Michel Nassif: Building Strategic Relationships in the Middle East and Africa

Michel Nassif joined ACAMS nearly three years ago as head of the Middle East and Africa. He focuses on helping strategic clients, companies and countries in this region to leverage ACAMS’ resources to address their compliance obligations and align with similar international organizations at the forefront of regulatory and industry developments.

Prior to joining ACAMS, Nassif held a number of senior positions with global compliance and risk mitigation, anti-financial crime (AFC) solutions and know your customer and specialized due diligence firms over the past 19 years. In his previous position as a chief commercial officer at the DataFlow Group in Dubai, the global leader in Primary Source Verification, background screening and immigration compliance solutions, he led a large team to scale the company’s growth in both core Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and international markets.

Prior to DataFlow, Nassif was part of the core team of World-Check (now part of Refinitiv-London Stock Exchange Group), which became the established leader in the due diligence field.

Nassif earned a Master of Business Administration degree in management information systems from Concordia University—the John Molson School of Business in Montreal and a Bachelor of Science in computer science applied to business from Saint-Joseph University—Université de Lyon.

ACAMS Today (AT): What does a typical workday look like for you?

Michel Nassif (MN): A typical workday starts circa 5:30 a.m., catching up on news/business/AFC/enforcement actions highlights from the region and globally.

Early mornings are for catching up on emails and coordinating around key customer engagements with sales and operations teams, e.g., onboarding new customers, critical support issues, proposals and agreement reviews and progress reports review for strategic customers, etc.

The bulk of each day is for customer calls and meetings. We are now gradually back to in-person meetings, accelerating the pace even further.

Afternoons and early evenings are mostly dedicated to internal sales leadership, marketing, products, partnerships and operational update meetings.

My job spans across two main activities: Managing the Middle East and Africa Sales team, which consists of Mohamed Bin Jamal, who is based in Bahrain and covers the Middle East and North Africa, and Wandile Mngadi, who is based in South Africa and is responsible for Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, we have a close collaboration with the Europe, Middle East and Africa Service Operations Team in the U.K. Together, we cover and support about 75 countries.

I also lead strategic customer engagements in the region, e.g., public sector, government and law enforcement, strategic partner engagements, etc.

AT: What day-to-day aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

MN: Being around customers and partners is certainly the most rewarding part of the day. I thoroughly enjoy developing new relationships and building long-term strategic engagements with them.

AT: How has ACAMS’ impact grown in the Middle East and Africa since you joined the organization?

MN: I joined ACAMS in January 2020. Since then, we have grown ACAMS’ footprint in this geographic area consistently. We have nearly doubled the booking of business in the region with the team. We developed a great working dynamic and are extremely well aligned by now on priorities, focusing on strategic business development and maximizing the lifetime value of our customers to ACAMS.

AT: How did your previous experience at firms such as the DataFlow Group in Dubai prepare you for your role as head of the Middle East and Africa?

MN: All previous key roles I held revolved around AFC, namely developing AFC solutions to mitigate critical risks, like risk exposure within financial and nonfinancial organizations, enhanced due diligence (EDD), leveraging technology for identifying and reporting risks, training and capacity building and building an AFC culture within organizations.

The valuable foundation that I carried to ACAMS has been the vast support and professional network within both public and private sectors and the regulatory frameworks and influential leaders and organizations across the territory. Customers and long-standing relationships and collaborators undoubtedly become the best support base to develop and grow new ventures. This is especially true within the niche and very specialized AFC space.

AT: What AFC topics are you most passionate about?

MN: The start of my journey into AFC had been around open-source intelligence, data intelligence and developing solutions for EDD—this still shapes my analysis of the market and how I approach with the team many of the challenges that financial crime poses for our customers today. This allows us to better identify distressed markets and organizations and to foresee where opportunities for the business are going to be as well.

The growth and change of crypto-asset markets have more recently brought a new wave of challenges and resulting compliance requirements around the industry. The topic brought a lot of opportunities with it and stirred the need for us as well to upskill and learn quickly as a team so we can be supportive of our customers.

AT: What do you like to do in your spare time?

MN: I am an avid cook and I have been investing every bit of spare time I have (not much) toward developing a small family farm. I am mainly driven by the desire to grow fresh and healthier food for the family.

Interviewed by: ACAMS Today editorial, ACAMS, editor@acams.org

Leave a Reply