Anti-money laundering specialist SmartSearch has warned that businesses are at risk of being caught out by a potential winter lockdown, as media reports circulate about government plans to deal with rising cases of coronavirus.

Despite official denials of any plans for an October lockdown, there are concerns that there may be some kind of restrictions in October, which may cause disruption to business operations and create a potential opportunity for organised crime to exploit.

John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch, said there is still a significant number of firms relying on processes that are not necessarily covid-safe and they would be at risk in another lockdown.

He said: “We all hope that the country is not plunged back into lockdown this winter, but if there is a possibility of it happening, business owners should be asking whether they are ready for it to avoid disruption to security and AML processes.

“We carried out research among 500 regulated businesses in the UK this summer, which found more than a third (34%) across the financial services, legal and property sectors, still make manual checks when onboarding new customers.

“That is a significant number of firms that would be at risk in the event of a lockdown, not only in terms of business disruption, but opening up gaps in security that can be exploited by organised crime and fraudsters.

“But by making the switch to electronic verification, which has been endorsed by the UK government, all AML compliance can be done working from home, and outcomes shared with authorised

colleagues wherever they are in the country.
“Another key benefit for remote working is that all the input and outcome data can be hosted centrally for a ‘watching brief’ oversight by the compliance senior management. This also ensures perpetual KYC (Know Your Customer) checks as the system updates automatically once the data is inputted.

“It is an uncertain time especially going into winter, but it’s not too late to get that protection in place to give businesses confidence in the event of another lockdown.”