MADRID, Dec. 9 (EUROPA PRESS) –
Santander UK has reached an agreement with the FCA for deficiencies in the controls for the prevention of money laundering (‘anti-money laundering’, AML, for its acronym in English) in the self-employed banking division in the period from the December 31, 2012 to October 18, 2017, which includes a fine of 107.79 million pounds (124.92 million euros).
Santander UK has collaborated with the FCA in a civil and regulatory investigation into AML, focused on the identification, valuation and management of riskier autonomous clients, among which are included the so-called ‘Money Service Businesses’ (MSBs).
Specifically, the FCA has imposed an economic fine on Santander UK of 107.79 million pounds, an amount that is calculated for the income obtained by the self-employed business during the aforementioned period and includes a 30% discount for the agreement reached with the regulator, as reported by the bank.
Self-employed customers represented 4% of Santander UK’s total customer base in 2017.
The investigation has been concluded with this agreement and no further action is expected in relation to this matter by the FCA or other authorities.
This is an issue identified by Santander UK’s internal audit at the end of 2012. In 2013, an independent report on controls and processes was commissioned, and a very comprehensive improvement plan for the following years was quickly put in place, which was constantly updated.
The investigation, which spans from the end of 2012 to 2017, coincides with the years in which Santander UK was in the process of integrating the banks it bought in the UK in the midst of the financial crisis, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley.
The FCA investigation and settlement with Santander UK focuses on six highest risk clients of the self-employed banking business (out of a total of more than 500,000 clients).
Specifically, neither the bank nor the clients referenced in the investigation have been the subject of criminal charges.
The FCA itself in its report “acknowledges the scale and complexity of the transformation program carried out by Santander UK, which has spanned several years and required substantial resources, including the increase in staff and the incorporation of crime experts.” in such a way that the bank’s exposure to financial crimes has been significantly reduced”.
“Santander takes its responsibility in the prevention of financial crime very seriously. We regret that the AML processes and controls in the self-employed banking division between 2012 and 2017, to which the FCA conclusions refer, were not sufficient” , stressed the CEO of Santander UK, Mike Regnier.
“Although we put measures in place to address the challenges in the area of prevention of money laundering as soon as they were identified, the AML framework in force at that time should have been more consistent,” he acknowledged.
“Since then, we have made significant changes to our technology, systems and processes to transform our prevention framework. Today, more than 4,400 professionals are dedicated to preventing financial crime. We will continue to invest in the future and do all we can be in our power to guarantee the safety of all our customers and the communities in which we operate,” he added.
The Santander Group, including Santander UK, has assured that it is “absolutely committed” to the fight against financial crimes and will continue to comply with all applicable international regulations in this area and ensuring the effectiveness of existing controls.
The systems that the bank now has in the United Kingdom are robust and in line with FCA standards, after Santander UK launched an intense project to transform financial crime prevention and detection systems that has supervised by the board of directors and which has involved the injection of 700 million pounds.
AML processes and controls are a significant challenge for the financial sector, due to the speed with which regulatory changes occur to adapt to the appearance of new forms of financial crimes. In the UK, Natwest was fined almost £265m last year and, in its case, was also the subject of a criminal investigation for failures in its controls and processes.