December 5, 2023

FATF releases Guidance on Correspondent Banking Services

Alicia Nicholls

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has released its long-awaited guidance on the application of FATF standards in the context of correspondent banking services following its plenary session held October 19-21st, 2016. The purpose of the guidance is to address de-risking and has been prepared in collaboration with the Financial Stability Board (FSB).

The target audience for the guidance includes not just banks and money or value transfer service (MVTS) providers engaged in providing correspondent banking or respondent bank services, but financial institutions with account holders that are MVTS which in turn provide correspondent banking-type services to their own customers, as well as competent authorities (particularly AML/CFT regulators and supervisors of banks and of MVTS providers).

Key Points from FATF Guidance on Correspondent Banking Services

Some key points from the Guidance are as follows:

  • FATF recommendations do NOT require the correspondent bank to know its customer’s customers (KYCC). In other words, correspondent banks are not required to conduct CDD (Customer Due Diligence) on the individual customers of its respondent institution.
  • While noting that simplified CDD are never appropriate in the cross-border correspondent banking context, FATF explains that not all correspondent banking services carry the same level of money laundering or terrorist financing risk so enhanced due diligence measures must be commensurate with the degree of risk identified.
  • FATF identified some factors to consider in assessing correspondent banking risks, including the respondent institution’s jurisdiction, products/services offered and customer base. FATF recommended the risk factors included in Annex II of the BCBS Guidelines on Sound Management of Risks related to ML/FT.
  • However, FATF stopped short of defining what constitutes a higher risk on the basis that doing so could lead to ‘a tick the box approach’ which could encourage, rather than discourage, de-risking.
  • The requirements of FATF Recommendations 10 (Customer Due Diligence) and 13 (Correspondent Banking) must be met before correspondent banking services may be provided to a respondent institution.
  • Correspondent institutions may obtain information required by FATF recommendations 10 and 13 directly from the respondent institution but this information MUST be verified in order for it to meet those requirements.
  • FATF provided some examples of sources of verification from BCBS General Guide on Account Opening
  • On-going due diligence of existing and new CBRs is required but the frequency should depend on the level of risk associated with each relationship.
  • FATF recommended maintaining an on-going, open dialogue with correspondents and noted that while FATF requirements require termination of customer relations where identified risks cannot be managed in accordance with the risk-based approach (RBA), the other options offered by recommendation 10 should be explored before the relationship is terminated.

This is welcomed news especially for Caribbean countries which, according to a World Bank study released in September 2015, appear to be the most affected by the loss of correspondent banking relationships.  This guidance is an important step in tackling de-risking by providing definitive clarity on a number of key areas, including on the hitherto confusing issue of KYCC.

It also stresses against the wholesale termination of CBRs as a first resort, but rather keeping an open dialogue with respondent banks. If followed, therefore, the guidance should reduce the alacrity with which some banks have restricted or terminated correspondent banking relationships. However, this guidance is not binding and the effectiveness will depend on the level of observance by foreign banks and by their regulators.

The Guidance on Correspondent Banking Services is to be read in conjunction with FATF recommendations and guidance papers, including the guidance on RBA for the Banking Sector. It also complements other guidance on correspondent banking services previously released by the Wolfsberg Group and the Committee on Payments & Market Infrastructure (CPMI).

The full FATF Guidance on Correspondent Banking Services may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.


The Caribbean Trade Law and Development Blog is owned and was founded by Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. (Dist.), LL.B. (Hons), a Caribbean-based trade and development consultant. She writes and presents regularly on trade and development matters affecting the Caribbean and other small states. You can follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw. All views expressed on this Blog are Alicia's personal views and do NOT necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may from time to time be affiliated.

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