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Suspicious Transaction Reporting in 2015

Preparing for a FINTRAC examination

At the Canadian Institute’s 14th Annual AML Forum, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) reviewed its expectations for suspicious transaction reporting. FINTRAC emphasized that suspicious transaction reports (STRs) are vital to the agency’s mandate as Canada’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) and ongoing collaboration with law enforcement agencies. While reporting entities (REs) in Canada have been required to report transactions for quite a few years, we’ve had many questions from REs about what FINTRAC expects and looks for in examinations. FINTRAC’s most recent guidance is useful in tuning your technology, enhancing your processes, and asking the right questions at industry association meetings.

What is FINTRAC Looking for in STRs?

When FINTRAC conducts compliance examinations, they will be applying three tests to STR data, including:

  1. Entity Practitioner: FINTRAC will look for transactions that are similar to those involved in STRs that you have reported. If there are similar transactions or transaction patterns that have not been reported to FINTRAC, there should be an explanation for the difference. Where possible, this explanation should be documented.
  2. Sector Practitioner: FINTRAC will compare the number and type of STRs submitted by similar entities. The size and type of business are taken into consideration.
  3. Reasonable Practitioner: FINTRAC will analyze a sample of reported STRs and unreported transactions against relevant guidance. In this case, relevant guidance means the suspicious transaction indicators from FINTRAC’s Guideline 2 that are applicable to your business.

These are terms that we’re likely to hear more about over the coming months, and there are compliance program adjustments (most of them relatively simple) that can be made to ensure that you’re meeting this standard.

Tune Your Technology

Amber looking at laptop FINTRAC screen

Most REs use software solutions to detect potentially suspicious transactions. Almost all transaction monitoring software use some type of rules-based system to determine when alerts should be generated. These rules should, at minimum, reflect the indicators that are applicable to your business. Not all of the indicators from FINTRAC’s Guideline 2 will be applicable to your business. Where possible, you should document the decisions that you make about your transaction monitoring rules, including the rationale for those decisions.

The most sophisticated software platforms have machine learning functions. These can take the decisions that have been made about previous alerts and use this information to refine how the program works. For example, if a particular pattern of transactions was deemed to be suspicious, the program may look for similar patterns.

If you’re not using software that does this on its own, don’t panic. You can review the STRs that you’ve submitted to FINTRAC to determine whether your transaction monitoring rules are tuned to reflect the types of money laundering and terrorist financing threats that you’ve previously encountered. This should be done on a regular basis (for example as part of your Risk Assessment updates). If you have an STR that is related to a pattern that you don’t have a rule to cover, you may want to do this sooner, rather than waiting for the next scheduled update.

Train Your Staff

Training

Over the years, I’ve heard many Compliance Officers express frustration about not knowing whether or not STR data has been useful to FINTRAC or law enforcement. To close this gap, I’ve looked for articles and speakers from FINTRAC and law enforcement that could provide meaningful information about the type of information that is most useful. The same principle applies to your staff.

You can use existing cases (you’ll want to remove any personal information for training purposes) to demonstrate the type of transactions that you want your staff to escalate to compliance for review. Existing cases from the media, and end to end cases provided by training companies like TAMLO, are also excellent resources. Keeping your annual training fresh is a challenge, and using your STRs as cases is one way to do that, while also meeting FINTRAC’s expectations.

Refine Your Audits & Effectiveness Reviews

AML Compliance Effectiveness Review

Are your auditors and/or reviewers using the same tests that FINTRAC is using to assess your compliance? If you’re not certain, ask.

If you perform self-assessment testing, you may want to include these tests as well.

As of 2015, all AML Compliance Effectiveness Reviews performed by Outlier will use these three key tests to assess STR data.

Ask Your Industry & Working Groups for More

Hanshake

Most REs have excellent industry associations and working groups such as the Canadian Banker’s Association (CBA), Canadian MSB Association (CMSBA) or the Canadian Jewellers Association (CJA). These groups are excellent resources and can help you understand STR trends across your industry. If you’re not a member, you may still be able to attend regular conferences or events.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you. If there are topics that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

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