The Customer Risk Rating is an essential component of anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) processes. It is a systematic assessment of the risk posed by a customer or client to a business in terms of potential money laundering or terrorist financing activities. The Customer Risk Rating helps organizations identify and prioritize higher-risk customers, enabling them to allocate resources effectively and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures.


The Customer Risk Rating is a numerical or categorical value assigned to customers based on their potential risk level. It involves analyzing various factors such as the customer’s identity, transaction patterns, source of funds, geographic location, and industry sector. By assigning a risk rating to each customer, organizations can categorize them into low, medium, or high-risk categories and tailor their AML efforts accordingly.

Historical View

The concept of assessing customer risk has evolved over time as regulators and financial institutions recognized the importance of identifying and managing money laundering and terrorist financing risks. Historically, customer due diligence (CDD) practices focused on verifying the customer’s identity and understanding their business relationships. However, with increasing global regulatory requirements and the growing sophistication of financial crimes, a more comprehensive approach was needed.

Regulators introduced the concept of risk-based approach (RBA), which advocates for organizations to assess the ML/TF risks associated with their customers and apply appropriate controls accordingly. The RBA emphasizes the need to allocate resources based on the level of risk, allowing organizations to focus their efforts on higher-risk customers and transactions.

Practical Examples

The Customer Risk Rating can vary depending on the organization’s risk appetite and the nature of its business. Here are ten practical examples of factors considered in customer risk rating:

  1. Geographic Location: Customers from high-risk jurisdictions, known for money laundering or weak AML controls, may receive a higher risk rating.
  2. Industry Sector: Certain industries, such as casinos, money services businesses, and non-profit organizations, are inherently more susceptible to money laundering risks.
  3. Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs): Individuals holding prominent public positions or their close associates are considered higher risk due to the potential for corruption and illicit funds.
  4. Transaction Patterns: Unusual or complex transaction patterns, such as frequent large cash deposits or rapid movement of funds, may raise the customer’s risk rating.
  5. Source of Funds: Customers whose source of funds is unclear, inconsistent with their profile, or derived from high-risk activities may receive a higher risk rating.
  6. Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) Triggers: Specific triggers, such as large cash transactions or relationships with high-risk entities, may require enhanced due diligence and result in a higher risk rating.
  7. Adverse Media: Negative news or media reports associated with the customer, such as involvement in criminal activities, can increase their risk rating.
  8. Customer’s Reputation: Customers with a history of non-compliance, suspicious transactions, or regulatory sanctions may receive a higher risk rating.
  9. Third-Party Relationships: Customers with relationships to high-risk third parties, such as shell companies or entities in high-risk jurisdictions, may receive a higher risk rating.
  10. Regulatory Requirements: Compliance with specific regulatory requirements, such as beneficial ownership identification, can influence a customer’s risk rating.


Statistics related to customer risk rating provide insights into the prevalence and impact of AML risks:

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) estimates that money laundering globally amounts to 2-5% of global GDP, equivalent to $800 billion to $2 trillion annually.
  • A survey conducted by Thomson Reuters found that 66% of organizations assign a customer risk rating to all their clients.
  • According to a study by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, 71% of organizations increased their investment in customer due diligence and KYC processes in response to rising regulatory pressures.
  • A report by ACAMS revealed that 35% of organizations faced challenges in accurately assessing customer risk due to limited data availability and poor data quality.
  • Financial institutions reported 19.4 million suspicious transaction reports to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2020, reflecting the importance of customer risk assessment.
  • The World Bank estimates that less than 1% of illicit funds flowing across borders are seized and frozen.
  • A survey conducted by PwC found that 62% of organizations believe that enhancing customer risk rating methodologies is a priority for their AML programs.
  • Research by McKinsey indicates that organizations implementing effective customer risk rating models can reduce false positives in transaction monitoring by up to 40%.
  • Regulators, such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), emphasize the need for organizations to document and justify the risk ratings assigned to customers.
  • The European Union’s Fourth Money Laundering Directive requires member states to establish central registers of beneficial ownership information to enhance customer risk assessment.


Several incidents have highlighted the importance of robust customer risk rating processes:

  1. 1MDB Scandal: The 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal involved the misappropriation of billions of dollars, revealing the need for thorough customer risk assessment and due diligence.
  2. Danske Bank Case: Danske Bank’s Estonian branch faced a money laundering scandal involving billions of euros, emphasizing the significance of effective customer risk rating and transaction monitoring.
  3. HSBC Mexico: HSBC faced regulatory penalties for failing to identify and assess the higher money laundering risks associated with its Mexican customer base.
  4. Panama Papers: The leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca shed light on the role of anonymous shell companies and offshore structures, prompting the need for enhanced customer risk rating practices.
  5. Wells Fargo Fake Accounts: Wells Fargo faced scrutiny for creating millions of unauthorized customer accounts, underscoring the importance of accurate customer risk rating and due diligence.
  6. North Korea’s Illicit Financial Activities: North Korea has been involved in various illicit activities, including money laundering, to evade international sanctions, highlighting the need for effective customer risk assessment in global financial systems.
  7. Online Payment Platforms: Money laundering schemes through online payment platforms have raised concerns, emphasizing the significance of continuous customer risk rating and monitoring.
  8. Drug Cartels: Drug cartels’ involvement in money laundering demonstrates the need for robust customer risk rating to identify and mitigate risks associated with illicit proceeds.
  9. Terrorist Financing: Effective customer risk rating helps identify individuals or entities associated with terrorist organizations and prevent the flow of funds for financing illegal activities.
  10. Shell Companies: The misuse of shell companies for money laundering highlights the importance of accurate customer risk rating to identify beneficial ownership and ultimate control of legal entities.

The Future

The future of customer risk rating will be shaped by various factors:

  • Technological Advancements: Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, will enhance customer risk assessment capabilities, enabling more accurate and efficient risk rating models.
  • Regulatory Developments: Regulatory frameworks will continue to evolve, requiring organizations to enhance their customer risk rating methodologies and keep pace with changing compliance obligations.
  • Expanded Data Sources: Organizations will leverage a wider range of data sources, including public records, open-source intelligence, and social media, to enhance customer risk assessment and improve risk rating accuracy.
  • Collaboration and Information Sharing: Enhanced information sharing among financial institutions and regulatory authorities will enable better identification of money laundering patterns and the development of more effective customer risk rating approaches.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Automation: AI-driven automation will streamline customer risk rating processes, reducing manual effort and improving efficiency while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Enhanced Customer Due Diligence: Organizations will strengthen their customer due diligence processes, including the collection and verification of beneficial ownership information, to enhance customer risk rating accuracy.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Real-time monitoring of customer activities will become more prevalent, enabling organizations to dynamically adjust customer risk ratings based on changing risk profiles.
  • Integration of External Data: Integration with external data providers and compliance solutions, such as Kyros AML Data Suite, will enhance customer risk assessment capabilities and support more accurate risk rating decisions.
  • Focus on Behavioral Analysis: Behavioral analysis techniques will be employed to identify suspicious patterns and anomalies in customer behavior, contributing to more effective customer risk rating.
  • International Alignment: Efforts to harmonize AML regulations and risk assessment methodologies across jurisdictions will facilitate consistent customer risk rating practices and improve global financial system integrity.

Explore the Power of Kyros AML Data Suite

Kyros AML Data Suite is a leading AML compliance software that empowers organizations with advanced capabilities to assess customer risk and strengthen their AML programs.

Key features of Kyros AML Data Suite include:

  • Advanced risk scoring and customer risk rating models for accurate and consistent risk assessment.
  • Integration with various data sources, including watchlists, sanction lists, and adverse media, to enhance customer risk assessment and due diligence.
  • Real-time monitoring and alert generation for suspicious activities, enabling proactive risk mitigation.
  • Automated customer due diligence and enhanced due diligence workflows for efficient and comprehensive risk assessment.
  • Powerful analytics and reporting capabilities to provide insights into customer risk profiles and support regulatory reporting requirements.
  • Seamless integration with existing systems and technologies, ensuring easy implementation and data synchronization.

Book a demo today to discover how Kyros AML Data Suite can help your organization streamline customer risk rating, enhance compliance, and protect against financial crime.


The Customer Risk Rating plays a crucial role in AML and KYC processes, enabling organizations to effectively identify and manage money laundering and terrorist financing risks. By considering various factors and assigning appropriate risk ratings to customers, organizations can allocate resources efficiently, implement targeted risk mitigation measures, and contribute to a more secure financial system.

As technology advances and regulatory requirements evolve, organizations need robust customer risk rating methodologies and tools to adapt to emerging challenges. Solutions like Kyros AML Data Suite provide powerful capabilities to enhance customer risk assessment, streamline compliance processes, and protect organizations from financial crime threats.


Q: What is customer risk rating?

A: Customer risk rating is a process of evaluating the potential risk posed by a customer or client to a business in terms of money laundering or terrorist financing activities.

Q: How is customer risk rating determined?

A: Customer risk rating is determined by analyzing factors such as the customer’s identity, transaction patterns, source of funds, geographic location, and industry sector to assess their potential risk level.

Q: Why is customer risk rating important for organizations?

A: Customer risk rating is important for organizations as it helps them prioritize their AML efforts, allocate resources effectively, and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures based on the level of risk posed by their customers.

Q: How does customer risk rating help in combating money laundering?

A: Customer risk rating enables organizations to focus their AML efforts on higher-risk customers, identify suspicious activities more effectively, and implement enhanced due diligence measures to prevent and detect money laundering.

Q: What are the consequences of not conducting proper customer risk rating?

A: Failing to conduct proper customer risk rating can expose organizations to higher money laundering and terrorist financing risks, regulatory penalties, reputational damage, and potential legal consequences.