Watchlist screening is an integral component of AML compliance programs. It involves the systematic review of customer data against various watchlists, which are databases that contain names of individuals, organizations, or entities associated with illicit activities or sanctioned by regulatory authorities. The purpose of watchlist screening is to identify and mitigate the risk of facilitating financial transactions with potentially high-risk entities.

Practical Example

To better understand watchlist screening, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. ABC Bank, a financial institution, receives a new customer application from John Smith. As part of their due diligence process, ABC Bank performs a watchlist screening on John Smith’s information. They compare his name, date of birth, address, and other relevant details against watchlists maintained by regulatory bodies, such as government sanction lists or politically exposed persons (PEP) lists.

During the screening, it is discovered that there is a match between John Smith’s name and an individual on the PEP list. This raises a red flag, indicating a potential risk due to the individual’s association with high-ranking government officials. ABC Bank’s compliance team investigates further to determine whether John Smith poses an actual risk or if it is a false positive. This investigation may involve gathering additional information, conducting enhanced due diligence, and possibly reporting the findings to the appropriate authorities.

Statistics and Relevant Numbers

To emphasize the importance of watchlist screening, consider the following statistics and relevant numbers:

  1. According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the estimated amount of money laundered globally in one year is 2-5% of global GDP, which amounts to approximately $800 billion to $2 trillion.
  2. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) reported that from 2016 to 2020, over 700,000 suspicious transaction reports were submitted globally, leading to investigations and actions against money laundering and terrorist financing.
  3. In 2020, the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued approximately 2,400 sanctions designations against individuals, organizations, and entities involved in illicit activities.

These numbers highlight the scale of money laundering and the need for robust watchlist screening measures to combat financial crime effectively.


Watchlist screening plays a crucial role in safeguarding the financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing, and other illicit activities. By diligently comparing customer data against watchlists, financial institutions can identify and prevent transactions involving high-risk individuals and entities. The statistics mentioned further emphasize the magnitude of the issue and the significance of implementing effective AML compliance measures.

As technology and data analytics continue to evolve, watchlist screening processes are becoming more sophisticated, allowing for quicker and more accurate identification of potential risks. However, it is essential for institutions to strike a balance between effective screening and minimizing false positives to avoid unnecessary disruption to legitimate transactions.

By understanding the concept of watchlist screening and its importance, individuals, organizations, and regulatory bodies can work together to create a safer and more secure financial environment for all.

At this point, you might be wondering how to streamline your watchlist screening processes and enhance your AML compliance efforts. This is where Kyros AML Data Suite comes into play.

Kyros AML Data Suite is a comprehensive AML compliance SaaS software that offers a range of powerful features and benefits. It leverages advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to automate and streamline watchlist screening processes, enabling financial