Anti-Money Laundering laws are relatively new to Hong Kong. Industries such as banking have felt more pressure and at an earlier stage than other sectors. Half of what we do is educate but in order to be successful we need people and companies to have an open mind and that are willing to learn and step forward. I have dealt with many companies, and usually have to walk away from ones that don’t want to take their head out of the sand, until they get in trouble and eventually ask for help, by which time it is usually too late.
Long time ago, when the sky was blue compliance laws started sweeping across other sectors beyond banking. I sat up and took note, but others did not follow suit and remained passive. Until one day a prominent bank started closing their high-risk business accounts. When I preached customer due diligence, record keeping, and creating an AML policy, I was faced with excuses, ranging from “we are not a bank” to “no one else is doing it”. Eventually certain high-risk companies holding an account with this bank had to agree to an external AML audit by a big four accounting firm, and when e-mails of the audit criteria hit inboxes, I had people coming back and willing to listen. The sad fact is the time that was wasted in ignorance cost these companies dearly and the bank ended up closing all the high-risk accounts that it audited. Even though one could argue that the standards set for the AML audit were too high, the truth of the matter is none of the companies did a decent job, which made closing their accounts an easy task for the bank.