Deep Background

Rules on ultimate beneficial ownership weigh heavily on bankers

As global banks and other financial firms face looming deadlines to tighten background screening on new and existing customers, some executives indicate their institutions are almost overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.  The greatest pressure is coming from FinCen’s pending Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) rules, and the European Commission’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD).  The European measure is supposed to be approved by member states by the end of 2016 (but the deadline seems optimistic).  Both these legal regimes require banks to find out the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of every account and registered company — the people who control and get the profits from them.  The worry about UBOs was heightened by recent European terror attacks, plus the Panama Papers leak of corporate documents, which dramatized how little governments know about the real owners of companies within their borders.  A May 2016 Thomson Reuters survey of 772 U.S., European, Asian and African banks’ know-your-customer executives and 822 corporate compliance officials found that “the lack of sufficient people resources and the volume of regulatory change are top concerns” and that “KYC continues to weigh heavily on financial institutions.”   The survey found that 13% of the companies queried had changed banks because of frustrating KYC experiences with previous bankers.

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