At FINTRAIL we think the Swiss plans to relax Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules for FinTech under a certain size may actually be a bad idea for the industry and cause those that take advantage longer term harm and complexity.
We fully recognise that for small and early stage companies, complying with AML and Anti-Financial Crime (AFC) requirements can feel burdensome however it comes with a couple of significant advantages. Firstly, embedding AFC at an early stage is not just about complying with regulations, it's about building a strong compliance culture from scratch: by creating a false pause in the need to do this frankly just makes the process harder when you do need to do it due to regulatory requirements. Secondly, by making people think about AFC from the start, they can build in controls, make product changes easily, and generally make AFC a contributing factor to a great customer experience. Removing the drivers to set up an AFC framework from the start will mean that companies start bolting-on controls, and - as we all know from the legacy institutions - that becomes supremely difficult.
At FINTRAIL we feel very privileged to work with dozens of FinTech companies who are at different stages of development and fall under a range of regulatory regimes: one advantage they all have over legacy institutions is that they are thinking about AML/AFC from day one. Is it hard to deal with regulations - yes, of course, but by building it into the very foundation of the company and product they end up in a much better position long-term. It is driving innovation and forcing people to think differently about AML/AFC, their customers and products, and embedding a strong AFC culture from the start that remains as agile as the product development itself. If you want to rapidly scale your business and have a genuinely effective AFC regime, bolting that on is not the way to do it.
Our view is that rather than removing the need to comply with AML regulations, regulators should be looking at how they can simplify the process of complying for those that are at an early stage of their disruptive journey. In our mind that is about providing far more education and support. It would also give regulators the chance to simplify the language used in regulations to make them easier to understand and thereby implement, while not removing the spirit of what these companies need to become accustomed to dealing with as they scale.