Estate agents who continue to rely on manual methods of verification are risking the financial and reputational costs which accompany breaches of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, an industry expert has warned.

Agents have been told that they are also wasting hours of business time on the very processes which make them more vulnerable to money-launderers.

Martin Cheek, the MD of digital compliance provider SmartSearch, which has just launched a next-generation version of its AML platform, says ‘dirty money’ will continue to wash through the UK while firms persevere with time-consuming, flawed processes.

A quarter of 500 decision-makers at firms in the finance and banking, property and legal sectors who took part in a SmartSearch survey admitted to verifying new customers using manual checks with hard-copy documents such as passports and driving licences.

And they also revealed that the documents took them days or even weeks to process – while only a third said they felt confident about being able to identify a fake.

Cheek said: “We know that money-laundering attempts are on the rise, with almost half of regulated firms reporting an increase in attempts to launder money.

“Our next-generation platform allows clients to perform all of the necessary checks in a matter of seconds. And its scalability means that regulated firms of all sizes can take advantage of the cost savings and peace of mind which our enhanced technology delivers.”

SmartSearch’s digital compliance solution supports more than 6,000 clients and 55,000 users across the finance, legal, accountancy, property, gaming, banking, insurance, investment, property development and cryptocurrency sectors.

Cheek added: “The new SmartSearch platform is what electronic verification (EV) should look like – and is exactly why the 2020 Money Laundering and Terrorist Finance Act recommends that regulated firms use EV as part of their due diligence to make it as effective as possible.”

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