The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) fined Guaranty Trust Bank approximately 7.67 million pounds (U.S. $9.4 million) for weaknesses in its anti-money laundering (AML) systems and controls that spanned a five-year period.
In its final decision notice issued Tuesday, the FCA said between October 2014 and July 2019 that GT Bank—a wholly owned subsidiary of Guaranty Trust Bank Nigeria Limited—failed to carry out adequate customer risk assessments, often neglecting to assess or document the money laundering risks posed by its customers.
The bank also failed to monitor customer transactions and business relationships properly.
The FCA said the bank received repeated warnings from both the regulator and its own compliance and internal audit function that its AML procedures and controls were not working properly, especially around transaction monitoring, but senior management ignored their findings and failed to remedy the problems they identified.
The regulator described the bank’s conduct as “reckless.”
GT Bank’s inadequate controls to identify AML risks were so bad that in early 2018 it stopped taking on new customers. Later that year—prompted by the FCA’s ongoing concerns—the bank agreed to wider voluntary restrictions on business, which remained in place until 2021 when it completed a remediation plan that was independently verified.
This is not the first time the bank has faced enforcement from the FCA for AML failings. In August 2013, it received a £525,000 fine (then-U.S. $814,000) for serious and systemic failings to manage AML risks between 2008-10.
“GT Bank should have acted quickly to put in place adequate AML controls following its fine in 2013, but it failed to do so,” Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said in a statement. “GT Bank did not develop a plan that was capable of addressing its AML weaknesses, exposing it and the broader market to financial crime risks for a prolonged period.”
GT Bank qualified for a 30 percent discount from a proposed fine of nearly £11 million (U.S. $13.3 million) for not disputing the FCA’s findings and agreeing to settle.
GT Bank response: In a statement on its website, the bank said it takes its AML obligations “extremely seriously.”
The bank contended, “There was no direct customer impairment arising from the period under review, and the FCA’s findings do not include any instances of suspected money laundering.”
The bank added it has since enhanced its AML control framework through a comprehensive remediation program. It improved its AML policies and procedures relating to onboarding, customer due diligence, ongoing monitoring, and staff training. It also invested more than £10 million (U.S. $12.14 million) during the past three years in transaction monitoring and screening platforms to transform the bank’s control framework across the group.