protect the sector from possible professional negligence claims, in June 2023, Legal Eye and Groundsure teamed up to create a new training partnership that provides climate risk education for conveyancers.
We examined what a risk-based approach to money laundering means
The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations require a “risk-based” approach to combat dirty money in the UK. But what exactly does risk-based mean? And how does MLR 2017 affect estate agents? In June 2023, we addressed these questions in our latest blog.
The SRA launched its Sectoral Risk Assessment on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing
In July 2023, the SRA produced a risk assessment of its supervised sector. This assessment is designed to help firms to better estimate the risks they are exposed to, and must be considered as a part of each firm’s firm-wide risk assessment.
We looked into claims that estate agents were not taking their AML responsibilities seriously
According to a new report, “almost half of property professionals are not improving their anti-money laundering processes”. One reason given by the report’s authors for the sector’s failure to improve AML compliance was that estate agents were not taking its importance seriously enough. But was this the case? In July, we discussed the ever-increasing burden being put on the sector, and what was needed to achieve more robust AML compliance.
We launched a webinar on Commercial Property top AML and Source of Funds tips
Looking at the importance of Source of Funds checks for Commercial Property departments, our latest webinar brought together two experts from the sector: our Senior Compliance and Regulatory Specialist, Norman Denton and Tom Lyes, Head of Legal at Armalytix. Offering a comprehensive and informative discussion on this topic, you can watch the webinar in full here.
We shared some risk and compliance tips on social media
As we passed the mid-point of the year, we continued to share some risk & compliance top tips across our social media channels. For example we looked at:
- Whether your firm could evidence the requirements of the Core Practice Management Standard on a few days’ notice? And how our CQS Gap Analysis could help!
- Why law firms need to do file reviews
- How an annual review can help manage your firm’s approach to risk and compliance
- The benefits of our risk and compliance training
- And more!
If you want to find out more about any of these topics, get in touch!
Legal Eye launched expert enhanced AML training for your MLRO!
In September 2023, we launched a new course for compliance officers due to an intensified need and demand for enhanced AML training. Speaking about the new course, Legal Eye’s Managing Director, Paul Saunders, said:
“There are some common core elements to ensuring compliance officers have a strong standard to uphold and deliver excellent AML provisions in their firm. At Legal Eye we have collaborations with the right industry partners and the experience across many law firms up and down the country to understand what needs to be done to meet the regulators expectations.”
Legal Eye sponsored the 2023 Law Society AML conference
The Law Society’s Anti Money Laundering and Financial Crime conference was held on 27 September 2023. The conference was a must-attend event for legal professionals, and during the day attendees enjoyed a range of engaging panel discussions, interactive sessions, in-depth workshops, and networking opportunities.
As proud sponsors of the conference, Legal Eye were excited to be exhibiting at this must-attend AML compliance event.
We looked at PII renewal and the SRA’s Code of Conduct
At Legal Eye, we put great importance on keeping our legal clients up to date with developments in the PII market, and in September 2023, we looked at how, under the SRA’s Code of Conduct, solicitors/firms must take out indemnity insurance that is “adequate and appropriate”.
We discussed why estate agents must do more than just document check
In 2022/23, there has been a significant increase in AML fines issued to estate agents. According to reports, estate agents now face an average penalty of £5,350. That’s a rise of almost 50% year-on-year. To avoid expensive fines and reputational damage, estate agents must do more to ensure compliance in the fight against money laundering and financial crime. And, in our latest blog, we looked at what this entails.
We were thrilled to welcome Sara Harrison to our esteemed team
Also in September, Sara Harrison joined the Legal Eye family. Joining us as a Compliance and Training Manager, Sara brings over 26 years of invaluable experience in the property industry. Find out more about Sara’s appointment here.
We launched a new Source of Funds/Source of Wealth training course
As a leading provider of compliance and risk management solutions for law firms, in October 2023 we were excited to introduce our latest offering: a bespoke Source of Funds (SOF) and Source of Wealth (SOW) training course designed exclusively for risk and compliance professionals.
This live and interactive one-hour online training session is tailored to meet the specific needs of your firm, ensuring that your staff and fee earners are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate complex compliance challenges.
We proudly sponsored the Outstanding Employee Award at the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2023
Also in October, we were thrilled to announce our sponsorship of the Outstanding Employee Award at the highly anticipated Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2023. This prestigious category recognises and celebrates individuals who go above and beyond, contributing to the success and innovation of their teams and firms in the conveyancing industry.
We looked at how risky a ‘gift’ or loan from Mum and Dad is. And why property professionals must check Source of Funds
The Bank of Mum and Dad has become a substantial source of financial support for homebuyers with approximately £17 billion informally gifted or loaned annually, a large proportion of which is by parents to their adult children. In October, we looked at the risk associated with such transactions, and the need for estate agents and property lawyers to implement more rigorous AML verification and SoF checks.
We warned lawyers and estate agents to protect themselves from organised criminal groups
According to the Law Society, ‘professional enablers’ pose a significant risk to the integrity of the UK’s economy and reputation as a global financial centre. In November 2023, we took a look at what estate agents and solicitors can do to protect themselves from criminal groups and from becoming a professional enabler.
We looked at how to navigate the evolution of AML compliance in today’s regulatory landscape
When it comes to AML compliance, law firms can no longer rely on a box ticking exercise. Today, both the SRA and the CLA expect firms to have policies and training that are agile and adaptive to the changing ways of money laundering and criminal behaviour. In November/ we looked at how the regulators are demanding firms move away from a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to their AML training, procedures, and policies.
We highlighted how the AML requirements of estate agents are now the same as law firms
In December 2023, we discussed the Law Society’s wish for a single AML supervisor for legal services, and how this could mean that estate agents and lawyers become regulated by the same body – possibly the SRA.
Looking forward to 2024…
As we look forward to the year ahead, everyone at Legal Eye is committed to continuing in our aim of helping law firms and estate agents meet their risk and compliance obligations. And one of the main ways we do this is by offering a range of services that help our clients protect against risk. Find out more about the full range of risk and compliance services we offer on our website.
We wish all our clients, partners, employees, and friends a merry Christmas and a happy, successful, and compliant 2024. And we look forward to seeing you on 15 May 2024 for the next Legal Eye risk and compliance conference!