SmartSearch has seen estate agency client numbers double in the past two years, the anti-money laundering (AML) firm has revealed.
SmartSearch, which increased overall client numbers by 45% in the first five months of 2019, in June alone. The firm did £1.1m of business and signed up 93 new clients.
Martin Cheek (pictured), MD at SmartSearch, said there were several factors at play, but the HMRC clampdown has been a key driver.
He said: “Recent fines – most significantly the £215,000 fine handed to Countrywide – and the fact that HMRC made surprise visits earlier this year to 50 other estate agents suspected of failing to comply with AML regulations – showed the estate agency sector that there would be serious consequences for anyone found not to be taking their money laundering obligations seriously enough.
“And I think a large proportion of the estate agents that have come to us in the past two years is as a result of this increased pressure on estate agents to comply or face the consequences.”
Launched in 2011, SmartSearch is the only organisation in the UK with the ability to verify individuals and companies in the UK and internationally all in a single platform with full Sanction, PEP and adverse media screening and then ongoing monitoring.
He continued: “Whether estate agents are unsure of their obligations, don’t have the resources to meet them or simply don’t think AML matters, the end result is the same; they are not compliant, and that leaves them vulnerable and liable.
“Our platform offers a full-service solution that ensures estate agents are fully compliant with the latest Money Laundering Regulations and remain compliant with any future changes in the legislation.”
Estate agent Wilkinson Grant has been working with SmartSearch since 2016.
It’s compliance manager Lynne Zendram said: “As estate agents are now considered by HMRC to be in the ‘front line’ when it comes to Money Laundering checks, we take this responsibility seriously and have been using SmartSearch for the past 12 months for all AML verification/PEP checks. The ongoing monitoring of such checks is also considered by us to be important.
“The level of service we receive from SmartSearch is excellent – from the initial training through to ongoing support – a far better system, level of service and support than our previous supplier of electronic AML checking! I have no hesitation in recommending SmartSearch for AML/PEP checking.”
Alisa Monro, deputy MLRO associate at estate agency Douglas & Gordon added: “We have been using SmartSearch to help carry out our Anti-Money Laundering due diligence for around three years now and it is safe to say it has revolutionized the way we operate this as a company!
“The system itself is easy to use and the guidelines for what information is needed are clear. This means that it is very user-friendly and so everyone in the company can use it with ease.”
Cheek concluded: “The estate agency sector is a very important part of our customer base, and as a result, we work hard to ensure the system works well for them, including launching SmartAML which enables estate agents to carry out checks via their smartphones when in a client’s property, making it quick and easy to stay compliant.”