Evolving Regulations: The UK's Progress in Dealing with Politically Exposed Persons

Katharina Amann Bærnholdt - Content Specialist at Uniify

By Katharina Amann Bærnholdt on

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3 minutes

The United Kingdom is starting a new chapter in its financial regulation with a special focus on high-ranking officials, also known as politically exposed persons (PEPs). Ahead of these changes, the UK's approach to PEPs often reflected global standards, which typically involved strict controls across the board. This shift marks a significant step away from the traditional generalised approach and paves the way for a more tailored and critical approach to financial regulation. This transformative change in legislation, outlined in detail in a recent government statement, will transform the financial landscape and how financial institutions interact with these highly influential individuals. Let's dive deeper into the nuances of the law change and its broader implications.

Exploring the Details of the New Regulations

The new rule, known as The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2023, is a major shift in policy. It changes how UK high-ranking officials, or PEPs, and their families and close associates are viewed in financial activities. They are now considered less risky than similar individuals from other countries. This adjustment will reflect a broader shift in the UK's approach to dealing with its PEPs under the financial regulatory landscape. For example, the process of verifying sources of funds for UK PEPs under the new rules may be less stringent compared to international PEPs, assuming there are no additional risk factors.

Understanding the Reasons Behind the UK's Changes to Financial Regulations

The change aims to balance strict regulation with practicality. Previously, UK officials were exposed to detailed and complex controls on their financial dealings to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. However, while these measures were necessary, they could be too restrictive for those who followed the rules. The new rules are designed to ease these burdens. They continue to ensure the integrity of financial transactions but aim to reduce the heavy demands on PEPs and offer a smoother process that respects both security and efficiency. A good example was the increased control of UK officials over routine financial transactions, such as opening a bank account or securing a loan, which often resulted in unnecessary delays and unnecessary paperwork.

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How the Requirements Affect Banks and Financial Institutions

With the introduction of the new regulations, banks and financial institutions face the task of updating their risk assessment and due diligence processes. The requirement for less stringent controls on UK-based PEPs is making these adjustments necessary. This change aims to streamline their operations, reducing the complexity and resource requirements of transactions involving these officials while ensuring compliance with important AML regulations. Banks can now use a differentiated risk model where factors such as the type of political exposure and transaction patterns are weighted differently for domestic PEPs compared to their international counterparts.

The Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) Crucial Management in the New Regulatory Landscape

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) plays a crucial role in overseeing this regulatory shift. They are actively reviewing how these guidelines are being implemented by financial institutions. This review is essential to ensure that the balanced intent of the new rules is being met effectively. For example, the FCA has recently highlighted the importance of context in assessing PEP-related risks, which signals a shift towards more tailored regulatory guidance. Depending on the results of their review, the FCA may further sharpen their guidance to financial institutions. This ongoing monitoring and ability to adapt are key to ensuring the efficiency and justice of the financial regulatory system.

What Does the UK's New Approach Mean for Financial Regulation?

The UK's updated approach to PEPs represents a significant step towards a more balanced and fair financial regulatory framework. But what does this mean in practice? It means a thoughtful approach to regulation that is not just about implementing rules, but also about understanding and adapting to the realities faced by those who are part of the system. This change goes beyond making adjustments to procedures, it reflects a deeper understanding of the need for regulations that are both robust and aware of the practical situations that domestic PEPs face. This could set a benchmark for other countries and potentially lead to a global trend where the treatment of PEPs is more closely aligned with their actual risk profile rather than a standardised high-risk category.

Explore Uniify’s KYC/KYB solutions, including our PEP check service, for navigating these changes. Visit the page here.


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