Can Law Firms Remain Compliant, Without Personally Meeting their Clients?

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Written by Ian Crombie

Published July 2020

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2020 has been a year of huge change to millions of people’s personal lives, but also to the UK economy on a profound level. Here, we’re taking a brief look at the changes in ways that clients will now interact with law firms and how it will impact those firms.

Whilst people isolate and, in the foreseeable future, continue to observe social distancing measures, face to face contact will diminish far more rapidly than the general curve of adoption. For some organisations this means urgently deploying an online channel, or perhaps repurposing face to face teams to homeworking. The impact for law firms goes deeper though: how do you perform appropriate customer due diligence, when your customers may no longer meet you face to face?

So, Digital Identity Verification becomes extraordinarily helpful on multiple levels and an article from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) goes into this in some detail. The key message is that using a digital ID/V service, law firms can remain completely compliant without ever meeting a client. AML data can be coupled with numerous other checks allowing firms to evaluate additional data from the client and verify that against robust data sets. This gives you a more complete picture of your client, meaning firms can meet Anti Money Laundering (AML) Regulations, whilst protecting your business against fraudulent activity.

As a quick example, if your firm were to put a client through a digital on-boarding process right now, could you verify: AML (via credit bureaus), PEP’s, Sanctions, that the bank account and credit card belong to the client, when the client’s email address was created, where the IP address is located for the laptop/ device they’re using to engage your business, and that their phone number is active. If the answer to any of these is no you should, perhaps, be concerned.

Secondly, clients are becoming more used to slick customer journeys, be that in banking, lending, retail or any other industry. And perhaps that’s more than just an expectation now – an article in www.internetretailing.net suggests that a ‘friction right’ customer journey will overtake price, as a key brand differentiator, by the end of 2020. Law firms should be mindful of the increasing importance of that experience.

Lastly, a quick thought on the SRA audit of AML procedures this year. We knew at the start of the year that 400 were planned, and as the SRA continue to prioritise money laundering, they have announced they will audit sample firms on a monthly basis, due to their growing AML concerns, as referenced by The Law Gazette. It’s worth noting that digital ID/V services are extremely easily auditable: which is great for best practice.

For an informal discussion on how Pay360 by Capita can support all of the above, please contact Ian Crombie or Justin Bateson.

Author: Ian Crombie
July 2017

Sources: Solicitors Regulatory Authority July 2020, Internet Retailing and The Law Gazette. July 2017.

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