Alex Egan, CAMS, is a director with Kaufman Rossin, a full-service public accounting and consulting firm, as well as a member of the ACAMS South Florida Chapter Board. Egan has years of experience in law enforcement (LE) and regulatory compliance environments with extensive exposure to the financial, securities and insurance industries. At Kaufman Rossin, Egan heads a team of consultants and advisors focused on helping broker-dealers, registered investment advisors (RIAs), financial technology (fintech), banks and other financial services firms with a variety of compliance, risk and regulatory challenges. Before joining his current firm, Egan was an associate principal with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and a former criminal investigator assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Fraud Task Force, where he led major investigations dealing with money laundering, securities fraud, insurance fraud and more. Prior to his regulatory and LE experience, Egan had served in the U.S. Army and is a combat veteran of the Iraq War. Egan, a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS), received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida, a Master of Business Administration from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Miami.
ACAMS Today (AT): What was your childhood ambition?
Alex Egan (AE): I was a bit of a dreamer and went through many career aspirations. One minute I was dead set on being a “cruise boat captain,” and the next, I was going to build motorcycles at West Coast Choppers (thanks, Discovery Channel!). By the time I finished high school, I had settled on joining the Army.
AT: Did that change along the way? How did you make your way into financial crime compliance (FCC)?
AE: Absolutely! Look, no kid grows up thinking, “I want to work in compliance.” So naturally, everyone will have a journey to get there. For me, after the military and starting college, I began my career in LE, which seemed like a natural transition from the military. I then made my way to detective—investigating homicides, robberies and sex crimes—which was very fulfilling, but I ended up investigating a few interesting fraud/white-collar crimes too. That led me to work for the Florida Department of Financial Services-Criminal Investigative Division, where I was assigned to the FBI South Florida Fraud Task Force. I loved the work and the people, but after about six years in LE, I decided to make the transition to the regulatory side working for FINRA. Fast forward another five years and I kept finding myself too drawn to the dark side to resist any longer—“aka consulting.”
AT: Do you have any role models or mentors? If yes, please describe how they have shaped the professional you are today.
AE: Being so young at the time, I found that the military was a great place to learn the type of person I wanted to be as a leader, as a professional and just as a person. Someone told me early in my military career: “You will see examples of terrible leadership and exceptional leadership and you simply pick the qualities that you want/don’t want and work toward that.” A couple of years later, I remember being in an intense close-quarters firefight and witnessing a young soldier refuse to enter a doorway. Completely understandable as bullets were being fired out of the doorway from inside, which is enough to terrify even the most hardcore soldiers (knowing you are likely seconds from being shot point-blank). That was the moment I witnessed the greatest act of exceptional leadership I would ever see as the squad leader maneuvered to the front of the stack, turned toward the soldier and said, “If I go in first, you will follow me, right?” To which the soldier eagerly nodded. He then turned and, against all human instinct, entered that door and survived. Despite the act of bravery, the squad leader never really got any formal recognition for it either, but his people respected him and he accomplished the mission.
From that moment, I knew what true leadership and professionalism were supposed to look like: Doing what’s best for your people and the organization and not yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but in practice, I find that this is still a rare quality.
AT: What do you think makes an effective AML professional?
AE: At Kaufman Rossin, we get to meet many great people and assess a ton of great anti-money laundering (AML) programs, which helps us see what works and what does not. There are a lot of things that make an effective AML professional, but if I had to name just one, it would be the willingness to adapt and learn new skills. The industry evolves so quickly with changing threats, regulatory expectations and best practices that you must be willing to learn and change with it, or you will quickly find yourself getting left behind.
AT: In view of the current state of financial crime, tell us how the FCC community can work better together.
AE: Networking, sharing best practices and learning. Just working together makes our industry better. That said, there are still some companies trying to go at it alone. To be effective, we need to work together. This is why I love ACAMS and the local chapters, as they provide the opportunity to do just that!
Interviewed by: Nick Schumann, CAMS, U.S. head of Financial Crime Program, Framework and Engagement, HSBC USA,