The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has adopted a new set of guidelines mandating the digitization of customer records in all banks, insurance companies, and other covered persons under Republic Act (RA) No. 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended (AMLA). Covered persons include entities, businesses, casinos, and professions subject to the authority and jurisdiction of the AMLC on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CFT) matters.
The Guidelines on Digitization of Customer Records (DIGICUR Guidelines) require covered persons, including banks, to store digitized records of their customers in their own central database. The covered person’s compliance officer or other duly authorized officers are expected to retrieve customer records quickly, and, upon request or order, upload these to the AMLC’s portal, without having to request said records from branches on a per need basis. In turn, direct access to customer records in the covered person’s database would empower compliance officers and their duly authorized officers to proactively analyze by themselves the financial profile of customers, independently of the covered person’s front liners.
Adoption of the DIGICUR Guidelines puts Philippine banks at par with global banks. The AMLC is aware that compliance officers of most global banks are able to assess the financial transactions of their customers, and therefore, are able to perform effective analysis and monitoring as well as submit informative and useful suspicious transaction reports to their respective Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
The issuance of the DIGICUR Guidelines likewise comes at a crucial time. With the Philippine economy growing among the fastest in Asia, these Guidelines provide an additional impetus for the economy to be more competitive globally, as they bring the Philippine financial system more deeply into the digital world.
The AMLC, under the leadership of its Chairman, Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, supports continued financial innovation, which can drive the generation of voluminous data. At the same time, it poses the challenge of how to make such data actionable. The AMLC envisions the adoption of the DIGICUR Guidelines as a step to address the issue of extracting data in a timely manner. With centralized digitized records in place, covered persons are expected to become effective partners in facilitating the swift transmission of data to the AMLC and in assisting the latter in developing actionable knowledge critical in the conduct of its investigation.
The DIGICUR Guidelines’ salient features include: (1) the reiteration of the policy that revealing ongoing AMLC investigations is inimical to the public interest; (2) the imposition upon the Board of Directors, partners, or proprietors the obligation to ensure awareness among personnel of their responsibilities in maintaining confidentiality of financial investigations; (3) the digitization of customer records and creation of a central and secure database of customer records; (4) updating of AML/CFT manuals; (5) compliance checking by the AMLC, along with supervising and regulating authorities; and (6) a reasonable period for compliance.
Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela of the AMLC Secretariat said, “I am very optimistic that with the DIGICUR Guidelines in place, covered persons will be the AMLC’s partners in the conduct of financial investigations, the essence of which is confidentiality and swiftness. Through the Guidelines, the AMLC will be able to conduct investigations without attracting unwanted attention, and at the same time, promptly take appropriate action. If money launderers and terrorists discover our investigation, it is a foregone conclusion that they would spirit away their assets, and thereby defeat the intention of the law.”
The DIGICUR Guidelines will take effect on 13 October 2018.