Own Art Interviews Susan J Mumford , CEO & Co-Founder of ArtAML

Own Art is proud to have partnered with ArtAML, the Anti-Money Laundering solution for the global art market aimed at helping Art Market Participants confidently comply, while carrying on with business.

After hearing about the new anti-money laundering requirements for Art Market Participants in the UK and European Union, Susan J Mumford felt concerned for the art market and governments that would have to work fast to prepare for this new and time-sensitive directive. In a matter of days, ArtAML was created.

We caught up with Susan J Mumford to find out about her journey and how ArtAML is helping the art market.

What is your background?

After a decade operating as an art dealer and adviser, I’ve carved out a career providing niche solutions for the art industry. I founded the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) in 2009 and Be Smart About Art in 2012.

What encouraged you to set up the ArtAML platform?

In September 2018 when attending the Art Business Conference in London, I learned that anti-money laundering legislation would be hitting the UK art market in less than 18 months. My first reaction was simultaneously a concern for small art world businesses being able to cope with AML and sympathy for the governments tackling a serious matter. In a matter of days, Co-Founder Dr. Chris King (CTO) and I began working on a solution.

What is it that makes the ArtAML platform unique?

Not only does the art market have specific needs that are not addressed by generalist AML platforms*, but also we walk art market participants through the process to support taking a documented, risk-based approach.

* ArtAML brings together direct compliance requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations (2017) and indirect legislation with the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002). For the latter, there is an obligation to not transact with any sanctioned individual or business at any value of transaction, applicable for selling and buying art alike. Therefore, sanctions checks are needed for secondary market transactions. Moreover, POCA triggers the need for provenance checks when buying art (think: is the history of ownership associated with the proceeds of crime?). Additionally, the art sector’s involvement in AML legislation relates by and large to ‘occasional transactions’ (not ‘ongoing business relationships’), which changes the expectations of keeping AML checks up to date. Lacking nuanced needs for the industry could result in unknowingly breaking the law. 

With everything now becoming more digital, has there been a notable improvement or abundance in security technology options?

Yes, there is certainly an increase in technology solutions for compliance needs, however a word of caution: Presently, HMRC does not ‘approve’ technology solutions for compliance requirements (with the notable exception of digital bookkeeping platforms for Making Tax Digital). Therefore, it’s up to regulated entities to conduct research and determine if a solution is fit for purpose.

A couple of examples of how technology platforms supporting compliance include:

  • Customers securely uploading their photo ID, such as a passport. It’s a terrible idea to send such documents by email as it’s subject to cybercrime. (Also note that in our experience, customers are more willing to provide ID when using our secure upload feature. That essentially helps your clients support your compliance requirements.)
  • Quickly and thoroughly screening individuals to see if they’re politically exposed (a ‘PEP’) and individuals plus companies to see if they’re sanctioned
  • When a platform like ours walks you through the whole process, it helps to ensure that you also don’t miss any steps, which is a common compliment of savvy galley registrars! 

“…just because a business is larger than yours doesn’t mean that they have the correct understanding.”

What is your experience of  UK galleries’ understanding of their AML compliance obligations as art market participants?

There are wildly varying interpretations and naturally, rumours are going around the art world street. Only earlier today I was speaking with one London gallery manager who stated, “we’re hearing from the big galleries that…” And trust me, just because a business is larger than yours doesn’t mean that they have the correct understanding.

The key is taking a risk-based approach to the decisions you make and documenting why you’ve come to those conclusions. 

Do you feel there is a need for more training and support for galleries and other art market participants to help them understand the regulations, along the lines of Creative United’s recent AMLD5 & The Art Market training programme?

Yes, definitely. And bear in mind that as the sector has nuanced requirements, going to specialist training events for the industry is a smart idea. 

As a specialist solution for the art market, we’re now running a training programme, Anti-Money Laundering Training for Art Businesses. Once complete, attendees receive a ‘Certificate of Completion’, which can be retained as proof that this particular legal requirement has been satisfied.

“…it can seem overwhelming, but once you’ve got your head around the jargon, you’ll come to see that AML checks can be built into the sales process.”

How would you reassure galleries that managing their AML compliance obligations shouldn’t be a burden, once they’ve understood what’s required?

As quoted in the Antiques Trade Gazette during January of this year, my thoughts in light of the new legislation is to “not try and prevent the unavoidable, but to represent & support the industry in the face of change”.

In the early days, it can seem overwhelming, but once you’ve got your head around the jargon, you’ll come to see that AML checks can be built into the sales process. My personal hope is that in time, new money will be attracted to the art world that was previously put off by unwelcome headlines. Moreover, it’s fabulous to know that art is being added to excellent collections. 

Are there any new developments that you’re working on at the moment, or do you have other news/updates to share?

Yes indeed, notably the Risk Assessment and AML Policy offering for ArtAML platform subscribers which have just launched.

We’ve built the assessment module into the platform so that you can be taken through the process of identifying the risks of your business being the target of money laundering activities. That is followed by the development of your AML Policy, which outlines how to mitigate risks supported by the ArtAML platform’s foundation of taking a risk-based approach.

In a year’s time when it’s time for your ‘refresh’ of both the assessment and policy, your real data from conducting AML checks will feed into the process, being both quick and of excellent quality.

On that note, training is also needed on an annual basis, as required by the legislation. Individuals that have participated in our deep-dive training will be able to access the ‘refresh’ session via the ArtAML platform, done at your own speed and when it’s convenient for you. 

Have you heard about or used the Own Art scheme before?

Funnily enough, I believe that Mary-Alice Stack visited my own gallery in Soho! I’m a champion of Own Art and know that enabling the acquisition of art over a period of time both helps many would-be collectors cross over that threshold. It’s a brilliant way to make it comfortable for individuals to discuss the idea – and without the scheme, many would not even know it’s a possibility! 

What made you interested in partnering with Own Art?

ArtAML and Own Art both exist to support businesses in a swiftly changing landscape, so the fit is natural. Hopefully with the support received from both, members are able to spend all the more time doing exactly what they love: collaborating with artists, presenting fabulous exhibitions and finding great forever-homes for pieces. 

Remember that if you’re an Own Art member, you are gifted an exclusive offer from our partnership with ArtAML: 14-month membership to ArtAML for the price of 12. Head over to to find out about the services they provide.

Creative United developed AMLD5 and the Art Market, a nationwide training programme aimed at supporting galleries, artists and other ‘art market participants’ in meeting their obligations under AMLD5, delivered in partnership with London law firm, Kingsley Napley LLP. Head to Creative United’s Learnworlds platform for further resources and to watch recordings of the overview sessions.