Top-5 concerns for financial institutions: AML Forum Madrid

Last month, a delegation of our Harmoney compliance expert team attended the annual AML Forum in Madrid Forum in Madrid. Amidst a series of roundtable discussions and trade fair meetings, we seized the opportunity to connect with a whole host of brokers, bank representatives and co-sponsors Symphony AI (Netreveal) and Encompass, to hear their thoughts on the current challenges and opportunities in the Spanish financial landscape and beyond. Below is the personal account of our CCO.

AML Forum Madrid

What we learned at #AMLFORUM23

There are far worse possible destinations than the Iberian peninsula to host an AML conference, and so I was happy to be touching down at Madrid airport to attend the 24th edition of the iKN-hosted AML Forum. While my rusty castellano led me to leave some of the Spanish-only roundtables and panel discussions in the skilled hands of my local sales colleague, Pablo, I had plenty of time to engage in conversations with the visitors at our Harmoney booth and learn more about the daily challenges they face at work. Here are the top five takeaways.

Top 5 current key concerns for financial institutions

1: Getting reliable and high-quality data from external data sources is a common hurdle

Integrating external databases into your KYC system is one thing. Ensuring the accuracy, completeness and consistency of these externally obtained data is a different kettle of fish. Organisations without a compliance orchestrator like Harmoney to back them up are increasingly having to resort to time-consuming and costly methods to compare and cross-check different data sources, such as individual records, UBO data and public data sources.

2: Safeguarding data quality is trickier than it seems

While some financial institutions excel at capturing onboarding documents and client data using home-grown in-house tools, they grapple with the next challenge: how to sustain the level of data quality throughout their lifecycle management? This predicament was not only a key topic of discussion in some of the learning sessions, but it also emerged as a recurring concern when consulting with some of my contacts about what impacted them most. Detecting changes in, for example, a legal entity’s Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) isn’t always straightforward, making it challenging to set up a comprehensive and automated update flow for end clients.

3: The battle to beat information silos hasn’t been won yet

This one speaks for itself. Knowledge, tools and data are still trapped in silos across departments. Ideally, each stakeholder should have access to a centralised digital vault containing all relevant data and documents, easily shareable with different roles bound by specific KYC or AML restrictions. This is something that we anticipated from the beginning with our own shareable compliance data model at Harmoney, and it’s gratifying to see that our core focus on centralised data management is paying off.

4: Budget constraints are real amidst mounting regulatory KYC pressure

Securing the necessary resources and associated budgets required for compliance often sparks an internal struggle to get the essential budgets approved. While compliance has increasingly become a key concern for all financial institutions, this doesn’t necessarily translate into proportional team growth. Therefore, achieving more with the same budget and leveraging intelligent tools becomes imperative to drive down overall costs.

5: Automation and digitisation are vital, but they can’t replace human judgement

Automating processes empowers banks and brokers to focus on what matters most: delivering better service to customers and playing out their organisation’s unique strengths. Companies that fully embrace this approach, using tools to simplify the day-to-day tasks for their agents and compliance teams, are thriving. In addition, the prevailing sentiment in most financial institutions is that the most effective compliance experts and decision-makers are those with plenty of experience and a distinctive human touch – both qualities which software can’t replicate.

Additional insight: regulatory changes in Spain

The DIA conference also offered a great opportunity to catch up with the latest changes and trends in legislation in Spain.

During one of the workshops, a participant from a leading transaction monitoring provider pointed out that he'd been noticing a change in stance from the national regulatory authority, possibly influenced by increased pressure from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) due to Spain’s failure to penalise financial institutions for violations. Despite earlier claims by the Spanish supervising authority SEPBLAC that KYC and AML matters were under control, the lack of action is affecting their credibility. This inertia has led to mounting pressure on the regulator, resulting in increased market traction for companies in the transaction monitoring space.

Harmoney offers a cutting-edge digital platform that streamlines intricate onboarding and compliance procedures, featuring automated screening functionalities. Interested in discovering more about our innovative solution? Reach out to us for further details!