Adverse Media Screening is gaining importance in AML

In order to reduce the complexity of the risk assessment process, all financial institutions should focus on accurate screening and scrutinizing the watch list.

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In past decade readers have witnessed a surge in the news related to crimes, violence and frauds. Though gaining attention of the readers is the objective of the newspapers, this leads to compliance challenge. Adverse media screening in Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance is the process, in which financial institutions use a software application to search for any sort of bad information or negative news against a person or a business who wish to open his or her bank account.

What is Adverse Media ?

Adverse Media is described as any kind of unfavorable information, available in the public domain. It contains negative information from traditional news outlets such as Forbes, Fortune, NYT or the personal blogs and those from unstructured sources.The scope of negative media goes beyond the English language.

Adverse media screening scans the name of the person or the organization against the negative news from the data sources available on internet and third-party data sources. These people are known as Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and their names feature in various PEP and Sanctions lists across the world. This screening is a very essential part of the KYC and EDD process for banks and other financial institutions.
In India, Riskpro is one of the providers of the information on the Politically Exposed Persons. This is probably the only dedicated database of PEPs with the unique identifiers. The politicians which are not featured in any media or news are also classified in this database.
Politically Exposed Persons are more likely to be involved in criminal activities. In depth risk assessment is performed before financial institutions think of associating with them.
The main intention to carry out an in-depth adverse media check is to find out if the customer has any connection with any sort of crime, money laundering, financial crime and fraud, terrorist funding activities, drug trafficking, human trafficking etc.

Adverse Media Lists

Adverse Media Lists are essential to reduce the false positives while doing the customer due diligence. Negative news screening sources include databases such as Sanctions, watch lists, PEP Lists, Interpol most wanted persons list etc.
Additionally, during the process of adverse media screening information from traditional news sources such a newspaper, magazines, radio, TV etc.is considered trustworthy. Information available on sources such a social Media, articles, blogs, websites that publish terrorist financing, corruption and fraud related cases, government lists showing criminal records etc is considered important in AML regulations.
Now the issue is that huge amount of data is available online and it increases with each passing day. It becomes difficult for the compliance team in the financial institution to find the relevant content from all these cluttered sources. They have to check whether the individual named in these lists is actually the individual they are looking for. Sometimes, it becomes difficult for them to categorize the customers into-low, medium and high risk. This process is manual, takes a lot of time and the financial institution has to bear a lot of costs.

Importance of AML

In order to reduce the complexity of the risk assessment process, financial institutions focus on accurate screening of watch lists. Their systems must have an updated PEP and Sanctions list, with comprehensive data and robust analytics. Adverse Media databases are useful if they are updated quickly. It helps FIs to improve operational efficiencies and reduce the generation of large number of risk alerts. This can be achieved by capturing data in a more organized way and using proper matching algorithms case by case. Financial Institutions can also opt for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies.
Negative News screening important aspect of the Risk Based Money Laundering directives issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Certification courses in Risk Based approach to tackle money laundering deal with Adverse media challenges. Financial institutions take the suspicious activities of the adverse media profile seriously. Adverse media profiles can be classified as as high risk. Banks are not willing to continue the relationship with high risk customers. It is not easy to write the algorithm for identification of the adverse news from the whole wealth of public domain information. Hence, the regtech companies are gaining popularity in this space.