AML, Compliance and MLRO


AML, Compliance, and MLRO – Understanding Regulatory Requirements

In the modern complex regulatory landscape, financial institutions face the challenge of combating money laundering and ensuring overall compliance with norms. Two key roles in this process are the Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) and the Compliance Officer (CO). Despite both roles aiming to ensure regulatory compliance, they possess distinctive features and responsibilities. The objective of this article is to provide a specific overview of the differences between MLROs and Compliance Officers, highlighting their unique contributions to the security of the financial system.


To facilitate clarity and precise understanding of the content, the article includes a glossary with official definitions of terms used in the text.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) – The process of combating money laundering.

Compliance Officer (CO) – An employee responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) – Actions taken to prevent the financing of terrorism.

Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) – An employee responsible for reporting on the efforts to combat money laundering.

The Role of the Money Laundering Reporting Officer:

The Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) is an individual responsible for the implementation and oversight of the company’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program. The primary responsibility of the MLRO is to mitigate risks associated with money laundering and illegal financial transactions.

The duties of the MLRO can lead to significant legal consequences, including civil and criminal lawsuits. These officers bear significant personal responsibility within their firm. If it is determined that the money laundering safeguards were inadequate, the firm’s MLRO may face substantial fines and, in severe cases, imprisonment.

Given the critical nature of the MLRO role, top management should have a comprehensive understanding and careful consideration of this position.

What are the MLRO’s responsibilities?

  1. Development of AML Policies and Procedures:

The MLRO develops and implements comprehensive structures that define policies and procedures to prevent, detect, and report potential money laundering operations. An essential aspect of their work is to develop and monitor procedural measures aimed at proper monitoring of money laundering and terrorism financing risks within the organization.

  1. Conducting Risk Assessments:

The MLRO meticulously analyzes the level of risk associated with the organization and conducts vulnerability assessments to develop appropriate AML risk management strategies. They apply various tools and methods to identify high-risk clients, transactions, and geographic locations. As part of their responsibilities, they also assess and mitigate money laundering and terrorism financing risks within the organization’s activities.

  1. Monitoring and Reporting:

The employee responsible for AML carefully monitors customer transactions to detect suspicious patterns and indications of money laundering or financing of terrorism. They conduct detailed investigations into identified activities, gather necessary evidence, and prepare reports for submission to regulatory bodies such as the Financial Monitoring Agency of Kazakhstan (FMA). An important part of their work involves supporting and maintaining records related to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing within the organization. This includes documentary evidence of compliance, records of customers and transactions, as well as reports and records of conducted training. Additionally, they regularly report on the progress of achieving results in combating money laundering and financing of terrorism and inform relevant authorities about suspicious financial activities. Concurrently, they actively engage in customer due diligence, transaction monitoring, and timely reporting of suspicious activity.

  1. Ensuring Compliance with AML Regulations:

The employee responsible for AML remains vigilant about changes in regulations, laws, and best practices related to combating money laundering. They identify, investigate, and address instances of non-compliance within the organization. The employee also actively implements control measures and procedures to ensure compliance, conducts internal audits, and provides assistance during external audits related to AML. Furthermore, they gather and disseminate information about anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing requirements within the organization and actively contribute to the development of a compliance culture. They also support senior management in ensuring employees’ compliance with measures aimed at preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.

Note: Depending on the company’s size and organizational structure, the reporting and transaction support functions in AML/CFT may include a team consisting of a Deputy MLRO and AML staff who work under the guidance of the MLRO.

Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) has specific requirements for candidates applying for the MLRO position:

For this role, a minimum of two years of experience in the field of anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) is required. In the absence of such experience, a certificate of training in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) may also be required. Additionally, the employee responsible for anti-money laundering must be a resident of Kazakhstan, except in the case of an employee of an Audit firm serving as the MLRO. These requirements ensure the presence of qualified and competent personnel capable of effectively carrying out their duties in the field of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.

Compliance Officer:

The responsibilities of a compliance officer encompass a wide range of tasks related to adhering to regulatory standards in various areas of an organization’s operations. They work to prevent violations within the company.

What are the duties of a Compliance Officer?

  1. Establishing compliance policies and procedures:

Compliance Officers develop comprehensive frameworks that cover various regulatory requirements crucial to the organization’s operations. This includes issues such as data confidentiality, consumer rights protection, anti-corruption measures, sanctions, and others. They develop and oversee compliance systems, staying updated on regulatory changes. Additionally, Compliance Officers develop, communicate, and implement compliance policies. They also design and monitor compliance systems.

  1. Conducting compliance risk assessments:

Compliance Officers analyze the risks associated with regulatory compliance and develop strategies to manage them. They identify potential issues, implement control measures, and constantly monitor the effectiveness of the compliance program. They also detect, investigate, and rectify any misconduct within the organization. Moreover, they provide consultation and evaluate the regulatory implications of new business strategies.

  1. Training and development:

Compliance Officers design and implement educational programs to ensure that employees have a comprehensive understanding of and comply with regulatory requirements. They provide guidance, raise awareness, and contribute to the development of a culture of compliance at all levels of the organization. Additionally, they plan and conduct training programs focused on compliance and monitor their execution.

  1. Reporting and communication with regulators:

Compliance Officers fulfill important responsibilities, including preparing and submitting regulatory reports, disclosures, and documents required by relevant authorities. They maintain open communication with regulators, respond to their inquiries, and provide requested information. They also support employees in complying with regulatory requirements and assist the management in developing a compliance-oriented culture. They diligently prepare and present compliance reports and inform regulators of any rule or regulation violations.

Qualifications and experience play a significant role for a compliance officer. In terms of knowledge, a recognized professional qualification in compliance control at the certificate level is required, or an alternative qualification that is deemed appropriate for the role and recognized by the firm. However, there are cases where a certificate is not required, and this is determined by the firm itself.

Regarding experience, a compliance officer should possess relevant work experience and hold a position that aligns with this role. Experience is an important factor in selecting and evaluating candidates for this position.

In conclusion, the difference between a Compliance Officer and an MLRO can be expressed in the following aspects:

  1. Responsibilities and policies: The MLRO specializes exclusively in risks related to terrorist financing and money laundering, while the compliance officer is responsible for a broad range of policies and duties within the company.
  2. Qualification requirements: Becoming an MLRO requires a minimum of two years of work experience in the field of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as relevant certification. Additionally, an MLRO can only be a resident of Kazakhstan. A compliance officer, on the other hand, needs to possess a recognized professional qualification in compliance control at the certificate level or an alternative qualification that aligns with the role and is recognized by the firm.
  3. Responsibility: In the event of mistakes made by a compliance officer, the consequences are limited to financial damage to the company and may entail reputational risks for both the officer and the organization as a whole. However, an MLRO bears personal responsibility for developing and implementing procedures and policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as for conducting relevant reporting. They may face potential administrative and criminal consequences in case of misconduct.

Thus, Compliance Officers and MLROs differ in terms of responsibilities, qualification requirements, and the degree of responsibility for errors.

If you need assistance in developing internal regulatory policies, our specialists can help you create a policy that considers all the nuances of the current legislation.

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