SmartSearch: Disrupting and transforming legacy AML processes

Guy Harrison

SmartSearch is an online provider of Anti-Money Laundering verification services. Its multi Award winning SmartSearch Anti Money Laundering (AML) verification service is the first system to bring together both Business and Individual AML verification on a single platform. The SmartSearch process is fully compliant with all the Regulating Bodies in the UK and delivers Business checks in less than 3 minutes and Individual checks in circa 3 seconds; inclusive of all Sanction & PEP checking.

Anti-money laundering compliance has become an increasingly onerous task for tens of thousands of regulated UK firms – especially since the Covid outbreak and the imposition of thousands of new sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. SmartSearch’s market-leading technology has transformed the process of compliance for these firms by providing electronic anti-money laundering (AML) checks and full electronic sanctions screening using a process known as electronic verification (EV). SmartSearch’s EV solution has disrupted and transformed legacy AML processes, which were manual, time-consuming, expensive and open to exploitation by sophisticated criminals. Regulated firms – across sectors such as banking, finance, legal, accountancy, property, gambling, insurance, investment and property development – face severe fines and significant reputational damage for breaking AML regulations and the UK’s regulators have been increasingly quick to censure breaches. Using global data partners Experian, Equifax and Dow Jones, SmartSearch provides an efficient, costeffective and fully compliant, perpetual know your customer (pKYC) solution. SmartSearch works with its clients to develop a digital compliance strategy, then its software fulfils their KYC and AML obligations as well as producing watertight compliance audit trails.

Consistent growth

The success of SmartSearch’s technology is reflected in the growth of its bottom line – turnover has increased by 54 per cent in the last two years. This consistent growth is testament to a laser focus on two core business tenets – continual platform development and relentless customer service. There are now more than 52,000 users of SmartSearch’s software across 5,700 clients in regulated sectors. These include more than a third (37 per cent) of the UK’s top 200 law firms, more than half (56 per cent) of the top accountancy firms, 40 per cent of the top 100 IFAs and more than a thousand property firms. The company currently retains a sector-leading 98 per cent of its clients every year, compared to a UK average of 81 percent in IT services and 84 percent in professional services. Alongside its already invaluable role in ensuring regulated firms remain compliant, SmartSearch’s EV technology has been developed and enhanced to become a vital tool in helping its clients to deal with the impact of the pandemic and Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. The coronavirus outbreak brought major challenges for regulated businesses. Lockdowns meant they had to identify new clients remotely and the disruption to business operation created a potential loophole for money launderers and organised criminals. Using facial recognition technology, SmartSearch’s team supercharged its EV software to give its clients the power to identify forged ID documents – such as photographs, passports, driving licences and work permits – and allowed businesses to satisfy their regulatory obligations and continue to carry out ID checks on new customers without the need for face-to-face meetings or manual methods of verification. This allowed SmartSearch’s customers to continue to operate efficiently, securely and safely during the pandemic – and has enabled them to carry on working flexibly since the Covid outbreak.

A vital tool

Smartsearch’s technology has this year been further developed into a vital tool for regulated firms following the imposition of thousands of new sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s Russia after the invasion of Ukraine – as Russian kleptocrats continued to try to circumvent sanctions and launder cash illegally through the UK to help finance Putin’s war. SmartSearch’s digital compliance solution identifies people on sanctions, Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), Special Interest Persons (SIP) and Relatives & Close Associates (RCA) in minutes. And it will also allow regulated firms to continually monitor new and existing clients – daily, if necessary. Its High Risk Country Report was developed to identify and return matches of names which have residency or citizenship in any high-risk countries like Russia or Belarus, identify any business customers operating in a highrisk country, as well as highlight any UK business customers where an entity within the corporate structure is identified as operating in a high-risk country. If SmartSearch matches a client to a Sanctions or PEP list, Enhanced Due Diligence is automatically triggered. International verification is challenging due to regulatory, cultural and technological differences between countries. But SmartSearch’s unique ability to integrate multiple data sources means it can verify international individuals and businesses, processing them under the same rigorous standards as UK checks.

Intuitive technology

SmartSearch has worked hard to make the front end of its technology easy and intuitive and has developed a dedicated smartphone app – but its flexible API can also see SmartSearch software integrated seamlessly into existing company systems. Clients have ongoing access to a dedicated customer success manager, and to a full team of client support staff to help them resolve any issues. This is always done with real people, not automated responses. Continually innovating, the SmartSearch team is now focused on taking its technology into developing sectors like cryptocurrency – as well as new markets. And it is constantly seeking to refine and develop its technology – this year will see its software portal upgraded to include a host of new features, some of which have never been previously available in the EV field. As a company at the cutting edge of technology, SmartSearch takes a 21stcentury approach to the development and well-being of its staff. The company has put rebalancing gender inequality and inclusion among its core values and the senior management team is more than 50 per cent female. SmartSearch also puts the wellbeing of its people at the core of its ethos, with the company particularly focussed on the morale and mental health of its staff. The company has been accredited as a great place to work by GreatPlaceToWork. Com.

Leading the debate

Money laundering is an attempt to legitimise the proceeds of some of the world’s worst criminals – people traffickers, drug dealers and corrupt officials. SmartSearch has put itself at the forefront of the fight against these crimes, which threaten the national security of all open economies. Its continuing Electronic Verification Uncovered campaign uses research to demonstrate why regulated businesses should use electronic verification to reduce their risk of AML breaches. And its senior staff are vocal and visible, often leading the AML debate with their expertise, in the battle to keep regulated firms compliant and drive dirty money out of the UK economy.

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