For Ruud Grotens, the Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Solution Consulting at Bottomline Technologies, inspiration to grow, conquer new challenges found in Dutch axiom: ‘nothing is too difficult for those willing’
- With more than 30 years of experience in the field of financial crime and compliance, tuning the systems and empowering the human professionals running them, Ruud Grotens said inspiration for him comes from a powerful concept: that will can overcome adversity.
- In his current role as the Head of Fraud & Financial Crime Solution Consulting at Bottomline Technologies, he must bring all of his knowledge, skills and philosophies to bear to counter criminals and better arm financial institutions looking to please regulators and craft rich, relevant and timely intelligence for law enforcement.
- In all, Grotens is a model for the professional of today, with a glimpse toward the countercrime fighter of tomorrow, with multi-disciplinary expertise across a broad range of fincrime areas, including anti-money laundering (AML), countering the financing of terrorism (CFT), global sanctions, payment fraud, cybercrime and more.
By Brian Monroe
June 08, 2023
With more than 30 years of experience in the field of financial crime and compliance, tuning the systems and empowering the human professionals running them, Ruud Grotens said inspiration for him comes from a powerful concept: that will can overcome adversity.
In his current role as the Head of Fraud & Financial Crime Solution Consulting at Bottomline Technologies, he must bring all of his knowledge, skills and philosophies to bear to counter criminals and better arm financial institutions looking to please regulators and craft rich, relevant and timely intelligence for law enforcement.
Grotens serves as a vital link between the domains of practical expertise, product knowledge, technical proficiency and achieving business objectives – for his company and the institutions he is guiding.
In all, Grotens is a model for the fincrime compliance professional of today, with a glimpse toward the countercrime fighter of tomorrow.
His experience covers a broad range of fincrime areas, including advising banks, central banks and non-banks, like money services businesses (MSBs), related to compliance risk management technology, anti-money laundering (AML), countering the financing of terrorism (CFT), global sanctions, payment fraud and cybercrime.
The twin pillars of the compliance citadel: rigorous systems, advanced training for teams.
He also understands that it takes both empowered humans and advanced systems to better uncover and report on illicit actions and threat actors.
Grotens has spearheaded projects fraught with logistical and technical pitfalls, including hands-on software development, working with international software vendors and product management roles for consultancy firms.
His formal entry into the field of fincrime compliance was one of the highlights of his career, he said, landing at a Dutch firm specializing in AML, KYC/CDD, internal/external Fraud, and Sanctions compliance systems.
“My job allowed me to tap into the knowledge of many financial crime specialists from institutions across the entire world, while simultaneously broadening my horizons through exposure to different business cultures and countries,” he said.
But it was another intersection with Dutch culture that has been a strong foundation for him his entire career.
“During my high school history lessons, I was captivated by the story of the ‘Nil Volentibus Arduum,’ group of Dutch intellectuals who coined the Latin phrase ‘nothing is too difficult for those willing’ in 1669,” he said.
The motto “struck a chord with me and has remained a source of inspiration” throughout my life.
“Whenever I face a tough situation, ‘Nil Volentibus Arduum’ reminds me that success is attainable if I'm willing to push myself beyond my limits and … perhaps even go that extra mile.”
Grotens resides, appropriately enough, in The Hague, known internationally as the City of Peace and Justice.
He also draws inspiration from his parents, who navigated challenging circumstances to maintain their relationship and taught him the importance of persistence and perseverance in achieving one's dreams.
This lesson has shaped Grotens' approach to overcoming obstacles and fuels his drive to succeed.
From computer science to the science of compliance: Here and back again
Grotens' career trajectory in financial crime risk management has been shaped by his background in computing science. For Grotens, continuous learning and staying updated with the latest developments and technological advancements are vital attributes for success in financial crime risk management.
Throughout his career, he has witnessed significant changes in the field, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, which elevated financial crime to a global priority. The introduction of new regulations and technological advancements, including AI, has reshaped the industry. However, Grotens is cognizant that AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Those systems, whether they involved automation, machine learning or deep learning, must be coached, guided and nurtured, typically requiring the involvement of an expert with deep domain expertise that is crucial for leveraging AI's potential effectively.
Grotens' motivation to become a financial crime professional stems from his belief that victimless financial crime is a fallacy.
For professionals looking to advance in the field, Grotens emphasizes the importance of continuous education, certification, and staying ahead of evolving trends and technologies.
These elements demonstrate expertise, professional competency, and pave the way for success.
In all, Grotens' extensive experience, combined with his multidisciplinary approach to financial crime risk management, has made him a highly sought-after professional, with speaking engagements at top industry forums.
That demand has only grown in recent years, particularly in the modern era of fincrime compliance, where silos between, fraud, AML and cyber defense departments only help criminals already looking for the weakest link to move and cleanse their illicit assets.
Grotens was kind enough to share some of his knowledge in our latest ACFCS Member Spotlight:
Who inspires you?
My parents. They lived in different countries with a complicated history between them, oceans apart.
Their situation was often difficult and even dangerous due to the circumstances, but they never gave up on each other and fought against resistance with persistence and perseverance.
The lesson they taught their children was always that to achieve your dreams, you must be willing to fight for them and overcome any obstacles that come your way.
What is one thing – either industry-related or not – that you learned in the past month?
I always instilled in my children the importance of ‘going for the extra mile’, but their recent comment gave me a pause: “Well dad, people who go the extra mile just don’t know about the shortcut”. My brain is now tripping on multiple realities.
What is something about you that not many people know?
When Saturday or Sunday comes around, you'll often find me cruising in a grand touring car. There's just something about driving a big, beautiful and luxury vehicle with happy people and senior citizens on board that gets my motor running.
In fact, I recently earned my certificate of professional competency for driving the big bus, so if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands and want to take in the sights - windmills, cheese, tulips, the Dutch mountains (do they exist?), you name it - I might be your bus driver.
Just don't mind the occasional detour or impromptu sing-along session.
What do you do in your current role?
I play a vital role in the sales process by serving as the strategic bridge between domain expertise, product knowledge, technical proficiency, and overarching business objectives.
My responsibility is to work collaboratively with the sales, delivery, and product management teams and potential clients to gain an understanding of their specific requirements and identify potential pain points.
Subsequently, I leverage my skillsets to craft custom-tailored solutions and proposals that can effectively address those concerns and deliver value to the client.
A deep understanding of our products and services, combined with a comprehensive grasp of the latest domain- and industry trends and emerging technologies, is also crucial in enabling me to proactively identify new opportunities and add value to our client relationships
What does your career trajectory in financial crime look like?
My background in Computing Science has paved the way for an illustrious career at the intersection of business and technology in telecom and financial services.
I have been fortunate to work on numerous projects in deep technical domains, from hands-on software development to product management roles for consultancy firms and large international software vendors.
The highlight of my career came when I landed a job at a Dutch company (later acquired by a US-based banking giant) that specialized in financial crime solutions such as AML, KYC/CDD, internal/external Fraud, and Sanctions compliance.
My job allowed me to tap into the knowledge of many financial crime specialists from institutions across the entire world, while simultaneously broadening my horizons through exposure to different business cultures and countries.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
During my high school history lessons, I was captivated by the story of the "Nil Volentibus Arduum" group of Dutch intellectuals who coined the Latin phrase "nothing is too difficult for those willing" in 1669.
This motto struck a chord with me and has remained a source of inspiration throughout my life.
Whenever I face a tough situation, "Nil Volentibus Arduum" reminds me that success is attainable if I'm willing to push myself beyond my limits and … perhaps even go that extra mile.
What is the worst advice you have ever received?
Leaving financial crime for an attractive position elsewhere seemed like a good change, but I quickly realized I followed bad advice.
I learned that it's important to follow my passions and values, even if it means turning down an attractive offer. And I'm grateful my previous employer accepted my return without any hesitations.
What would you say are the most important attributes for someone in your role to be able to succeed?
When working in financial crime risk management, it is essential to prioritize continuous learning and remain up to date with the latest developments and technological advancements.
Additionally, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and delve into granular details such as regulations or technology when necessary are also vital attributes. These practices help me to maintain a sharp mind.
How has (compliance, investigations, etc.) changed and evolved during your career?
I joined financial crime risk management a few years after the 9/11 attacks when it became a top priority globally.
This resulted in the introduction of new regulations and technological advancements, which extended to other areas beyond terrorism, such as fraud prevention.
Today, fraud is recognized as a predicate offense and is often part of larger criminal schemes, including money laundering and terrorist financing. Having witnessed these developments, I am passionate about making a meaningful contribution to the fight against financial crime.
What do you see as the key challenges related to financial crime in your role or in the sector overall?
I've come across several instances where biased AI models have wrongly accused individuals of fraudulent activities, despite their good intentions. These individuals were later proven to be innocent after years of suffering.
As a result, I believe that addressing bias and model degradation is becoming an increasingly critical concern within the financial crime risk management industry.
While it is crucial to prevent biased AI models, it is equally important to ensure that these models are effective in detecting and preventing real criminal activity.
AI has certainly caused a significant shift in the way financial crime risk management is approached, but it's important to note that it is not the silver bullet.
Critical expert involvement and deep financial crime domain expertise are essential components to fully leverage the potential of AI in financial crime risk management.
What motivated you to become a financial crime professional?
Victimless financial crime does not exist. My passion for this work is driven by the understanding that financial crimes not only undermine the integrity of financial systems, but they also have far-reaching real-world consequences for individuals and communities around the world.
Financial crimes such as money laundering and fraud can enable and fund criminal activities such as human trafficking, child abuse, elder abuse, and more.
I believe that by working together with law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, technology vendors, and other stakeholders, we can make a significant impact in the fight against financial crime and its associated harmful effects on individuals and society.
Is there anything that surprised you about your current role?
Working in an international environment with colleagues and clients is an enriching experience because it exposes you to diverse perspectives, business cultures, and languages.
While cultural differences in communication styles, project approaches, and expectations can be surprising, they can also provide valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth, such as developing cross-cultural competence, building a diverse professional network, and gaining new skills and experiences that are highly valued in today's globalized world.
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?
To those starting their careers in the financial crime industry, I highly recommend delving deeply into the subject matter. It is not just a job but an opportunity to comprehend the profound effects that financial crimes [and the criminal groups laundering money] can have on their victims.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is when a client recognizes and values the approach that I bring to the table.
Professionalism, integrity, and domain expertise are my key values. However, I know that achieving success is not solely dependent on my individual efforts, but rather the collaborative teamwork that is essential to delivering effective solutions for our clients.
Always aiming to exceed our clients' expectations, which requires clear communication, attention to detail, and a commitment to excellence in everything we do.
That sense of satisfaction and achievement is what drives me to continue striving for excellence, and it's a powerful reminder of the impact that we can make as a team.
For professionals with 5-10 years of experience, what advice would you give to help them rise in their careers to the next level?
Fighting financial crime is a complex and ever-evolving challenge that requires a deep understanding of the latest trends and technologies, as well as a commitment to staying ahead of the curve.
As someone who is passionate about this field, I recognize that ongoing education and certification are critical components to demonstrate expertise and professional competency, and the key to achieving success and rising to the next level.
Why did you join ACFCS and/or become CFCS-certified?
During my extensive career in financial crime risk management, I have gained comprehensive experience in diverse areas such as AML compliance, sanctions compliance, internal and external fraud, as well as payment fraud involving different payment types including SWIFT, SEPA, ISO20222, online/mobile, and cards.
In my pursuit of continuing education and professional development opportunities, I came across the ACFCS.
ACFCS impressed me with their broad coverage and expertise in financial crime risk management, as they cover *ALL* the areas in which I have professional experience.
This was a significant factor in my decision to pursue the Certified Financial Crime Specialist (CFCS) certification, which has proven to be an invaluable addition to my role.
See What Certified Financial Crime Specialists Are Saying
"The CFCS tests the skills necessary to fight financial crime. It's comprehensive. Passing it should be considered a mark of high achievement, distinguishing qualified experts in this growing specialty area."
KENNETH E. BARDEN
"It's a vigorous exam. Anyone passing it should have a great sense of achievement."
(CFCS, Official Superior
de Cumplimiento Cidel
Bank & Trust Inc. Nueva York)
"The exam tests one's ability to apply concepts in practical scenarios. Passing it can be a great asset for professionals in the converging disciplines of financial crime."
(CFCS, Royal Band of
"The Exam is far-reaching. I love that the questions are scenario based. I recommend it to anyone in the financial crime detection and prevention profession."
(CFCS, CAMS Lead Compliance
Trainer, FINRA, Member Regulation
Training, Washington, DC)
"This certification comes at a very ripe time. Professionals can no longer get away with having siloed knowledge. Compliance is all-encompassing and enterprise-driven."
CFCS, CAMS, CFE, CSAR
Director, Global Risk
& Investigation Practice
FTI Consulting, Los Angeles