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From app to all-in-one solution simplifying brokerage FINTRAC compliance

More than five years after launching an app that helps realtors meet Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) requirements, ReallyTrusted has launched an all-in-one turnkey solution that simplifies FINTRAC compliance for brokerages. 

FINTRAC Express is a suite of tools designed to make it easier for compliance officers to meet FINTRAC regulations, says Greg Dent, chief operating officer of ReallyTrusted Technologies. 

While competitors are offering some of the tools provided in FINTRAC Express, Greg says he’s “reasonably certain that we’re the only people to have bundled the whole package in a way that allows brokerages to do it all at once and to feel confident that they’re going to get all of the pieces of the puzzle together.”

 

Widely used across the industry

 

FINTRAC Express includes the ReallyTrusted app, which Dent says is used by more than 460 brokerages and “tens of thousands of agents”. Several real estate associations have also signed on to the app, with the largest buyer being the Alberta Real Estate Association. “Every realtor in Alberta has access to the program and every compliance officer has access to the brokerage tools on the app at no cost.” 

When Lori Ann West, Ontario managing broker at Real Broker Ontario joined the company four months ago, she was new to the ReallyTrusted app, which is used by all realtors at the brokerage. “I found it really simple to use, with really good support,” she says.

West likes the fact she gets flagged immediately for any information that is not filled out properly, so realtors can deal with the situation while they’re with their clients. “The other nice feature about it is that you can’t go from A to B unless you fill out A correctly.”

 

A comprehensive offering

 

Other key features of FINTRAC Express are:

  • the ReallyTrusted Academy, an online anti-money laundering learning and training program for staff and agents,
  • complete anti-money laundering manuals (including procedural documents and a risk assessment),
  • effectiveness reviews for brokerages,
  • FINTRAC examination preparation and
  • ongoing support for compliance officers.

The ReallyTrusted Academy launched seven months ago and is now used by about 30 brokerages, while the manuals and reviews were launched at the same time as FINTRAC Express.

 

Continuous improvements

 

Dent says the pioneering ReallyTrusted app initially provided an easy way for agents to scan their clients’ IDs in person to get the data FINTRAC required to identify clients. A month after COVID hit in 2020, he saw an opportunity to add a remote ID verification feature. Other updates to the app have followed and more are to come, including a French version of the app for the Quebec market.

 

A complete solution making work easier

 

While the ReallyTrusted app helps brokerages with the procedural element of a FINTRAC compliance program, Dent soon realized there was a much larger need for a complete program solution that could do everything from training agents properly to providing policy manuals with risk assessments for brokerages.

“We’re putting brokerages and their agents who use the system in a better position to do what FINTRAC is requiring of us and to figure out where there might be money laundering in their interactions with the public. It’s something that we really see as important,” he explains.

However, Dent notes the challenge with FINTRAC is that its compliance program is complicated. He is also a realtor with Re/Max Select Realty in Vancouver, so he understands this firsthand. “My calendar is full of compliance officers wanting to understand where I think their program is at, and how we might be able to help them,” he notes.

 

What users think

 

In the first few weeks after launch, five brokerages committed to FINTRAC Express, Dent says. 

One of the early adopters of FINTRAC Express is David Rishel, managing broker of Royal LePage Little Oak Realty in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

All 150 agents at the brokerage use the ReallyTrusted app. If not for the app, Rishel says, “We would have to have even more staff trying to ensure that our realtors are doing the things that they need to do to be compliant. If you’re found to be non-compliant, it’s not fun. (The app) keeps us out of hot water. That’s a win in my column.”

His brokerage took over Surrey, B.C.’s Royal LePage Northstar Realty in October, which wasn’t using ReallyTrusted products, and rolled out FINTRAC Express to Northstar. “It’s been no issue whatsoever,” Rishel says. “Everything’s been super easy.”

Rishel says the product puts the focus on ensuring brokerages are compliant, which means realtors will be compliant in turn.

He notes FINTRAC fines to brokerages for non-compliance are significant. For example, in late October, FINTRAC announced it had fined Norwich Real Estate Services Inc., which also operates as Re/Max Kelowna, $156,750 for failing to comply with federal anti-money laundering rules. (The company has appealed the decision to federal court.)

“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to avoid that,” says Rishel. He notes his brokerage has been audited by FINTRAC a few times and there have been “no problems, no issues.”

 

Helping brokerages curb money laundering

 

Dent says most fines to real estate brokerages occur because they need a compliance program or compliance officer in place. Brokers have a “tremendous” burden on them and the paperwork and other requirements of FINTRAC are often at the bottom of their to-do list. FINTRAC Express provides an easy way for them to meet their FINTRAC requirements, he says.

He has been surprised that many brokers are unaware of the FINTRAC requirement that an effectiveness review be conducted every 24 months. “About 50% of the compliance officers I’ve talked with since we’ve launched (the reviews feature) have said some version of ‘I didn’t know that’ or ‘What is that?’”

Dent occasionally hears the false narrative that real estate brokerages don’t want to curb money laundering. “The more I talk with compliance officers, the more convinced I am that everyone is aligned in a desire to not allow money laundering to happen through our sector. Everybody sees the harm it does to the economy, to communities.”

 

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