A third of property professionals admit they’re not AML compliant 

Hidden face in a banknote

In our recent survey of over 1,000 property professionals currently working within the industry we found that less than a quarter stated they utilised a professional company to handle their AML compliance, while over a third were unaware as to whether it was handled by a professional third party or in-house. 

With 45% of property professionals carrying out their own AML checks, it’s perhaps worrying that a third don’t believe their AML compliance would stand up to scrutiny by HMRC – with 13% of those to have stated so also believing it doesn’t matter as they don’t think they will ever come under fire. 

When asked about the importance of AML compliance in relation to other workplace goals such as performance targets and additional income opportunities, just 37% believed that it was the most important. 23% stated that hitting their own personal performance targets was of greater importance, 14% prioritised securing additional earning opportunities such as commission on a sale, while 26% placed both factors above AML compliance in terms of importance.  

However, we also found that just 11% would intentionally turn a blind eye to AML compliance in order to hit performance targets or secure additional income opportunities, while 9% stated that they may do it unintentionally. 

Just 11% also stated that with the cost of living increasing, a strain on personal finances may cause agents to turn a blind eye to AML compliance in order to improve their own financial situation. 

This pro-AML attitude from the industry suggests that operational strain is a far bigger factor when it comes to remaining completely AML compliant. 

The good news is that three-quarters of property professionals have also had some form of training when it comes to spotting potential money laundering warning signs, although just 16% stated this training was given by a professional AML company. 

There’s no doubt that the property industry is still finding its feet when it comes to complete AML compliance and it’s telling that nearly a third of professionals within the sector don’t believe their AML compliance procedures would stand up to scrutiny from HMRC. 

However, it’s fair to say that this is down to a lack of resources rather than an anti-AML attitude, with many struggling under the workplace pressures caused by the pandemic property market boom. 

In fact, when asked about their attitudes towards AML, 44% believed they are on the frontline in the fight against it, 43% think it’s a pain but appreciate why they need to do it, while just 12% don’t believe it should be their problem.

The in-house execution of AML checks is no doubt adding to this workload and when coupled with the sporadic level of training with regard to spotting money laundering warning signs, it’s hardly surprising the industry is crying out for help. 

The good news is that the majority of property professionals realise the important role they play in preventing money laundering via the sector and they would like to see more done to help them win this fight. 

Unfortunately, this help is unlikely to come from HMRC or any legislative changes with regard to how buyers and sellers are qualified before they can enter the market, so utilising the help of an AML professional is the best way to reduce the burden and increase your AML effectiveness.

However, the vast majority want to see more done to prevent money laundering, with 87% believing AML checks should be a legal requirement for homebuyers and sellers before they are even allowed to submit an offer or instruct an agent. 

90% would also like to see HMRC be more proactive in helping the industry rather than ‘clamping down’ simply by issuing fines for non-compliance. 

Here are the full results of our survey

Where compliance with regard to anti-money laundering is concerned, does your company: –

AnswerRespondents
Carry out its own checks45%
Utilise a professional company to handle AML compliance for you23%
Don’t know32%

Which of the below best describes your attitude about AML compliance?

AnswerRespondents
We’re the frontline in the fight against it44%
It’s a pain, but I understand/appreciate why we need to do it43%
It should be the Government/authorities problem/responsibility, not ours12%

Have you ever been trained to spot the potential warning signs of money laundering within a property transaction?

AnswerRespondents
Yes, by my employer46%
Yes, by a professional AML company16%
Yes, by another person/company13%
No26%

Do you think it should be a legal requirement that homebuyers and sellers are subject to AML checks before they are allowed to buy or sell a house?

AnswerRespondents
Yes87%
No13%

Do you think HMRC should do more to proactively help the property industry prevent AML rather than clamping down by issuing fines?

AnswerRespondents
Yes90%
No10%

Thinking about your company’s AML compliance process are you worried that it might not stand up to scrutiny by HMRC?

AnswerRespondents
Yes14%
Yes, but I don’t think it will ever happen to us13%
No72%

Thinking candidly about your own personal performance targets and additional income opportunities such as commission from a sale, which is more important?

AnswerRespondents
Hitting my targets23%
Additional earning opportunities14%
Hitting my target and additional earning opportunities26%
AML Compliance37%

Again, thinking candidly about your own personal point of view, would you turn a blind eye, intentionally or unintentionally, to potential AML warning signs in order to reach your own workplace targets or to increase your earnings?

AnswerRespondents
Yes, intentionally11%
Yes, perhaps unintentionally9%
No80%

The cost of living has increased sharply and is due to keep on rising this year. Does this strain on your personal finances influence your feelings with regard to the last question?

AnswerRespondents
Yes, it makes me more likely to turn a blind eye to AML compliance11%
It’s a worry, but I wouldn’t neglect my responsibilities re AML compliance38%
No51%

Survey of 1,175 property professionals currently working within the industry carried out by ProperPR on behalf of Credas Technologies via consumer research platform Find Out Now (14th April 2022).

Photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

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