Anti-Money Laundering (AML): Past, Present, and Projections

What does AML mean and why is it important? Discover the story of Anti-Money Laundering(AML) and its global implications.


Did you know that the term anti-money laundering (AML) is older than it seems? It’s a term most of us associate with banking checks done to stop illegal transactions. Its history spans several decades. In this article, we’re going to explore the story of AML, how it started, what it looks like now, and what the future might hold. It’s a fascinating trip, so let’s start the journey.

Picture a financial world. On one side, there’s the push for honest and transparent dealings. On the other, there’s the ongoing battle to stop the misuse of this same system. It’s a never-ending fight between right and wrong that’s been going on for years. This is the world of Anti-Money Laundering (AML).

Read More: Approximately 2-3% of global GDP is laundered annually


Anti-Money Laundering (AML)


Past: The History of AML

The birth of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) occurred in the mid-twentieth century, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that significant developments were made. The United States led the way in 1986 by making money laundering a criminal act. This change came in response to a rise in drug crimes and organised crime, both of which required ways to hide illegally gained funds.

The legal stance taken by the United States inspired the implementation of AML laws worldwide. The United Nations and the G7 group of industrial nations took a lead role in this, setting up dedicated task forces and conventions. A significant milestone was reached with the G7’s creation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 1989. This intergovernmental organisation sets global anti-money laundering standards and is integral to the fight against financial crime.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the efforts to tackle money laundering increased. This increase came mainly due to the rise of global terrorism. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, marked a turning point. The focus from then on included preventing terrorist financing and money laundering. This change broadened AML efforts worldwide.


Present: What is the current state of AML and why is it important?

Today, AML tactics are advancing across the globe in response to the changing landscape of money laundering, reflecting the growing significance of AML in our society.

Institutions like banks, financial firms, and casinos are employing advanced AML technologies. They combine technology, like data analysis and machine learning, with human monitoring to spot suspicious financial activity. If they identify money laundering, they quickly alert the relevant legal authorities.

AML has shown impressive resilience and adaptability in the face of new money laundering methods and shifting global transaction patterns. As criminals use increasingly advanced digital tactics, AML has had to adapt with a more integrated, tech-focused approach.

The rise in external threats, stricter regulatory requirements, and heavier fines for non-compliance reflect the growing significance of AML. These factors suggest a move towards a stronger response to money laundering offences.

The pressure is on for financial institutions to keep up with the latest money laundering tactics. The ongoing fight against crime, terrorism, and corruption depends on relentless adherence to AML rules.

Progress in machine learning and artificial intelligence technology offers exciting prospects for the enhancement of AML strategies. They can automate routine checks to spot potential money laundering, increasing efficiency and accuracy. However, due to the increasing complexity of money-laundering methods, regular updates to the systems are necessary.

Today, it’s more important than ever for individuals to understand AML. Two reasons drive this: consumers can play a vital role in stopping money laundering, and more knowledge helps individuals avoid unwitting involvement in illegal financial activity.

With criminal tactics constantly evolving and increasing pressure from regulators and the public, AML has moved from a simple compliance task to a crucial organisation-wide responsibility. This shift heralds an unprecedented focus on AML strategy, regulation, and technology.

Read More: In 2019, banks were fined over $8 billion for AML non-compliance


Projections: The Outlook for Anti-Money Laundering

Big changes are on the horizon for Anti-Money Laundering (AML), largely due to ongoing digital advancements, the analytical prowess of machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Picture a world where compliance officers use advanced AI technology to identify and flag suspicious transactions instantly. This level of accuracy and speed could significantly improve efficiency, and slash the time and resources currently devoted to manual, and often unproductive processes.

The emergence of blockchain technology in the financial sector presents both a challenge and an opportunity for AML. While the anonymity tied to transactions could lure illegal activities and impede traditional tracking, each blockchain transaction forms part of a publicly accessible, unchangeable ledger, offering a new level of transparency. This could revolutionise how we detect and prevent money laundering.

On a global scale, expect international cooperation to play an even bigger role. As money laundering knows no geographical boundaries, the methods to fight it should not either. Expect to see a rise in cross-border alliances, shared intelligence, and coordinated strategies to tackle this worldwide issue.

However, these advancements bring challenges. The increased use of digital platforms and technology must coincide with strict data privacy laws, particularly in an era where the value of personal data is high. Integrating these cutting-edge technologies into existing systems can be a formidable task, demanding substantial resources and expertise.



Ultimately, the future of AML looks set to be a balancing act, harmonising technological advancement with regulatory compliance and privacy concerns. It’s an exciting journey we’re on, and one we’ll navigate together.

Read more: The AML software market is projected to reach $3.6 billion by 2025