Nearly three-quarters of senior AML decision-makers reported an increase in Suspicious Activity Reporting last year as criminals sought to exploit Covid-19 disruption, research out today has revealed.


Comply Advantage’s The State of Financial Crime report, looks at the major financial crime trends last year and includes commentary on what 2021 is likely to hold. Findings are based on survey responses from 600 C-Suite compliance decision- makers across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

The report found 74% of respondents filed more SARs in 2020 than the previous year.

It said the shift to remote working and national lockdowns across the globe led to the quick adoption of e-commerce and digital and instant payments,” leading to cash displacement in many jurisdictions and disrupting criminal payment corridors.” The use of tokenised payments and crypto assets will increase, says the report, and more banks will pilot digital currencies. It says ‘legacy monitoring systems will continue to struggle to cope with the fast-changing, customer and criminal behaviour’

“It is not surprising that 74% of respondents said they filed more SARs in 2020 than in 2019” it said. “2021 will likely surpass 2020 as new types of technologies  and different ways of monitoring transactions will  need to be explored to allow firms to contend with  the exponential increases in volumes as well as the  new and varying payment channels used by one single  customer via different devices, including mobile money,  SWIFT, instant payments, crypto, and distributed ledger  technology all while working remotely,” the report said.

The report comes weeks after the US published a piece of legislation which aims to improve SARs by streamlining or automating reporting and to ensure financial institutions gain feedback on the reports filed.

The report also found:

  • 93% of respondents stated that real-time AML risk data would improve their compliance operations
  • Cybersecurity and third party risk management were noted as organizations’ biggest compliance-related pain points in 2020. With 54% of respondents ranking cybersecurity as a top pain point.
  • 62% of respondents plan on upgrading their legacy systems in 2021.
  • 54% of respondents plan on replacing or upgrading their transaction monitoring system in 2021.

“Due to the massive economic, political and social disruption brought about by COVID-19, international crime syndicates, rogue nations, global terrorists and cyber-criminals have become increasingly more aggressive, “said Charles Delingpole founder and CEO of ComplyAdvantage.  “Therefore, we felt it was imperative to prepare Compliance Officers and their teams for the potential onslaught of financial crimes driven by nefarious organizations.”