Martin Cheek

Regulated firms record surge in financial crime attempts, data finds

42% of regulated firms have reported a rise in financial crime attempts, while more than a quarter of firms have fallen victim, data from SmartSearch has revealed.

SmartSearch found that 48% of legal professionals, solicitors and conveyancers reported a rise in financial crime attempts in 2023, compared with 34% the year prior.

Estate agents and other property professionals reported the biggest increase, from 17% in 2022 to 37% in 2023.

Among firms in the finance sector, however, the number reporting a rise in financial crime dropped, from 54% in 2022, to 41% in 2023.

Slightly more accountancy firms (42%) made the same admission.

Meanwhile, the survey found that more than a quarter (26%) of regulated firms fell victim to financial crime in the past six months – more than double the number (12%) in 2022.

The number of property firms (29%) finding themselves prey to financial criminals increased almost five times since 2022, while finance firms falling victim to financial crime more than doubled to a third, compared with 14% in 2022.

Martin Cheek (pictured), managing director of SmartSearch, said: “As the gatekeepers of the UK’s financial system, regulated firms in these sectors are on the frontline in the ongoing fight against financial crime.

“As attempts increase and more criminals look to exploit weaknesses to launder money and legitimise illicit funds, regulated firms must remain proactive and ensure their compliance processes are robust enough to withstand such attempts.

“For those firms that have already become a victim of money laundering or financial crime, I cannot think of a higher priority this year.

“As the threat level has risen, many firms have taken the opportunity to implement a digital compliance strategy, utilising the latest technology, along with real-time data to transform this onerous task into a seamless part of client onboarding and ongoing monitoring.”