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Family offices: maintaining a banking facility in the UK

Posted on 20 July 2023

In July, the application of anti-money laundering and financial crime rules became a political and regulatory focus of UK press attention following the decision of one bank to close the accounts of a high-profile former politician. Families, whether politically linked or not, often face questions about the origins of their wealth, their associates and the structures which hold that wealth.

Consider your banks’ objectives

As with any relationship, consider not only what your objective is, but also what your bank wants to achieve. Your banks’ objectives will be different to your own. Their brochures will focus on investment return and exceptional service, however, their shareholders may focus on optimising profits.

Multiple, lower value, client accounts in complex structures increase a bank’s regulatory burden and erode profit margins. There will be a point where the bank will decide that it’s not commercially worthwhile to continue with a relationship.

Our Regulatory Services Team recently met with members of a Middle Eastern family whose European bank accounts had been closed without explanation. The family, which often travels to the UK, expressed a desire to open new current accounts in London whilst maintaining their wealth management accounts in other jurisdictions.

The Regulatory Services Team reviewed the family’s objectives and, given their specific circumstances, established that it would be unlikely that a bank would open several new, low value current accounts in London. It became clear that the family members already had other banking relationships outside the UK and multiple credit cards which worked in the UK and that they could meet their own objectives without facing a raft of new bank onboarding questions.

Assess how your situation is viewed

To meet commercial and regulatory requirements, all banks are required to assess and understand the risks related to your background, family, business and other financial relationships, the source of your wealth, source of fund and your plans and objectives.

Our Regulatory Services Team are assisting a family to navigate account opening in the face of multiple, historic negative press articles and legal actions. Working in partnership with the investigations practice within Mishcon de Reya, they are collating a summary risk assessment which highlights the key risks for bank onboarding teams which will be made available to banks for their own risk considerations.

Each bank will have their own risk appetite, which may result in banks taking different decisions regarding acceptance of new clients, existing accounts being closed or an adverse impact on pricing of services to reflect a higher level of risk.

Evaluate your wealth structures

Many family wealth structures were established quite some time ago. Since then, the family membership and structure may have changed and it’s likely that domestic and international regulations including anti-money laundering and financial crime rules as well as international taxation considerations will have changed.

Our Regulatory Services team offers a depth of practical, international banking experience when it comes to understanding how a bank may view your family’s situation.

The team works with their colleagues in MDR Mayfair and other legal advisers to consider your family’s strengths, relationships, risks, structures and administration, all referenced against the family’s current and future goals. Where necessary the family’s structuring can be rationalised – simplifying the regulatory burden for future generations.


Understand your bank’s objectives, consider how you and your story is viewed and rationalise any overly complex wealth holding structures.

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