Report: 30% of UK Watchdog’s Financial Crime Experts Focused on Crypto Businesses in 2022-23

According to a report, the Financial Conduct Authority, a watchdog for the financial services industry in the U.K., had 30% of its financial crime specialists focused on crypto-asset businesses. Assessments conducted by supervisors in the U.K. found that not only crypto-asset businesses, but nearly all participants in the country’s financial services sector, are susceptible to financial crime.

Most Players in Financial Services Industry Vulnerable to Financial Crime

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), a watchdog for the financial services industry in the U.K., allocated 30% of its full-time financial crime specialists, or 15.8 employees, to focus on crypto asset businesses. According to the Her Majesty’s (HM) Treasury supervision report for 2022-23, these employees received support from sector supervisors.

These supervisors were responsible for assessing the compliance of FCA-supervised firms with anti-money laundering (AML) requirements. Overall, the financial crime specialists and their corresponding sector supervisors collaborated with FCA employees in areas such as intelligence, enforcement, and authorizations.

However, contrary to common beliefs about crypto assets, the 2022-23 report, which details the activities of the U.K.’s 25 anti-money laundering supervisors, found nearly all participants in the U.K.’s financial services sector to be susceptible to financial crime.

“Based on risk assessments of its sectors, the FCA’s view was that, in the reporting year 2022-23, retail banking (including payments), wholesale banking, wealth management and crypto-asset firms remained particularly vulnerable to financial crime and posed the greatest risk of being exploited for money laundering,” the report noted.

The report supports this assertion by revealing that 238 assessments were conducted, with 181 completed on high-risk firms. Of the remaining assessments, 34 were conducted on medium-risk firms and 23 on low-risk firms. Additionally, broader supervisory teams handled an extra 375 cases related to financial crime and sanctions. Out of this figure, only 95 cases pertained to crypto assets, according to the report.

‘Dear CEO’ Letters

In addition to conducting assessments, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) utilized tools such as “Dear CEO” letters to establish clear expectations for all firms. This approach enabled the FCA to target firms that posed the greatest risk of money laundering through more traditional and resource-intensive methods, such as desk-based reviews and onsite visits.

In the report’s foreword, Charlotte Vere, also known as Baroness Vere of Norbiton, sought to explain why supervisors had adjusted their work methods in some instances.

“There are constant changes in the patterns of risk associated with different regulated sectors and so too with the tools that are most effective to address them. Supervisors are crucial in keeping on top of these changes and driving an agile, proportionate approach to compliance,” Vere, a member of the U.K. House of Lords, said.

She said the government is committed to improving the supervisory landscape in the U.K. and her team is working to establish a “future structure” for the supervisory system, following the 2023 consultation.

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Source: Bitcoin

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