3 February 2016

What’s the fuss with FICA?

My Business, My Money Matters |

Is FICA just another acronym we need to add to our vocabulary? Read on and learn the facts about how FICA can keep your rands and cents safe and sound.

Sometimes, wading through South African media can feel like swimming in alphabet soup – RICA, SARS, and now, FICA.

But, FICA isn’t just another collection of letters. FICA, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, is government’s response to the global fight against money laundering and fraud.

The FIC Act requires the accountable institution to verify the identity of every bankable person and entity. This makes it easier to spot – and lock out – accounts that aren’t legitimate. That way, criminals are prevented from integrating their money into the banking system. Less money laundering, less crime. Simply put, a regime of strict FICA compliance means the banking system and the economy are safe and sound.

Am I  FICA compliant?

Protecting the global banking system from money laundering might sound like a mission fit for a superhero, but complying with FICA is simple. All you have to do is take the following documents to your nearest bank branch:

  • South African green bar-coded ID book
  • Proof of residence, like a utility bill, that’s not older than three months.

‘Absa has taken steps to minimise the impact on customers,’ says Liza Bergh, the Head: Risk, Control and Governance RBB. Instead of having you run around collecting valid stamps to verify your photocopies, you can simply bring the original documents into an Absa branch and all verification will take place in branch.

As a rule, make sure your contact details are always updated with your bank. That way, if they ever need to contact you to verify your identity, the process can be quick and easy.

FICA and the banking system

But it’s not only the consumer’s responsibility to stick to FICA’s rules – the bank itself also has to play along.

The risks for not complying with FICA are high for banks and the banking system as a whole. ‘While we have to ensure all the information provided by customers is up to date, we also have to ensure that our records are updated. Banks have an obligation to comply with FICA,’ says Liza Bergh. The consequences for non-compliance? ‘The bank could be given a penalty. The most extreme measure is we could lose our license if regulators find that we don’t have the correct documents.’

Getting on the bad side of FICA

The consequences for individual non-compliance are just as scary. ‘If you don’t comply with FICA regulations, there’s potential for criminals to act on your account and fraud can happen,’ says Bergh. Secondary to leaving your cash vulnerable to criminals, you could also be locked out of your account. ‘If the bank has contacted you and you haven’t supplied them with the correct documents, your account could be placed under restrictive control – we’ll restrict the transactional capabilities on your account,’ says Bergh. An account under lockdown means no access to your hard-earned money.

When your account is under restrictive control, you simply have to take the outstanding documentation to your nearest bank branch to ensure the lock is reversed.

FICA business basics

Sorting out FICA compliance for yourself couldn’t be simpler, but what happens when you have a business banking account? ‘Businesses have different legal entities and the FICA requirements differ depending on the entity,’ says Bergh. ‘The entity itself has to be verified and identified along with the people associated with it. Every party with decision-making power has to be compliant. If you’re not sure about what you need, check your status by contacting the Absa call center at 0861 002 279.

The acceptance of deposits

On 25 April 2016, the South African Financial  Intelligence Centre (FIC) has launched an upgraded financial crime reporting system to enable a consistent risk adherence – across the financial industry – to global best practice reporting standards. Following the go live of the  FIC’s new reporting software, the FIC amended its existing requirements and called on Absa (and all other South African banks) to implement a number of changes to streamline operations in adherence to its requirements.

The FIC’s amended requirements, amongst others, aim to ensure that the process of depositing cash and cheques remains safe and secure. Needless to say, there’s a huge reliance on all South African banks’ full adherence to the FIC’s stricter reporting standards. As such, the FIC requires all banks to consistently identify the depositor, be it a customer or non-customer from now on.

In light of these amended requirements, Absa will be requesting the following information from our customers and non-customers on making deposits:

  • Customers and non-customers who make deposits in branches will be requested to provide their names, surnames, and ID or passport numbers to the teller. This is true for both ‘card’ deposits and ‘cardless’ deposits. Where the customer or non-customer is unable to give his/her ID or passport number, the transaction cannot be finalised.
  • Customers and non-customers who use our ATMs for ‘cardless’ deposits, Scan and Pay or Cashsend withdrawals will be prompted to give their name, surname, and ID or Passport number (‘card deposits’ on ATMs are excluded in this instance).

Thanks to the FIC, everyone can play their part to keep the economy safe from fraudsters. These amended requirements form 100% part of a long-term journey – in full partnership with the FIC and other South African banks – to fight financial crime.


What documentation do I need to provide to ensure I’m FICA compliant?

For individuals, simply take your South African ID book and proof of address (not older than three months) to your nearest bank branch.

Is there a FICA rule of thumb I should keep in mind?

If the name on your ID has changed – either through marriage or divorce or a name change – or you’ve moved and your physical address has changed, make sure your bank knows about it. ‘Anytime your personal information changes, you have an obligation to inform your bank,’ says Liza Bergh.

My ID got stolen. Now what?

If your ID has been stolen, Absa allows drivers licenses as a secondary means of identification.

Is there any way for me to check my FICA status?

Contact the Absa call centre at 0861 002 279 to track the status of your account.

What happens if I don’t submit my documentation?

Your account can be locked and placed under restrictive control. That means you won’t be able to access your funds.

Help! My account has been locked. How do I reverse this?

All you have to do in order to reverse the lock is take the outstanding documentation to your nearest bank branch.

What are the rules around my children and dependents’ bank accounts?

If you’ve opened an account in the name of a minor, and you have signatory rights, you have to ensure that their accounts comply as well.


Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.

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