European Authorities Set Stage for New AML Regulator

By Koos Couvée

European officials and regulators are gathering supervisory information and making other preparations ahead of the EU’s launch of a new, bloc-wide anti-money laundering agency next year.

Under plans made almost two years ago, the Anti-Money Laundering Authority, or AMLA, will ensure uniform supervision and enforcement of AML standards throughout the EU, directly oversee 40 higher-risk, systemically important financial institutions and double as an information-sharing hub for national financial intelligence units.

Michael McGrath, a senior official with Ireland’s Finance Department, said in public remarks that the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch; the European Council, which represents the bloc’s 27 national governments; and European Parliament are close to agreeing on criteria for selecting a city to host the new agency.

“I am hopeful that at the end of June, we will actually have the starting gun of that selection process, and that that would be finished during the … second six months of this year,” McGrath told attendees of The Assembly Europe 2023 conference hosted by ACAMS in Dublin on Tuesday.

Germany, Ireland, Lithuania and several other nations have applied to host the AMLA, which will begin hiring towards its full, projected complement of 400 employees after a selection is made, and commence supervision and enforcement by 2026.

Amandine Scherrer, AML policy expert at the European Banking Authority, or EBA, told attendees that her agency has prioritized completing a three-year review of the current state of AML supervision by national regulators, including how they assess the financial crime-related risks banks pose and how often, and how thoroughly, they inspect them in person.

“The intention here is really to provide AMLA with robust, evidence-based policies in order for it to be as efficient as possible, from the beginning of its operations,” Scherrer said.

The EBA is also reviewing the quality of supervision of non-bank payment platforms in the EU, and assessing the operational impact of “supervisory colleges” through which national AML and prudential regulators share data on banks with a multinational footprint.

“We … believe that this will be a very important document for AMLA, because again, it will provide an up-to-date snapshot of how the system works,” she said.

Much of the debate around the AMLA has focused on what criteria the agency will use to select an initial batch of 40 financial institutions to directly supervise.

But the AMLA’s largest impact may arrive through the agency’s monitoring of, and coordination with, the EU’s 57 national AML regulators.

Willem Schudel, head of financial crime supervision at De Nederlandsche Bank, the Dutch central bank, said that national regulators do not harbor the illusion that the arrival of the AMLA means they can “step back” from certain supervisory responsibilities.

“We need to be very much aware that we can complement AMLA, that we can support AMLA, particularly in the early stages of setting up the organization,” Schudel said. “We’ve seen that with the ECB [European Central Bank] as well.”

Representatives of the European Commission, Council and Parliament held their first “trilogue” meeting this month to hash out a final text for the EU’s broader AML action plan, which mandates the establishment of the AMLA, a new, bloc-wide AML regulation and an AML directive.

The Council, the voice of the EU’s 27 national governments, wants the AMLA to directly supervise all manner of financial institutions, including cryptocurrency exchanges and other platforms, and monitor at least one bank or other AML-regulated company in each country.

Tommy Hannafin, head of AML at the Central Bank of Ireland, identified the AMLA’s promulgation of technical standards for implementing and ensuring compliance with the EU’s impending, bloc-wide AML regulation over the next three years as the true gamechanger.

“That’s really going to set out what is expected of firms and what is expected of supervisors,” Hannafin said. “That’s what’s really going to make a difference in terms of the consistency across Europe and in terms of bringing the bar up.”

Contact Koos Couvée at

Topics : Anti-money laundering , Counterterrorist Financing
Source: European Union
Document Date: May 23, 2023