ACAMS Sanctions Compliance Course: The Shape of Things to Come

I recently completed the inaugural offering of ACAMS’ Sanctions Compliance course. I was probably not ACAMS’ target student, since I already had been working in the sanctions field for over a decade, yet I was drawn to having something formal under my belt (and on my resume). And who knows? I might even learn something.

What I received was pleasantly surprising and, in my opinion, a bargain for the value provided. The course is simply structured: a 30-minute introductory video that sets a baseline of knowledge about sanctions compliance, two 90-minute lectures that could be watched live or after the fact, a homework assignment and a 10-question final exam. The material is clearly organized and covers both the nuts and bolts of sanctions compliance operations and the trickier theoretical underpinning for imposing sanctions and making them stick.

Two elements in particular made the course very valuable and effective. The lectures used polling questions as just-in-time checks to view students’ understanding of the material. And when the results were posted, the lecturers would explain each of the choices and why they fit or did not fit the question posed.

Believe it or not, the enduring part of the course, for me at least, was the homework. It was a very simple assignment: post something in the Sanctions Compliance community at I must admit: I have not been very active in any of ACAMS’ online offerings (I generally do not have the spare time). However, I have found the community to be an invaluable forum to learn for the novice, or to share knowledge, best practices and opinions on a wide range of topics. The messages have ranged from “What software do you use?” and “How can you reduce false positives?” to “What are the prospects for U.S. banks processing trade transactions involving Iran?” It is a diverse and active community of over 550 members, having posted the bulk of the almost 700 messages in 193 threads since the inaugural class started in February.

Ultimately, this is the most valuable part of the course. A vibrant community where one can go to keep on top of the latest issues in sanctions compliance—whether regulatory or implementation-oriented in nature—and continuously improve one’s knowledge and breadth of information, is more valuable than the 4 CAMS credits that one receives when one passes the course. In addition, it derives its particular value from its tight focus, where a general course on anti-money laundering might fail to keep the engagement of members on an ongoing basis due to the daunting size of the subject matter.

What does the future hold for ACAMS training courses? Future courses on tightly focused subject-matter areas, backed up by communities that keep both the curious and the expert engaged in an ongoing exchange of information.

All in all, this and future training courses benefit ACAMS as a dynamic organization of committed members and professionals deepening the breadth and depth of their chosen areas of interest and expertise.

Eric A. Sohn, CAMS, director of business product, Dow Jones Risk & Compliance, New York, NY, USA,

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