FICA identity verification – It can all be done online

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) recently proposed that the Financial Intelligence Centre should include cryptocurrency platform providers.

This means that services such as cryptocurrency exchanges, wallets, and ATMs will have to “FICA” clients”.

In other words, these platforms will have to comply with provisions in the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) that require financial institutions to verify the identity of clients.

This is referred to as Know Your Customer (KYC) in the financial sector. It is required by law in many countries for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) purposes.

To comply with FICA, South African banks require you to produce your identity documents and provide proof of address when opening an account. This must usually be done in person at a branch.

If financial service providers that deal with digital assets will be required to perform the same KYC as banks, however, does that mean the proposed regulations will require them to open branches?

We asked major players to find out.


Luno, a cryptocurrency exchange and wallet provider in South Africans, told MyBroadband that it is possible to perform FICA verification without a physical branch. SARB’s proposed regulations will not change this.

“There is no requirement for a physical branch system at any of the 40 countries around the world where we have a presence,” said Marius Reitz, country manager for South Africa.

“Luno performs KYC/AML completely digitally,” he said.

Reitz said that in recent times, they have seen the emergence of challenger banks and financial technology companies who operate digitally without brick-and-mortar stores.

“Technology has become more sophisticated and allows companies to maintain the highest levels of KYC and AML/CFT compliance, whilst also making the customer experience considerably better.”


VALR, a digital asset service provider, told MyBroadband that it can perform sophisticated AML/CFT checks digitally.

“We already use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to validate our customers’ identities and have an anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing programme in place,” VALR CEO Farzam Ehsani said.

“For businesses like ours, the current proposal is welcome,” said Ehsani.

“We anticipate that an appropriate regulatory framework will purge the industry of some of the businesses that have been lax in their measures to protect their customers.”

Now read: Using an overseas Bitcoin exchange under SARB regulations

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FICA identity verification – It can all be done online