In Sydney on June 2007, an ACAMS introductory reception was hosted on how to form a chapter by the co-founder of ACAMS, Charles A. Intriago. In October of that year, Rick Small, current co-chair of the ACAMS advisory board, hosted a reception in Sydney to formally launch the chapter. Seven attendees from that event agreed to join the chapter’s board and on January 24, 2008, the Australasian Chapter board met for the first time. Since then, the board has continued to meet quarterly.
When the Australasian Chapter was formally launched in 2007, it became the 15th ACAMS chapter and was the first non-North America chapter. This was a real milestone, and ACAMS had officially arrived “down under.” The chapter’s geographic mandate covers Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. Despite the chapter being offshore, ACAMS management and staff in Miami provided hands-on support. Our chapter was able to actively contribute to the ACAMS Chapters Standing Committee to generate best practices ideas for chapters.
The nature of the mainstream financial services sector across the Australasian region was a primary driver in deciding on a chapter board structure aimed at delivering local events in the major financial services centers across Australia and New Zealand. This has resulted in the board being deliberately “manufactured” to have one or more board members located in Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. A unique feature of the chapter is its four programming directors, each of whom is supported by local working groups comprised of a small group of chapter members. Our strategy continues to be focused on supporting ACAMS’ mission “to advance the professional knowledge, skills and experience of those dedicated to the prevention and detection of money laundering and terrorist financing.”1 Over time, this mission has expanded to encompass other forms of financial crime, such as bribery and corruption, sanctions and tax crimes, with a recent focus on modern slavery and human trafficking, illegal wildlife trade and child exploitation. Our chapter continues to include these topics in our program of member events.
It is worth noting that our chapter, as part of the ACAMS/WWF partnership on illegal wildlife trafficking (IWT), has created an IWT task force, comprising chapter members and representatives from nongovernmental organizations such as WWF and TRAFFIC, and we expect to engage with more external parties going forward. Following a recent announcement from the Financial Action Task Force and a press release issued at the last G20 summit, we have expanded the scope of the chapter’s IWT task force to cover a broader range of environmental crime issues that are relevant to this region, such as illegal logging, fishing and other illegal marine-based crimes.
In addition, the chapter board continues to be involved in various anti-money laundering (AML) and financial crime initiatives such as circulation/promotion of industry consultations or surveys, research or educational events, regulator outreach events and providing support to the joint Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)/ACAMS conferences held every year with the New Zealand FIU.
Since its inception, our chapter has continued to benefit from the willingness of banks, law firms, professional services organizations and AML vendors to offer their facilities for our chapter events free of charge. The board debated the need to continue charging a chapter membership fee, and a decision was taken to make chapter membership free to all financial members of ACAMS who have a residential address in the Australasian region. This includes those who are ACAMS members through enterprise membership agreements. While it is currently not part of our planning, the chapter board remains alert to the potential for the region to support several more localized chapters when viable. Our chapter membership is now more than 2,500, with our monthly virtual chapter-wide event attracting strong interest.
Re-alignment of Reporting Lines as ACAMS Expanded Globally
In 2008, Hue Dang, now vice president and global head of business development and new ventures, established ACAMS’ regional head office in Hong Kong.
As the Asia-Pacific (APAC) regional office expanded and several chapters were established in the region, the Australasian Chapter board considered it more efficient and appropriate for the chapter to be attached to the APAC region. In 2017, a formal request was submitted to management. The move eliminated many of the previous time zone challenges and continues to deliver real benefits for the chapter due to the excellent guidance and support provided by ACAMS staff in the APAC region.
Our chapter has been fortunate over the past few years to have Hue Dang and several of her staff visit the Australasian region for conferences and to interact with the members of our chapter board.
A Very Proud Achievement for Our Chapter
In 2018, the Australasian Chapter received the ACAMS Chapter of the Year Award. This was the first time this prestigious award had been given to a chapter outside of North America. This achievement reflected the chapter board’s active engagement with its members, the quality and frequency of chapter events and the board members’ passion for growing the chapter.2
ACAMS Office Established in Sydney
On June 20, 2019, ACAMS established a physical presence in the Australasian region when Nick Griffith joined ACAMS as regional director of business development Australasia and opened an ACAMS office in Sydney. This has proven to be a major step forward for the chapter in supporting ACAMS’ mission to expand the anti-financial crime community. A decision was taken to include the ACAMS regional director of business development as a full member of the chapter board. The outcome has delivered a “hand-in-glove” relationship between the local ACAMS staff and chapter board members. In particular, the rolling out of chapter events and coordination of the membership initiatives.
The Impact of the Global Pandemic
With government-imposed restrictions regarding travel and community gatherings, our chapter needed to transition our member activities from quarterly local, face-to-face events to a program of chapter-wide virtual events. This would not have been possible without the support and active involvement of the ACAMS APAC staff. The results are self-evident, and this has encouraged the board to continue with a monthly program of chapter-wide virtual events even when government restrictions are eased, and we can re-commence our program of local live events.
The board is very confident that the chapter will continue to flourish in tandem with the business development efforts of Nick Griffith and his team, Susan Officer and John Alcock. With pandemic-related restrictions easing, we intend to re-start our outreach effort, which will include live local events in other cities across Australia, New Zealand and, potentially, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The chapter board continues to pursue its endeavors in supporting and enriching ACAMS members from this region.
ACAMS Australasian Chapter Board
- Australasian Chapter, ACAMS, https://www.acams.org/en/chapters/apac/australasian-chapter#events-20bf2be1