What is AML? Anti-Money Laundering Explained

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) encompasses a broad range of policies, regulations, and procedures that organisations across various sectors implement to prevent, detect, and report attempts to disguise illegally obtained funds as legitimate revenue. The primary goal of AML efforts is to thwart the integration of illicit funds into the economy, thereby cutting off the financial lifelines that support criminal activities such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption.

The relevance of AML extends beyond financial institutions to include a wide array of entities that might be exploited for money laundering purposes, including legal firms, real estate agencies, and luxury goods dealers, among others. These organisations are obligated to adopt stringent AML controls to monitor customer behaviour, report large transactions, and identify patterns that might suggest money laundering activities.

Unlock the full potential of your AML strategies with a free trial of Nexis Diligence™. Experience first-hand how our platform can streamline your processes, enhance your compliance measures, and provide peace of mind in an increasingly complex regulatory environment.

Core Components of AML

An effective AML strategy is fundamental to the prevention, detection, and reporting of financial crimes. It comprises several key components, each playing a vital role in the overarching framework designed to combat money laundering. Below, we delve into the essential elements of an AML strategy: Customer Due Diligence (CDD), Transaction Monitoring, and Compliance Reporting.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD)

Customer Due Diligence is a critical process in AML efforts, serving as the initial step in identifying the risks associated with doing business with a particular client. CDD measures require organisations to gather and verify customer identity information, understand the nature of their customers' business activities, and assess the risk of potential money laundering associated with those customers. 

This process is not static; it demands ongoing monitoring to ensure that any changes in customer behaviour or business profile that could indicate money laundering risks are detected and assessed promptly. By implementing rigorous CDD processes, organisations can significantly mitigate the risk of inadvertently facilitating money laundering.

Transaction Monitoring

Transaction monitoring is the continuous observation of customer transactions, including the analysis of historical/current customer information and interactions to identify unusual patterns of behaviour that might indicate money laundering or terrorist financing. 

This component involves setting parameters that trigger alerts for potentially suspicious transactions, such as those exceeding certain thresholds, transactions involving high-risk countries, or patterns that do not fit the customer's typical profile. Effective transaction monitoring systems are essential for organisations to respond swiftly to potential money laundering activities, ensuring timely investigation and reporting.

Compliance Reporting

Compliance reporting is the mechanism through which organisations report suspicious activities to the relevant authorities. It is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions for organisations to submit Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) or similar documentation when they detect transactions or activities that might be related to money laundering or terrorist financing. 

This component of AML emphasises the importance of having structured processes in place for the escalation and reporting of suspicious activities. Compliance reporting ensures that financial intelligence units and law enforcement agencies receive timely information to investigate and counteract illicit financial flows.

AML Legal Framework

The legal framework underpinning AML practices is composed of a complex web of laws and regulations at both the global and regional levels. These legal instruments are essential for setting the standards and requirements for AML efforts, guiding organisations in their compliance and operational strategies to combat money laundering and associated financial crimes. Key pieces of legislation are pivotal in shaping AML policies and procedures worldwide.

The Bank Secrecy Act

Enacted in 1970, The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) is one of the United States' earliest and most significant pieces of AML legislation. It requires financial institutions to assist U.S. government agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering. Specifically, the BSA mandates the reporting of transactions over $10,000 (through Currency Transaction Reports, CTRs), the keeping of records for certain transactions, and the reporting of suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities (through Suspicious Activity Reports, SARs). The BSA laid the groundwork for many of the AML compliance programs in place today.

The Patriot Act

The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, expanded the scope of AML and counter-terrorism financing laws in the United States. It introduced stringent requirements for customer identification, enhanced the communication between financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, and broadened the definition of financial institution to include a wider range of entities. The Act's provisions aimed at closing the loopholes that terrorists and criminal organisations might exploit to launder money and finance their activities.

EU Money Laundering Directives

The European Union has issued a series of Money Laundering Directives to combat money laundering and terrorist financing within its member states, with the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD) being the latest to be implemented. The 5AMLD introduced enhanced transparency measures, including public access to beneficial ownership registers and stricter controls on electronic money and virtual currencies. 

It also extended AML requirements to entities such as art dealers and lettings agents under certain conditions. These Directives aim to create a unified regulatory environment across the EU, facilitating cross-border cooperation and enforcement in the fight against financial crime.

UK Money Laundering Regulations

The UK's Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, commonly known as the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, is a key piece of legislation. It encompasses a wide range of obligations for UK businesses to prevent their financial services from being used for money laundering and terrorist financing. These regulations require thorough risk assessments, the implementation of effective policies, controls, and procedures, and the conduct of due diligence on customers. Additionally, the regulations mandate the continuous monitoring of business relationships and the reporting of suspicious activities.

Proceeds of Crime Act

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) provides the legal basis for the seizure and forfeiture of assets obtained through criminal activity, including money laundering, within the UK. It introduces several offences related to money laundering itself, such as concealing, disguising, converting, transferring criminal property, or removing it from the UK. POCA also establishes the responsibilities of various entities and professionals to report suspicions of money laundering to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

AML Challenges & Solutions

Implementing effective Anti-Money Laundering strategies presents a myriad of challenges for organisations worldwide. From integrating advanced technology to ensuring compliance across diverse jurisdictions, the complexity of AML efforts is significant. However, understanding these challenges and adopting best practices can pave the way for more robust AML measures.

Integrating Technology in AML

The rapid evolution of financial technology has both facilitated the sophistication of money laundering schemes and provided new tools to combat them. Integrating technology into AML strategies poses several challenges, including the high costs of implementation, the need for skilled personnel to manage sophisticated AML software, and keeping pace with the fast-evolving landscape of financial crime.


  • Adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning: These technologies can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of transaction monitoring and suspicious activity detection by learning from patterns and predicting future transactions that may be suspicious.
  • Utilisation of Blockchain Technology: For certain sectors, blockchain can offer a transparent and immutable record of transactions, aiding in the verification of the authenticity of transactions and the parties involved.
  • RegTech Solutions: Regulatory technology (RegTech) can help organisations streamline compliance processes, reduce costs, and stay agile in the face of regulatory changes.

Addressing Global AML Compliance

With the global nature of financial markets, organisations often operate across multiple jurisdictions, each with its own set of AML regulations. Ensuring compliance across these varied regulatory environments is a formidable challenge, compounded by the risk of penalties for non-compliance.


  • Global Compliance Programs: Developing a global AML compliance program that meets the highest regulatory standards can ensure that an organisation remains compliant in all jurisdictions in which it operates.
  • Regular Training and Education: Keeping staff at all levels informed about AML regulations and updates in different jurisdictions through continuous education and training.
  • International Cooperation: Engaging in partnerships and information sharing with global financial institutions, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement can enhance the effectiveness of AML measures and ensure a unified approach to combating money laundering.

The Role of AML in Preventing Financial Crime

Effective AML strategies are essential in the broader fight against financial crimes. By establishing a robust AML framework, organisations can significantly hinder the operations of criminal enterprises, thereby protecting the integrity of the financial system. 

Identifying and Reporting Suspicious Activity

One of the cornerstones of AML efforts is the identification and reporting of suspicious activities. This involves monitoring customer transactions to detect patterns that deviate from the norm, which could indicate money laundering or terrorist financing. Financial institutions and other obligated entities play a crucial role in this process, employing sophisticated algorithms and analytical tools to sift through vast amounts of data in search of anomalies.

Key Contributions:

  • Deterrence of Criminal Activity: The knowledge that transactions are being monitored and that suspicious activities will be reported acts as a deterrent to criminals considering using the financial system for their operations.
  • Enabling Law Enforcement Action: Timely reporting of suspicious activities provides law enforcement agencies with valuable intelligence, facilitating investigations and the disruption of financial crime networks.

The Impact of AML on Financial Institutions

AML regulations have a profound impact on financial institutions, shaping their operations, customer relationships, and strategic priorities. Compliance with AML standards requires significant investment in technology, training, and personnel, which can be resource-intensive. However, the benefits of AML compliance extend beyond meeting legal obligations.

Strategic Benefits:

  • Risk Management: Effective AML checks help institutions identify and mitigate financial risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Reputation Protection: By demonstrating a commitment to AML compliance, institutions can safeguard their reputation and maintain the trust of their customers and partners.
  • Operational Efficiency: While the initial implementation of AML measures can be costly, over time, they can lead to more efficient operations and decision-making processes as institutions gain a better understanding of their customers and the risks involved.

AML Best Practices

For organisations committed to combating money laundering, adhering to a set of best practices is crucial for effective AML implementation. These best practices not only ensure compliance with regulatory requirements but also bolster the organisation's defences against financial crime. Below are key AML best practices that organisations should follow:

  • Comprehensive Risk Assessment: Regularly conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities within your organisation to money laundering activities. Tailor your AML strategies to address these specific risks.
  • Robust Policies and Procedures: Develop and maintain clear, comprehensive AML policies and procedures that are in line with the latest regulatory standards. Ensure these are well communicated within the organisation.
  • Ongoing Due Diligence: Implement rigorous due diligence checks for all customers, particularly those identified as higher risk. Continuous monitoring for any changes in customer behaviour or risk profile is essential.
  • Advanced Technology Utilisation: Leverage advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for more efficient and effective monitoring and analysis of transactions for suspicious activities.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Regularly train employees at all levels on AML policies, procedures, and the latest trends in financial crime. A well-informed staff is a critical defence against AML risks.
  • Effective Reporting Mechanisms: Establish clear processes for the reporting of suspicious activities. Employees should know how to report internally, and organisations must ensure timely reporting to the relevant authorities.
  • Regular Audits and Reviews: Conduct periodic audits and reviews of your AML program to assess its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments. This includes updating your practices in response to new threats and regulatory changes.

Nexis Diligence+™

Nexis Diligence+™ AML solutions let you conduct enhanced due diligence checks and comprehensive research to investigate and monitor third parties, customers and other entities with whom you do business. Using the tools means you can stay compliant with international AML procedures and safeguard your business. The tools give you access to an unparalleled collection of global news and information all in one place, including:

  • more than 150 databases of premium business information
  • millions of public and private company profiles covering developed and emerging markets
  • politically exposed person (PEP) lists, international sanctions lists and watchlists
  • more than 26,000 current news sources from newspapers, blogs, and newswires, as well as an archive that dates back 40 years
  • the LexisNexis® database of international court cases and decisions
  • risk-analysis reports
  • more than 500 biographical sources and executive profiles

What’s more, the Diligence+™ built-in report builder enables to you to produce customised time- and date-stamped reports to demonstrate your ongoing compliance efforts should you undergo any type of regulatory audit.
Ultimately, with a complete picture of the people and companies you’re dealing with, you’ll improve your decision-making power and be able to safeguard and grow your business with confidence.

Nexis Data+

In the complex realm of AML regulatory compliance, managing third-party risk effectively is crucial for organisations aiming to safeguard against financial crime. Nexis Data+ revolutionises third-party risk management through its expansive datasets and advanced analytical capabilities.

  • Streamlined Due Diligence Processes: Nexis Data+ simplifies the due diligence process, offering access to a vast array of global data sources. This includes legal, regulatory, and news databases, which are essential for conducting thorough background checks on third parties, ensuring organisations can assess and mitigate potential risks efficiently.
  • Enhanced Risk Identification: With Nexis Data+, organisations can leverage cutting-edge technology to identify risks more accurately. The platform provides insights into the business relationships and financial practices of third parties, enabling a deeper understanding of their risk profiles. This capability is instrumental in uncovering hidden risks that might not be immediately apparent, ensuring compliance with AML regulations.
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Alerts: The dynamic nature of third-party relationships requires continuous vigilance. Nexis Data+ facilitates ongoing monitoring of third parties, offering real-time alerts on relevant changes or new risk factors. This proactive approach allows organisations to respond swiftly to emerging threats, maintaining the integrity of their AML compliance efforts.
  • Customisable Solutions: Recognizing that each organisation faces unique challenges, Nexis Data+ offers customisable solutions tailored to specific compliance needs. Whether it's screening for politically exposed persons (PEPs), assessing country risk, or monitoring for adverse media, Nexis Data+ provides the flexibility to address various compliance requirements effectively.

Get in Touch

Are you ready to elevate your AML efforts and ensure compliance with the highest standards? Nexis Diligence™ is here to empower your organisation with comprehensive due diligence, risk assessment, and monitoring solutions. With access to an extensive range of global databases, including PEPs, sanctions lists, and adverse media, Nexis Diligence™ and Nexis Data+ provide the tools you need to make informed decisions and safeguard your operations against financial crime.

Don't let complexity hold you back. Contact us today to learn more about Nexis Diligence™ and start your free trial. Embrace the future of due diligence and compliance with confidence.

Get Started with Your Free Trial of Nexis Diligence™

Get in touch

E-mail: contact@lexisnexis.co.uk
Telephone number: 0330 161 1234