ACFCS Member Spotlight: For Omri Kletter, fighting fraud, illicit finance in private sector with Bottomline Technologies fueled by military service hunting terrorists, drive to protect the innocent

The Skinny:

  • For Omri Kletter, the dangers of illicit finance getting in the hands of organized criminal networks, cyber-enabled fraudsters and terror groups isn’t a theoretical or academic exercise – the safe harbor of talking heads who never get their hands dirty or had lives literally hanging in the balance based on your decisions.
  • That’s because nearly two decades ago, before stints at some of the biggest counter-crime technology firms in the field of financial crime and compliance, Kletter headed the Global Counter-Terrorism section for Israel’s Elite Technological Intelligence Army Unit.
  • He learned valuable lessons in such a caustic crucible that would fuel his focus, passion and determination for the rest of his career, even as he transitioned to the private sector and worked to offer his investigative insight to help craft technology, tools and systems to arm financial crime fighters at banks around the globe.
  • Since early 2020, Kletter has been Global Vice President of Product & Strategy, Fraud & Financial Crime, at Bottomline Technologies. The company provides corporations and banks a suite of systems and technology to engage in domestic and international payments, efficient cash management, automated workflows for payment processing and bill review.

By Brian Monroe
bmonroe@acfcs.org
August 9, 2021 

For Omri Kletter, the dangers of illicit finance getting in the hands of organized criminal networks, cyber-enabled fraudsters and terror groups isn’t a theoretical or academic exercise – the safe harbor of talking heads who never get their hands dirty or had lives literally hanging in the balance based on their decisions.

That’s because nearly two decades ago, before stints at some of the biggest counter-crime technology firms in the field of financial crime and compliance — NICE Actimize in top technology roles — Kletter headed the Global Counter-Terrorism section for Israel’s Elite Technological Intelligence Army Unit.

For Kletter, his ascent to a unit dedicated to uncovering the financial trails of terror groups to thwart attacks was a trial by fire.

The position roughly coincided with the Second Intifada – or Palestinian Uprising – that took place in the early 2000s, leading to dozens of attacks and suicide bombings against Israel, chiefly by groups like Hamas and Fatah.

He learned valuable lessons in such a caustic crucible that would fuel his focus, passion and determination for the rest of his career, even as he transitioned to the private sector and worked to offer his investigative insight to help craft technology, tools and systems to arm financial crime fighters at banks around the globe.

“Once you experience the connection between money and human trafficking/terrorism, it’s easy to understand how important our jobs are in this industry,” Kletter said. “To be able to see firsthand how a wire transaction can result in an explosion in another part of the world makes coming to work every day easy.”

Since early 2020, Kletter has been Global Vice President of Product & Strategy, Fraud & Financial Crime, at Bottomline Technologies.

The company provides corporations and banks a suite of systems and technology to engage in domestic and international payments, efficient cash management, automated workflows for payment processing and bill review.

The company, headquartered in Portsmouth, NH, with offices across the U.S., Europe, and Asia-Pacific, also offers advanced fraud detection, behavioral analytics and regulatory compliance solutions.

Bottomline Technologies: By the numbers

Headquarters: Portsmouth, NH

  • 25: Number of global offices
  • 92: Countries with customers using Bottomline
  • 1,200: Number of banks and financial institutions using Bottomline
  • 1989: Year the company was founded
  • 2,000: Employees at the company.
  • 600,000: The overall tally of companies using Bottomline

Source: Bottomline. To visit the website to learn more, click here

Truth, transparency, the foundation of trust

But it was more than just a proactive warrior mindset to hunt threats before they can harm you that translated well jumping to the private sector for Kletter.

He learned the power of truth, transparency and trust – in the military sense trusting your fellow warfighters, and now, building trust to help financial services firms become stronger allies in the mutual battle.

Some of the lessons he has learned include:

  • Honesty, transparency: Be transparent with your ideas – while it might not help now, it could later.
  • Listening skills: Listening – though repetitive, is critical.
  • Positive imaging: Never underestimate the power of positivity.
  • Knowing is half the battle: Spend time learning and continuing to grow your knowledge.
  • From tactical to practical: The ability to shift from strategic thinking to very deep product details within minutes without losing the bigger picture.

Another secret to his success is to “treasure customers and contacts as their testimony, truth and trust could be the difference between success and failure,” Kletter said, something that can only happen if you, “listen carefully and respond thoughtfully.”

“It’s a piece of advice my father always gave as a physician. Listen to the patient’s story and you will find the diagnosis,” he said. “Listening is an important aspect of what I do. A good listener is a critical virtue in a business, especially in a virtual environment.”

Kletter also realizes everyone must come together to better defend against, and take down, the array of criminal, terror and illicit finance threats countries and companies face – one of the many reasons he was excited to join forces with ACFCS.

“The simple answer is we are stronger together,” he said. “The challenges in front us require a unified source.”

Kletter was kind enough to share some of his knowledge and insight in our latest ACFCS Member Spotlight:

Who inspires you?

My Grandmother is 94 and she was always able to reinvent herself through her ability to adapt language and technology to her way of thinking.

If there is one thing I wish to inspire others to do, whether that be my children or in business, it is the ability to adapt to the changes around us. If you are good at that, you will succeed.

What is one thing - industry-related or not - that you learned in the past month?

The long-lasting impact of a good references. I am currently building a house, and its only through references I am making decisions.

I think we can agree the same is valid in [business-to-business (B2B)] software. A good reference can speak volumes about your product, so it is important to always put your best foot forward. 

What is something about you that not many people know?

While my brother is a formal theater actor, my impressions are my hidden talent.  

What do you do in your current role

As the Global VP of Product & Strategy, Fraud & Financial Crime, I play a major influence in shaping the strategy and development of Bottomline Fraud and Financial Crime solutions through my decades of experience managing enterprise fraud and authentication solutions, as well as my career in Israel’s elite technological intelligence army unit, where I served as the Head of the Global Counter-Terrorism section. 

What does your career trajectory in financial crime look like?

This is a very hard question to answer.  

I want to sustain and grow through three aspects: people, international experience, and innovation. Once you get into a leadership position over people you either like it or you don’t – I personally love it.

I see the value in being international and running a global company. And what I find very exciting is innovation – from cutting edge to disruptive. I always find myself looking to build things from scratch.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

The importance of listening.

I remember sitting on a customer event panel and there was a question being raised and I replied very quickly.  To which another panelist mentioned the importance of listening more carefully to be able to answer the underlying question – rather than the service level response. 

It’s a piece of advice my father always gave as a physician. Listen to the patient’s story and you will find the diagnosis.

Listening is an important aspect of what I do. A good listener is a critical virtue in a business, especially in a virtual environment. 

What is the worst advice you have ever received?

While it is hard for me to remember bad advice, there was advice that I thought was very wrong, that ended up being the best advice I had ever received. 

In a previous organization I received a relocation proposal from Israel to New York.

While this was an amazing opportunity, my wife and I had family based in London. When sharing the news with my late mother, she suggested I go back and propose a relocation to London rather than New York. To which I said “Mom, it doesn’t work like that.”

The next conversation I had with my superior, with my mother’s advice in the back of my mind, I casually proposed the idea of London rather than New York – which was immediately shut down. 

However, to my surprise two weeks later I received a call that maybe London would be a good idea after all. This taught me two things:  

·       Be transparent with your ideas – while it might not help now, it could later.

·       Why it’s important to listen to your mother 

What would you say are the most important attributes for someone in your position to succeed?

·       Listening – though repetitive, is critical.

·       Never underestimate the power of positivity.

·       Spend time learning and continuing to grow your knowledge.

·       Ability to shift from strategic thinking to very deep product details within minutes without losing the bigger picture. 

How has (compliance, investigations, etc.) changed and evolved during your career?

This is an interesting question because while there has been change, there hasn’t been enough. 

An investigation center today and 10 years ago are fairly similar – analysts trying to get their head around messy alerts, toggling between systems, using note pad, etc. There have been great attempts [at improving efficiency and effectiveness in AML investigations], but not as much of a lift as one would think [at bettering results].

We are investing heavily in reducing a 10-minute ingestion time to 3 minutes. Which can only be done if you really disrupt the entire user experience, introduce automation, and invest in analytics to reduce the inefficiencies.  

What do you see as the key financial crime challenges in your role or in the sector overall?

In additional to the overall investigation challenges – I would question consume-ability. The total cost of ownership for some of the solutions will eventually become unbearable. 

As an industry, we seek customization and configuration. Many of which end up generic, and which requiring constant updates – think of an app automatically updating in the background.

At Bottomline, we are fortunate to work with various tier financial organizations ranging from Tier 1 to Tier 4, along with corporates.

We are very focused on introducing the concept of consume-ability and bringing the modern software as a service (SaaS) thinking in our field in a much more consumable way. 

A good example would be sanctions screening. We bring the data ourselves to make it faster and easier for banks to reduce the friction with multiple data sources. 

What motivated you to become a financial crime compliance professional?

I started my career in the Israel’s Elite Technological Intelligence Army Unit, where I served as the Head of the Global Counter-Terrorism section. There I learned two things:

Once you build your career around chasing bad guys, it’s hard to move into the business of “civilian” life. Fraud and Financial Crime helped me maintain this without a uniform.

Once you experience the connection between money and human trafficking/terrorism, it’s easy to understand how important our jobs are in this industry. To be able to see firsthand how a wire transaction can result in an explosion in another part of the world, makes coming to work every day easy.  

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the progress through people.

Taking the ride from “we can’t do it, we will fail,” to four weeks later “we did it!” is a great moment to watch.

There is nothing more rewarding to say this is what we will do, these are the results we expect and then coming over the mountain with your teammates and seeing this success.

My last 18 months in the company, I have been very fortunate to see the yes come through!

Is there anything that surprised you about your current role?

How many hidden assets there were for the fraud and the financial crime industry – both through products and people.

Bottomline has a great heritage around payments, but there were so many hidden gems discovered when we entered the world of fraud and financial crime. I spent most of my early days extracting the assets to build the unique fraud and financial crime offering we have today.

Why did you join ACFCS or get CFCS-certified?

The simple answer is we are stronger together.

The challenges in front us require a unified source. So you join forces in this battle where there is the threat and risk in front of us, we can maintain a narrow singular [point of view (POV)] or strategy.

The need to be better connected and aligned to share best practices is more critical today than it was 10 years ago.  Especially since we’ve recently lost the in-person network – for business success as well as the well-being for us as humans.

How did you get your first job in the field and what advice would you give other job seekers to help land their first position.

I landed my first job in this field with an international organization through a recommendation [a bit of foreshowing here].   

It was to a totally different line of business but the benefit of joining an established organization was that I was able to experience internal mobility and development.

By joining an organization in a growth mode or one that is already established, you open the door to an interesting career path – if you make the most of it!

I will confess, I am not the perfect guy to give advice on these topics as I have never used a CV to get a job. I always believed in building relationships. 

Positive friction within the industry, both internally and externally (regardless of the position you have) means it’s important to network outside your bubble – where it makes an impact.

My advice would be to be as active in your role as you can – represent your company in an event, present to clients, etc. The more your put yourself out there, the more you will grow. 

For professionals with 5-10 years of experience, what advice would give to help them rise in their careers to the next level?

Find the right mentor to bring you into this stage. I will always remember the phone call from my current boss, David, offering me the position with Bottomline.

He said “Omri we will make this chapter great in your career” and I trusted him. My advice would be to build this level of trust with a mentor and together help bring you into the next chapter [of your career].