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Why Neobanks Fail to Meet AML Requirements

The digital banking space across the world is flourishing with an astronomical number of transactions. It was estimated at a value of $12 Billion in 2020, and is projected to reach a size of $30 Billion by 2026, with an impressive growth rate of nearly 16%. To take advantage of this lucrative market, neobanks have been rushing to serve as many customers as possible. While they’ve been successful in establishing a large customer-base, many of these banks are failing to meet AML and KYC requirements.

It seems that the German neobank, N26 just received yet another slap on the wrist from BaFin, but it is by no means the only neobank under the scrutiny of the regulators. Monzo is also under investigation by the British financial regulator for its “insufficient” AML checks. So why do neobanks seem to be in this endless cat and mouse game with regulators?  

4 Reasons why neobanks fail to meet AML & KYC requirements

1- Surge in fraudulent online activity

In all fairness, this news doesn't really come as a surprise considering the massive digitalization wave in 2020 and the ensuing surge in fraudulent online activity. That being said, there are a number of factors that could have led to neobanks being used as a tool for money laundering and online fraud.

online fraud rates 2020
Online fraud rates (2016-2020) source: federal trade commision

2- Outdated regulations

From our perspective, the main reason neobanks are constantly in regulatory hot water is that the current regulations are mostly tailored to the traditional “paper- driven” banks. 

But as companies are growing to become digital, both them and regulators are struggling to impose sufficient regulations that cater to online onboarding.

3- Cost-cutting

In a race to be the first and the largest, neobanks are focused on increasing market share and tapping into new markets. In response to the rising costs, some of them are engaging in cost-cutting when it comes to building sophisticated compliance departments. 

4- The race to the shortest customer onboarding

Because the battle to gain the largest market share is so fierce, banks are racing to have the quickest online onboarding as customers have high expectations and little patience when setting up new accounts. (And... it’s not too hard to figure out that this convenience probably comes at the cost of security measures.)

3 Ways to improve AML and KYC compliance

To truly become mainstream, neobanks’ approach to money laundering detection and prevention needs a change. And the recent news certainly gives us many lessons to learn from. 

Expand your compliance team

One way to improve governance would be by building an extensive and experienced team of financial analysts and risk managers. PaymentGenes also experienced a rise in demand for finding top notch financial experts. 

Adopt a video based KYC process

While we understand that having a quick, frictionless KYC process is ideal from a customer’s perspective, adoption of virtual KYC checks can significantly reduce risk and repel fraudsters.

Leverage AI-driven KYC and AML solutions 

That being said, AI driven KYC and AML solutions can be a vital part in cutting down liability.  Not only does it reduce the staff’s workload, it also ensures a high accuracy and low false alert rates due to its risk-based approach.

Finally, it is admittedly tough to find the balance between a frictionless yet secure and risk free customer onboarding process hence we are curious to see which neobank will be the first to find that perfect balance. 

Are Neobanks not doing enough to ensure governance or is it the regulators fault for lagging behind? 
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