ACAMS Today interviewed Kelly Cooper, CAMS, on creating a proactive approach to maintaining an inclusive workplace. Cooper is a regulatory and anti-money laundering (AML) consultant for financial institutions (FIs) with a vast history of experience working in the anti-financial crime (AFC) field. She is a certified AML specialist and a law school graduate who passed both the New York and New Jersey bar examinations. She is currently based in New York, where she works as an associate vice president and internal audit manager at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
ACAMS Today: What led you to a career in AFC?
Kelly Cooper: When I graduated law school, I wanted to work in compliance and I found myself at McGladrey (now known as RSM) working in the AML/regulatory compliance group. I found AFC to be a fascinating field and decided to make it my specialty. I have now moved into a role in audit with a large FI, where AFC knowledge is even more valuable.
AT: The International Women’s Day theme this year is “choose to challenge.” How do you choose to challenge inequality in the workplace?
KC: I have always worked very hard to achieve the status I have reached, but it is not always easy when you are a woman. I have had to have hard conversations with human resources departments, my bosses and my colleagues when I felt that inequality was taking place. I am not one to stand idle and watch such things occur to myself or to others. I also try to find organizations that value people for their work and that have a strong female presence.
AT: What can the AFC industry do to provide equal opportunities for women?
KC: I think having more woman in positions of power and providing more opportunities for advancement for woman would benefit the AFC industry greatly. I also think attracting more woman as students or new graduates to the AFC industry and providing proper training will lead to having more woman with the knowledge and experience needed to gain those positions of power.
AT: Is there another woman in the AML industry that has inspired you or helped you get to where you are today?
KC: Angela Biser was my director at RSM prior to my departure. She was a great mentor who helped me learn not only more about AFC, but also about how one should lead a team and treat others. She was always available for advice whether it was career-related or personal. She wants to see those she works with succeed and she puts in extra time to help them get there.
AT: Tell us about a memorable moment in your career?
KC: One moment that stands out was when my article on the AML modernization bill and ILLICIT CASH Act was published. It was published on the RSM website. It made me feel like I had attained the knowledge and expertise to provide some guidance in AFC and that I was becoming an expert in my field.
AT: Do you have a favorite quote or words of wisdom to share with our readership?
KC: “Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out take another shot.” I really love this quote by Winston Porter. It has always made me feel like you can always change things for the better.
Interviewed by: ACAMS Today staff, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org