New Zealand regtech First AML arrives in the UK

By Amelia Isaacs on Tuesday 26 April 2022

Digital Banking

As the spotlight on money laundering grows, First AML is hopping over to the UK to help provide a compliance solution.

New Zealand regtech First AML arrives in the UK
Image source: Bion Behdin, Milan Cooper, Chris Caigou/First AML.

Kiwi anti-money laundering (AML) tech scaleup First AML has expanded to the UK after a successful NZ$30m raise last November.

As the demand for solutions to help businesses manage compliance requirements rises alongside heightened risks of regulatory fines, the regtech expanded from New Zealand to Australia and now to the UK.

The company launched in the UK with 25 staff and plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year to match its original Auckland office.

With a specialisation in complex entities, companies, trusts and international entities where there’s a level of complexity that requires manual intervention, the scaleup says it’s looking to provide an end-to-end solution to “revolutionise” customer onboarding in B2B.

"The market for AML has grown nearly 20 per cent in the past year to $214bn – there is a massive global market opportunity for us right now,” First AML co-founder and CEO Milan Cooper said.

“First AML's customers love our solution and it's proving to be the best approach to streamlining customer due diligence. With groundbreaking investigations around tax havens and money laundering across multiple countries, the AML compliance regime is a key priority for accounting, law and real estate.” 

Particularly given the current political climate, there looks to be a heightened need for AML solutions.

“With the current focus on London as a Russian money-laundering hub, small to medium-sized businesses need solutions to automate compliance with increasing regulation and threats,” co-founder Bion Behdin said. 

Simon Luke, UK Country Manager, told AltFi that after looking for a country with similar regulations to those in New Zealand and Australia, the company has already seen a lot of demand for its services in the UK given the current focus on compliance.

With a number of inquiries already, the company has confirmed that UK businesses are facing the same issues as those in Australia and New Zealand: “loss of productive time for frontline staff, a lack of a digital solution and a lousy customer experience at the start of a business transaction”.

“It’s an excellent time to be bringing our brand and our service and our products to the UK,” he said.

“We feel like a large, large portion of [companies bound by AML regulations] have taken a relatively relaxed approach to the regulations in recent years. I think now, given certain geopolitical events and a lot more light being shone on money laundering in general, people are really starting to take notice and thinking that they need to improve their processes to make sure that they are compliant.”

While larger banks might have robust compliance programmes in place because they have the money to invest and ensure compliance, those in the mid-level market might not have the resources to have that in place already.

“There is a huge amount of illicit money in our financial system here and it flows around so easily when people don’t have the right checks and balances in place,” Luke said.

“We find that our sweet spot is with mid-market and SME because we are essentially a partner to those businesses, we act as an extended part of their team.”

He explained that First AML is a scalable solution that will grow alongside the businesses for those without the budgets to invest in a large compliance team.

Luke stressed the importance of helping companies comply with regulations in a customer-centric and digital way.

“Customer onboarding is done at the very outset, and if you're doing it in line with regulations, that needs to be done before you can enter into any contractual relationship.

“So it's the very first point of a customer’s relationship with you [...] and it can be a negative experience if it's not done in a customer-centric way.”

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