The COVID-19 crisis has seen the Government pull out all the stops to help businesses from going bust and people losing their jobs. Furloughing (who even knew what that was five months ago?) is commonplace and the other big boon to companies has been the bounce back loan scheme. Small businesses that have been dealt a heavy blow by coronavirus can now apply for a 100% state backed loan for up to £50,000, with no interest charged or repayments needed in the first 12 months.
Free (ish) money – what’s not to love? But if something appears to be too good to be true, it usually is. And there seem to be real challenges on both the customer and the bank side of the BBL equation. Unfortunately – predictably – less ethical types have jumped on this opportunity to see if they can make a fast buck. And because of the rapidity of the mobilisation of the scheme, there are plenty of holes for financial criminals to exploit. Here are some key considerations:
- Fraudulent requests: already there are instances of fraudulent BBL applications on behalf of unsuspecting customers. There was a recent incident where a premium car had almost been released to a criminal, who had applied for and had the funds transferred for a BBL on behalf of the garage without them knowing. With £40k in his business bank account, it was only the curiosity and diligence of the car sales chap that lead to it being spotted, by him, not the bank.
- Exploiting loopholes: and we have also heard of cases where the same people, masquerading as different companies, are applying for multiple loans. For example, they might be registered as a sole trader and a limited company and applying for BBLs under both guises, with little intention of paying fraudulently acquired loans back.
- Lack of due diligence: on the supply side every lender is so desperate to keep up with demand and not be put on the regulator’s naughty step (for delaying the process) that there is a risk that due diligence is not completed to a high enough standard to ensure the customer is truly known. Whilst the regulator has promised to back the loans, it is likely that any error during onboarding will make that promise null and void, leaving the lender with a bad debt and a lack of data to act on.
- Groaning under the weight: the take up of BBLs has been phenomenal. Anecdotally we have heard that some banks have a back log of tens of thousands of application forms, as they are having problems resourcing the processing of this sudden influx. The delay is causing a lot of angst amongst customers, who are taking to social media to lambast the banks for the delay in accessing funds many are desperate for. So reputationally, it’s a real hot potato.
It’s a really tricky one for the banks – and customers – to deal with. And there is no doubt that banks need the right type of support to get them through this difficult time. Partnering with the right surge resource partners who can provide qualified onboarding people and have experience of fraud and anti-money laundering is essential. You need the right controls in the process, not to slow it down, but to ensure the customer is known, exists and is a willing participating in this important scheme.
If you are under pressure to manage BBL backlogs then give us a call or drop us a line, we can help with resources, control and process design to meet demand. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 7798 666 454 today.