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13 Points of Clarification for FinCEN Final Rule (CDD)



13 Points of Clarification for FinCEN Final Rule (CDD)

By Laura Glynn, Director of Global Regulatory Compliance, Fenergo

A mere five weeks from implementation of its FinCEN Final Rule (CDD) on May 11th, 2018, FinCEN has released their eagerly awaited frequently asked questions(FAQ) document, providing additional guidance under 37 questions pertaining to the rule. This guidance provides much-needed clarifications on a number of fronts, including beneficial ownership thresholds, account definitions, risk-based monitoring, treatment of non-US listed entities and pre-existing customers. I’ve explored several of these below:

  1. Beneficial Ownership Threshold

FinCEN has reiterated that the specified threshold (25%) is a floor, not a ceiling. It has left to the discretion of covered financial institutions (FIs) to implement stricter thresholds if they so choose.In addressing a requirement to impose stricter thresholds for certain customers, FinCEN directs that any incremental risk factors may be mitigated by other reasonable means including enhanced monitoring, collection of additional non-mandatory information and recording information relating to expected account activity.

  1. Identification and Verification Procedures

The FAQ document clarifies that although the CDD Rule’s verification procedures are required to contain similar elements, they do not need to be identical. The FAQ outlines the example of a financial institution choosing to accept photocopies of identification documents, which would not meet the standard under the Customer Identification Program (CIP) rules. This derogation is expressly authorized within the CDD rule (e.g. covered financial institutions may use photocopies or other reproduction documents for documentary verification). Financial institutions should determine the documentation standards on the outcome of appropriate risk-based analysis towards the identification and verification (ID&V) of beneficial owners.

  1. Existing customers as beneficial owners of new legal entity customer accounts

Where the individual identified as the beneficial owner is:

  • (i) an existing customer of the financial institution, and
  • (ii) is subject to the financial institution’s CIP,

a financial institution may re-use the information previously collected to identify and verify the legal entity customer, provided the existing information is up-to-date, accurate, and the legal entity customer’s representative certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) the accuracy of the pre-existing CIP information.

  1. FinCEN Certification Template

As previously confirmed, financial institutions are not required to use the template certification and may use alternative formats such as the institutions’ own forms or any other means that comply with the substantive requirements of this obligation. In this instance, covered FIs should retain the form and not file it with FinCEN.

  1. Document retention periods for ID&V records

Covered FIs are required to retain all beneficial ownership information collected about a legal entity customer. Identifying information, including the Certification Form or its equivalent, must be maintained for a period of five years after the legal entity’s account is closed. Verification records must be retained for a period of five years after the record is made. 

  1. Certification of a beneficial owner of multiple accounts

If an institution that has already obtained a Certification Form (or its equivalent) for the beneficial owner(s) of the legal entity customer,the FI may rely on that information to fulfil the beneficial ownership requirement for subsequent accounts, provided the customer certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) that:

  • (i) such information is up-to-date and accurate at the time each subsequent account is opened, and
  • (ii) the financial institution has no knowledge of facts that would reasonably call into question the reliability of such information. 
  1. Sub-Accounts and Trading Accounts

FinCEN has provided a degree of additional clarity regarding the beneficial ownership treatment of accounts.The beneficial ownership requirement applies to a “new account,” which is defined to mean “each account opened … by a legal entity customer”.An account (or sub-account) relating to a legal entity customer will not be considered a “new account” or an “account” for purposes of the Rule when a financial institution creates such an account (or sub-account) for its own administrative or operational purposes and not at the customer’s request.

  1. Product or Service Renewals

FinCEN has offered additional clarify around the issue of product or service renewals with regards to beneficial ownership information. Under this classification, FinCEN maintains consistency with the definition of “account” as per CIP rules.

  • For pre-existing customers of such products and renewals, FIs must obtain certified beneficial ownership information at the time of the first renewal following May 11th, 2018.
  • At the time of each subsequent renewal, the customer must certify or confirmt hat the beneficial ownership information previously obtained is accurate and up-to-date. If the institution has no knowledge of facts that would reasonably call into question the reliability of the information held, they would not be required to collect the beneficial ownership information again.
  • For loan renewals or CD rollovers (generally assumed to have a lower degree of risk), FinCEN has clarified that these will not be treated as new accounts.If at the time the customer certifies its beneficial ownership information, it also agrees to notify the financial institution of any change in such information, such agreement can be considered the certification or confirmation from the customer and should be documented and maintained as such, so long as the loan or CD is outstanding.
  1. Pre-existing accounts (Monitoring & Scheduled Reviews)

As previously confirmed, no formal look-back is required for pre-existing accounts, however, the obligation to update existing records is triggered when a financial institution becomes aware of information about the customer during the course of normal monitoring relevant to assessing or re-assessing the risk posed by the customer, and where such information indicates a possible change of beneficial ownership. If no specific risk events are identified during the normal monitoring process, there is no obligation on the financial institution to request or update beneficial ownership information for existing accounts. FinCEN has clarified the following:

  • Risk-based procedures for regular review processes should be created and maintained.
  • Scheduled reviews are not a trigger event in their own right.
  • Covered financial institutions may update their records to reflect a change of information for an existing beneficial owner, e.g. if a change of address for an existing beneficial owner whose identity information has already been collected and verified, then full re-certification would likely not be required.If, however, the updated information constituted a change of beneficial ownership, then the new beneficial owner’s identity would need to be collected, certified and verified.
  • FinCEN has clarified that there are no material differences between certifying the new beneficial owner of a new account and risk-based triggers for updating a customer’s record. If, during the course of regular reviews, certain information relating to an existing beneficial owner has changed, this is the only piece that will need to be verified e.g. change of address.
  1. Legal Entity Customer Exclusions

As per previous guidance; a financial institution may rely on information provided by the legal entity customer to determine whether the legal entity is excluded from the definition of a legal entity customer, provided that it has no knowledge of facts that would reasonably call into question the reliability of such information. FinCEN has re-confirmed the position for US listed entity exclusion and has restated that this exclusion does not apply to foreign listed entities.

  • Covered FIs are expected to address and specify, in their risk-based written policies and procedures, the type of information they will obtain and reasonably rely upon to determine eligibility for exclusion.
  • FinCEN has provided clarification provided regarding sole proprietorship and unincorporated associations.Neither a sole proprietorship nor an unincorporated association is a separate legal entity from the associated individual(s), therefore, beneficial ownership is not inherently obscured.
  • Companies listed on foreign exchanges are not excluded from the definition of legal entity customer. Such companies may not be subject to the same or similar public disclosure and reporting requirements as companies publicly traded in the United States. In addition, FinCEN has directed that a risk-based approach may not be adopted for these foreign listings.
  • FinCEN has clarified that the U.S. Government will not maintain a list of non-U.S. jurisdictions where the regulator of financial institutions within that jurisdiction maintains beneficial ownership information regarding the financial institutions they regulate or supervise.
  • The exclusion from the definition of legal entity customer for charities and non-profit entities is not limited to those entities that meet the definition or description of charitable, non-profit, or similar entities under the IRC.
  • The rule does not require covered financial institutions to research the specific transparency requirements imposed on a foreign financial institution by its regulator and compare them with those imposed on U.S. financial institutions by U.S. Federal functional regulators. However, if the foreign regulator does not collect and maintain beneficial ownership information on the foreign financial institution it regulates, then U.S. financial institutions will have to collect and maintain beneficial ownership information on accounts opened by foreign financial institutions in compliance with the Rule.
  1. Legal Entity Owned By Trust 

Where the legal entity is owned by a Trust, then the appropriate beneficial owner is the trustee. The FAQ states that for LE-owned by trusts and managed by multiple trustees, then covered financial institutions should ID&V a single trustee, as a minimum, and additional co-trustees on a risk-based approach. 

  1. Currency Transaction Report (CTR)

Covered FIs are not required to list the beneficial owners during a standard CTR filing.They must, however, list a beneficial owner in Part 1 of the CTRonly if the financial institution has knowledge that the transaction(s) requiring the filing is made on behalf of the beneficial owner and results in either cash in or cash out totalling more than $10,000 during any one business day.

The FAQ clarifies that unless the FI is in possession of information to the contrary, they may presume that businesses which share a common owner are completely separate and operating independently and, therefore, transactions across these separate businesses should not be aggregated for CTR purposes.The FAQ provides examples of when this might not be the case, i.e. where businesses are staffed by the same employees and are located at the same address, the accounts of one business are repeatedly used to pay the expenses of another business or of the common owner: in such a scenario, the transactions would be aggregated for CTR purposes.

  1. Nature & Purpose of Account

This information should be used to develop a baseline against which customer activity, such as the customer’s expected use of wires or typical number of deposits in a month, can be assessed for possible suspicious activity reporting. If account activity changes, particularly with regard to whatshould be anticipated based on the original nature and purpose of the account, risk-based monitoring may identify a need to update customer information, including, as appropriate, beneficial ownership

A clear requirement of the CDD rule is that FIs understand “the nature and purpose of customer relationships to develop a customer risk profile.” There has been a degree of uncertainty in how this should be documented and against what parameters. The FAQ provides some guidance by noting that the profile may, but doesn’t necessarily have to, include a system of risk ratings or categories of customers. Accordingly, the documentation that is required to demonstrate an understanding of the nature and purpose of a customer relationship would vary with the type of customer, account, service, or product.

FinCEN has acknowledged that they may issue additional FAQs/guidance or grant exceptive relief as appropriate.

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To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital



To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital 1

By Pete Bulley, Director of Product, Aire

The last six months have brought the precarious financial situation of many millions across the world into sharper focus than ever before. But while the figures may be unprecedented, the underlying problem is not a new one – and it requires serious attention as well as  action from lenders to solve it.

Research commissioned by Aire in February found that eight out of ten adults in the UK would be unable to cover essential monthly spending should their income drop by 20%. Since then, Covid-19 has increased the number without employment by 730,000 people between July and March, and saw 9.6 million furloughed as part of the job retention scheme.

The figures change daily but here are a few of the most significant: one in six mortgage holders had opted to take a payment holiday by June. Lenders had granted almost a million credit card payment deferrals, provided 686,500 payment holidays on personal loans, and offered 27 million interest-free overdrafts.

The pressure is growing for lenders and with no clear return to normal in sight, we are unfortunately likely to see levels of financial distress increase exponentially as we head into winter. Recent changes to the job retention scheme are signalling the start of the withdrawal of government support.

The challenge for lenders

Lenders have been embracing digital channels for years. However, we see it usually prioritised at acquisition, with customer management neglected in favour of getting new customers through the door. Once inside, even the most established of lenders are likely to fall back on manual processes when it comes to managing existing customers.

It’s different for fintechs. Unburdened by legacy systems, they’ve been able to begin with digital to offer a new generation of consumers better, more intuitive service. Most often this is digitised, mobile and seamless, and it’s spreading across sectors. While established banks and service providers are catching up — offering mobile payments and on-the-go access to accounts — this part of their service is still lagging. Nowhere is this felt harder than in customer management.

Time for a digital solution in customer management

With digital moving higher up the agenda for lenders as a result of the pandemic, many still haven’t got their customer support properly in place to meet demand. Manual outreach is still relied upon which is both heavy on resource and on time.

Lenders are also grappling with regulation. While many recognise the moral responsibility they have for their customers, they are still blind to the new tools available to help them act effectively and at scale.

In 2015, the FCA released its Fair Treatment of Customers regulations requiring that ‘consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale’.

But when the individual financial situation of customers is changing daily, never has this sentiment been more important (or more difficult) for lenders to adhere to. The problem is simple: the traditional credit scoring methods relied upon by lenders are no longer dynamic enough to spot sudden financial change.

The answer lies in better, and more scalable, personalised support. But to do this, lenders need rich, real-time insight so that lenders can act effectively, as the regulator demands. It needs to be done at scale and it needs to be done with the consumer experience in mind, with convenience and trust high on the agenda.

Placing the consumer at the heart of the response

To better understand a customer, inviting them into a branch or arranging a phone call may seem the most obvious solution. However, health concerns mean few people want to see their providers face-to-face, and fewer staff are in branches, not to mention the cost and time outlay by lenders this would require.

Call centres are not the answer either. Lack of trained capacity, cost and the perceived intrusiveness of calls are all barriers. We know from our own consumer research at Aire that customers are less likely to engage directly with their lenders on the phone when they feel payment demands will be made of them.

If lenders want reliable, actionable insight that serves both their needs (and their customers) they need to look to digital.

Asking the person who knows best – the borrower

So if the opportunity lies in gathering information directly from the consumer – the solution rests with first-party data. The reasons we pioneer this approach at Aire are clear: firstly, it provides a truly holistic view of each customer to the lender, a richer picture that covers areas that traditional credit scoring often misses, including employment status and savings levels. Secondly, it offers consumers the opportunity to engage directly in the process, finally shifting the balance in credit scoring into the hands of the individual.

With the right product behind it, this can be achieved seamlessly and at scale by lenders. Pulse from Aire provides a link delivered by SMS or email to customers, encouraging them to engage with Aire’s Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI). The information gathered from the consumer is then validated by Aire to provide the genuinely holistic view of a consumer that lenders require, delivering insights that include risk of financial difficulty, validated disposable income and a measure of engagement.

No lengthy or intrusive phone calls. No manual outreach or large call centre requirements. And best of all, lenders can get started in just days and they save up to £60 a customer.

Too good to be true?

This still leaves questions. How can you trust data provided directly from consumers? What about AI bias – are the results fair? And can lenders and customers alike trust it?

To look at first-party misbehaviour or ‘gaming’, sophisticated machine-learning algorithms are used to validate responses for accuracy. Essentially, they measure responses against existing contextual data and check its plausibility.

Aire also looks at how the IVI process is completed. By looking at how people complete the interview, not just what they say, we can spot with a high degree of accuracy if people are trying to game the system.

AI bias – the system creating unfair outcomes – is tackled through governance and culture. In working towards our vision of a world where finance is truly free from bias or prejudice, we invest heavily in constructing the best model governance systems we can at Aire to ensure our models are analysed systematically before being put into use.

This process has undergone rigorous improvements to ensure our outputs are compliant by regulatory standards and also align with our own company principles on data and ethics.

That leaves the issue of encouraging consumers to be confident when speaking to financial institutions online. Part of the solution is developing a better customer experience. If the purpose of this digital engagement is to gather more information on a particular borrower, the route the borrower takes should be personal and reactive to the information they submit. The outcome and potential gain should be clear.

The right technology at the right time?

What is clear is that in Covid-19, and the resulting financial shockwaves, lenders face an unprecedented challenge in customer management. In innovative new data in the form of first-party data, harnessed ethically, they may just have an unprecedented solution.

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The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management



The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management 2

By Emile Monette, Director of Value Chain Security at Synopsys

Software Supply Chain Security: change is needed

Attacks on the Software Supply Chain (SSC) have increased exponentially, fueled at least in part by the widespread adoption of open source software, as well as organisations’ insufficient knowledge of their software content and resultant limited ability to conduct robust risk management. As a result, the SSC remains an inviting target for would-be attackers. It has become clear that changes in how we collectively secure our supply chains are required to raise the cost, and lower the impact, of attacks on the SSC.

A report by Atlantic Council found that “115 instances, going back a decade, of publicly reported attacks on the SSC or disclosure of high-impact vulnerabilities likely to be exploited” in cyber-attacks were implemented by affecting aspects of the SSC. The report highlights a number of alarming trends in the security of the SSC, including a rise in the hijacking of software updates, attacks by state actors, and open source compromises.

This article explores the use of open source software – a primary foundation of almost all modern software – due to its growing prominence, and more importantly, its associated security risks. Poorly managed open source software exposes the user to a number of security risks as it provides affordable vectors to potential attackers allowing them to launch attacks on a variety of entities—including governments, multinational corporations, and even the small to medium-sized companies that comprise the global technology supply chain, individual consumers, and every other user of technology.

The risks of open source software for supply chain security

The 2020 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) report states that “If your organisation builds or simply uses software, you can assume that software will contain open source. Whether you are a member of an IT, development, operations, or security team, if you don’t have policies in place for identifying and patching known issues with the open source components you’re using, you’re not doing your job.”

Open source code now creates the basic infrastructure of most commercial software which supports enterprise systems and networks, thus providing the foundation of almost every software application used across all industries worldwide. Therefore, the need to identify, track and manage open source code components and libraries has risen tremendously.

License identification, patching vulnerabilities and introducing policies addressing outdated open source packages are now all crucial for responsible open source use. However, the use of open source software itself is not the issue. Because many software engineers ‘reuse’ code components when they are creating software (this is in fact a widely acknowledged best practice for software engineering), the risk of those components becoming out of date has grown. It is the use of unpatched and otherwise poorly managed open source software that is really what is putting organizations at risk.

Emile Monette

Emile Monette

The 2020 OSSRA report also reveals a variety of worrying statistics regarding SSC security. For example, according to the report, it takes organisations an unacceptably long time to mitigate known vulnerabilities, with 2020 being the first year that the  Heartbleed vulnerability was not found in any commercial software analyzed for the OSSRA report. This is six years after the first public disclosure of Heartbleed – plenty of time for even the least sophisticated attackers to take advantage of the known and publicly reported vulnerability.

The report also found that 91% of the investigated codebases contained components that were over four years out of date or had no developments made in the last two years, putting these components at a higher risk of vulnerabilities. Additionally, vulnerabilities found in the audited codebases had an average age of almost 4 ½ years, with 19% of vulnerabilities being over 10 years old, and the oldest vulnerability being a whopping 22 years old. Therefore, it is clear that open source users are not adequately defending themselves against open source enabled cyberattacks. This is especially concerning as 99% of the codebases analyzed in the OSSRA report contained open source software, with 75% of these containing at least one vulnerability, and 49% containing high-risk vulnerabilities.

Mitigating open source security risks

In order to mitigate security risks when using open source components, one must know what software you’re using, and which exploits impact its vulnerabilities. One way to do this is to obtain a comprehensive bill of materials from your suppliers (also known as a “build list” or a “software bill of materials” or “SBOM”). Ideally, the SBOM should contain all the open source components, as well as the versions used, the download locations for all projects and dependencies, the libraries which the code calls to, and the libraries that those dependencies link to.

Creating and communicating policies

Modern applications contain an abundance of open source components with possible security, code quality and licensing issues. Over time, even the best of these open source components will age (and newly discovered vulnerabilities will be identified in the codebase), which will result in them at best losing intended functionality, and at worst exposing the user to cyber exploitation.

Organizations should ensure their policies address updating, licensing, vulnerability management and other risks that the use of open source can create. Clear policies outlining introduction and documentation of new open source components can improve the control of what enters the codebase and that it complies with the policies.

Prioritizing open source security efforts

Organisations should prioritise open source vulnerability mitigation efforts in relation to CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) scores and CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration) information, along with information about the availability of exploits, paying careful attention to the full life cycle of the open source component, instead of only focusing on what happens on “day zero.” Patch priorities should also be in-line with the business importance of the asset patched, the risk of exploitation and the criticality of the asset. Similarly, organizations must consider using sources outside of the CVSS and CWE information, many of which provide early notification of vulnerabilities, and in particular, choosing one that delivers technical details, upgrade and patch guidance, as well as security insights. Lastly, it is important for organisations to monitor for new threats for the entire time their applications remain in service.

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On the Frontlines of Fraud: Tactics for Merchants to Protect Their Businesses



On the Frontlines of Fraud: Tactics for Merchants to Protect Their Businesses 3

By Nicole Jass, Senior Vice President of Small Business and Fraud Products at FIS

Fraud isn’t new, but the new realities brought by COVID-19 for merchants, and the rising tide of attacks have changed the way we need to approach the fight. Even before the pandemic broke out earlier this year, the transition to digital payments was well underway, which means fighting fraud needs a multilayered, multi-channel approach. Not only do you want to increase approval rates, you want to protect your revenue and stop fraud before it happens.

A great place to start is working with your payment partners to refresh your company’s fraud strategies with emerging top three best practices:

  1. AI-based machine learning fraud solutions helps your business stay ahead of fraud trends. Leveraging data profiles to model both “good” and “bad” behavior helps find and reduce fraud. AI-based machine learning will be increasingly essential to stay ahead of the explosive and sophisticated eCommerce fraud.
  2. Increasing capabilities around device fingerprinting and behavioral data are essential to detect fraud before it happens. While much of the user-input values can be easily manipulated to look more authentic, device fingerprinting and behavioral data are captured in the background to derive unique details from the user’s device and behavior. Bringing in more unique elements into decisioning, can help authenticate the users and determine the validity of the transactions.
  3. Prioritize user authentication. User authentication is a vital linchpin in any fraud defense and should receive even greater priority today. Setting strong password requirements and implementing multi-factor authentication helps curb fraud attacks from account takeover.

As well as working with your payment partners it’s more critical than ever to protect online transactions while not jeopardizing legitimate purchases. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do right now to address these concerns:

  1. Monitor warning signs

Payment verification is an important part of protecting your business. There are a variety of strategies to employ including implementing technology utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to help catch certain patterns. In addition to technology, here are a few other tips that may serve as warning signs. These are not a guarantee fraud is occurring, but they are flags to investigate.

o   The shipping address and billing address differ

o   Multiple orders of the same item

o   Unusually large orders

o   Multiple orders to the same address with different cards

o   Unexpected international orders

  1. Require identity verification

Finding a balance between protection and ease of purchase will ultimately help you protect your customers and your business. The following tactics can make it more difficult for fraudsters to be successful:

o   For customers that have a login, require a minimum of eight characters as well as the use of special characters in your customers’ passwords

o   Set up Two-Factor Authentication that requires a One-time Passcode (OTP) via SMS or email

o   Use biometric authentication for mobile purchases or logins

  1. Monitor chargebacks

Keeping good records is essential for eCommerce. If a customer initiates a dispute, your only available recourse is to provide proof that the order was fulfilled. Be prepared to provide all the supporting information about a disputed transaction. Worldpay’s Disputes solutions can connect to your CRM and provide you dual-layer protection against friendly fraud, first deflecting them before they arise and then fully managing chargeback defenses on your behalf.

  1. Monitor declines

Credit card issuers mitigate fraud by automatically declining payments that look suspicious, based on unusual card activity such as drastic changes in spending patterns or uncommon geolocations of spending. You can check your own declined payment history to help spot a potential problem. When volumes increase, the help of a payments fraud management partner is beneficial.

  1. Protect your own wallet

While you take the steps to protect your business, it’s also important to be mindful of your own protection—it’s incumbent on all responsible consumers to be vigilant about their data. Whether it’s simple awareness of how the fraudsters are operating today, sticking to trusted brands when shopping online, and thinking twice about what data you share and who you share it with, you’ll soon see how often you are sharing personal information about yourself.

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