The Benefits of APIs in Sanctions Screening

As technology becomes more sophisticated and continues to influence the way organizations conduct business, the need for efficient and dependable watch list screening increases exponentially. For companies caught dealing with a blocked entity on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, the financial penalties are already frequently in the hundreds of thousands — and trending upward.

OFAC penalties have trended up over the past years, from $570 million in 2019 to over $1 billion in 2022. Average fines per violation have also seen a hike, from an average of $107,000 in 2019 to $125,000 in 2022.

This blog unpacks the challenges of watch list screening and explores how APIs help tackle the growing complexities of compliance. To learn more about modern watch list screening compliance, download our white paper.

Watch List Screening Gets More Complex

The purpose of OFAC’s SDN List has not changed: to prevent U.S. citizens and companies from engaging in business with potential terrorists, money launderers and any other persons or entities deemed enemies of the United States.

However, in recent years, several factors have vastly increased the complexity of watch list screening:

  • Surging Sanctions: The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has led to a deluge of newly sanctioned entities — with over 2,500 Russian-affiliated names alone added to the SDN list since the start of the fighting in Feb. 2022.
  • A Globalized Customer Pool: Digitization enables more organizations to reach beyond our borders to serve continuously expanding customer bases.
  • Customers Want “It” Now: Consumer and commercial customer habits are changing in tandem with commerce. Immediate transactions are expected, and often demanded.
  • Data Overload: Due to the proliferation of affordable cloud-based technology, firms are using more systems that automate key operational functions—and generate vast amounts of data. As a result, many businesses have customer databases spread across different departments.

These complexities increase watch list screening risk, and complicate compliance efforts for all organizations; from large, sophisticated conglomerates to small, family-owned and local businesses.

So, how are these businesses dealing with the growing intricacy of sanctions screening? Luckily, application programming interfaces, or APIs, are helping in a big way.

API Integration Simplifies Watch List Screening

The ability to incorporate APIs into a company’s sanctions screening program is a game changer—vastly simplifying the watch list screening process. APIs facilitate full integration between otherwise separate systems. In other words, APIs can help your watch list screening solution communicate across your organization’s various systems.

And that’s not all. With APIs incorporated into the solution, businesses see a unified, cohesive view of compliance across their entire organization because of the following:

  • Integrated Incoming Data: All watch lists relevant to your risk profile are available to your business from one hosted environment that provides immediate, real-time access.
  • Interacting Integration: All of your relevant technology is seamless, including customer onboarding, transaction payments and vendor-related systems.
  • Consistent Integration: Your business receives consistent, real-time screening, delivered against multiple internal databases across your enterprise.
  • Up-to-date Watch Lists: No matter when or how often you screen, the solution continuously monitors, gathers, cleanses and deploys list updates in real time.
  • Simultaneous Screens: Regardless of how many separate watch lists your business needs to screen against, the solution allows you to screen them simultaneously via one data integration.
  • Real-time and Retroactive Capabilities: You can screen by individual, non-individual, sanctioned country, type unknown or exact ID at the time of the transaction, as well as retroactively.
  • Single or Batch Lookups: You can conduct single and batch lookups in real time.
  • Non-disruptive Transactions: API-fueled solutions ensure that your business transactions flow uninterrupted, and also can create a notification of possible matches for further investigation.

Learn More About APIs in Watch List Screening

When you automate watch list screening with an API-powered solution, your business can counteract the complexity of 21st century sanctions compliance. To learn more about APIs in sanctions screening, download our Fueling Modern Risk Mitigation with APIs white paper.


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