By Brian Monroe
February 5, 2021
Being successful in the field of financial crime compliance is difficult in the best of times – but in the last year or so, those challenges have risen dramatically as individuals, teams and entire market sectors in the public and private spaces have dealt with a historic degree of disruption.
Some examples: the rising need for a diverse skillset to see and report on the full spectrum of financial crime, more focus on technologies like artificial intelligence and automation, increasingly crafty and creative criminals attacking institutions using cyber-enabled frauds – and let’s not forget a global pandemic upending every aspect of your professional and personal lives.
That likely won’t change any time soon with the recent passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in the United States through Congress, which is designed to break open beneficial ownership bastions and bolster information to and sharing between law enforcement and industry – a monumental change some say is as transformative as the 2001 U.S.A Patriot Act.
That is interwoven and underpinned by incoming changes in an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement (FinCEN) to turn the entire compliance field on its head, shifting from a focus on rote regulatory compliance tasks to “effective” AML programs creating intelligence with a “high degree of usefulness to law enforcement.”
So it might not be as surprising to find out that many current and former chief compliance and anti-money laundering (AML) officers have stated they value, in some cases, the softer skills when hiring outsiders or promoting from within.
What does that mean?
More than straight job skills or a seemingly glowing resume with the requisite experience, fincrime compliance leaders are looking for professionals with a passion and fearlessness to learn, a warmth and willingness to capture and share knowledge and curiosity and charisma to grow – and get others in and out of compliance to believe in their cause and support them.
Those are just some of the tips, tactics and practical takeaways from ACFCS’ Back to the Future of Fincrime Virtual Conference, that took place in late January, with more than 4,300 fincrime professionals attending, including compliance officers, regulators, investigators and top industry watchdog and banking lobbying groups.
The final day of the conference was focused on the future of fincrime job skills.
Some of the soft skills that are valued and will help professionals rise into upper echelon compliance positions, according to Eric Young, the former Chief Compliance Officer at BNP Paribas, include being:
- Calm: Compliance can be stressful. So top officers must be a source of inspiration, an oasis of strength even in regulatory storms, deadlines and exams.
- Credible: Knowledge is power, but critical compliance decisions must be spurred by insight, analysis and experience. Your team must believe in you to fight the good fight for you.
- Confident: At a large institution, compliance teams can be vast, numbering hundreds of people. That is why they look to, and need, leaders who are respected, and respect others, and move compliance initiatives forward with the trust of their team.
- Clear: In direction and always during a crisis. Time management, communication and coordination with internal teams, budget overlords, external examiners and even law enforcement is all part of the drill for a compliance leader. So communicating and elucidating with clarity of mission objectives is of paramount importance.
- Courageous: You have to have the backbone to say no to the business line and make difficult decisions.
But there are some critical considerations job seekers must also weigh, which can have major repercussions on career advancement and even fueling the passion-purpose feedback loop that is vital for success in any position and getting the attention of others to help guide you, said Sonia Desai, the AML/BSA Officer for Revolut.
The questions someone should ask?
- Is it a company you believe in?
- Is it a boss you can learn from?
- Is it a role you can make a difference?
“If you do a good job, the mentors will find you,” Desai said.
As well, what steps should a fincrime compliance professional take to rise in their career and build experience to get that dream job?
Try starting at your current job first, she said.