The New York Chapter was founded in 2005 by an executive board comprised of industry experts and law enforcement professionals in the anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) fields. The chapter seeks to promote the advancement of knowledge, skills, career development and professional networking through events presented by professionals in the private sector, law enforcement, and supervisory and regulatory agencies. On June 30, 2015, the New York Chapter will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary.
In celebration of their anniversary, ACAMS Today spoke with two members of the chapter’s board—Vasilios Chrisos and Meryl Lutsky.
ACAMS Today: Your chapter is celebrating its 10 year anniversary in June—Congratulations! Do you remember the first chapter event?
Vasilios Chrisos: I do remember the very first chapter event. ACAMS was still a fairly new organization and the CAMS designation hadn’t yet attained the worldwide distinction that it now does. That said, there was a lot of excitement in the conference room at U.S. Trust where the chapter was launched and the first event was held.
AT: Which chapter event was the most memorable and why?
VC: We have been fortunate to have produced many successful events over the years, so to highlight one would be impossible. If I may, I would like to focus on a few. In June 2011, we became the first chapter to offer a full-day seminar. It was a fantastic event that drew almost 200 attendees and included top-notch speakers from both the private and public sectors.
We were also the first chapter to hold a learning event to raise awareness on the human trafficking/smuggling issue. This event took place in 2009 and attracted more than 200 people. We were also the first chapter to hold a learning event on bitcoin and the risks of virtual currency. That event drew more than 300 attendees.
Beyond learning events, we’ve been the only chapter to host job fairs and CAMS exam study groups. The ideas for these came straight from our membership and, in my opinion, speaks volumes to how the New York Chapter stays relevant.
AT: How successful has your chapter been at reaching its mission to advance the knowledge, skills and experience of professionals in the anti-money laundering (AML) field?
VC: I think by all accounts we have been the most successful chapter in the ACAMS network. We’re not only the oldest chapter, but we’re also the largest with over 500 active members.
The biggest reason why the chapter has been so successful has been that we’ve provided our members cutting-edge programming that stays current with the fast-changing times and interests of the financial capital of the world, which is New York City. We continually challenge our board members to come up with new and relevant topics based on our collective understanding of the pulse of the industry.
Another big reason for the sustained success of our chapter is our legion of members. These are dedicated and passionate AML professionals who have demonstrated a desire to advance their knowledge and build networks of industry contacts.
Finally, we have always promoted an inclusive culture within the New York Chapter. The board has invested time in getting to know the members and also makes time to speak with everyone during events. In addition, the New York Chapter board has always been open to new ideas or suggestions. In fact, on a couple of occasions we have had chapter members take the lead in the production of learning events. This included developing the topic and securing the speakers. Some of our members have eventually become board members after successfully organizing and delivering learning events.
AT: The New York Chapter was founded by both law enforcement and AML professionals, why are partnerships between the public and private sectors important and how has this partnership enriched the chapter?
Meryl Lutsky: The importance of the public-private partnership cannot be overstated. The founders of the New York Chapter understood that in this age of new technology and ever-shifting geopolitical landscapes, it was imperative for law enforcement and financial professionals to have a forum in which they could come together on a regular basis and share information. This remains a primary goal of the chapter. The networking and learning events continue to provide valuable insight to both sides—the AML community gains insight into new criminal trends observed by law enforcement and the law enforcement community learns about new products and methods of money movement. The ability of the AML community to react quickly to new trends through insights and partnerships fostered at chapter events benefits all concerned.
AT: What advice can you give to new chapters or members who would like to start a chapter in their region?
VC: I would certainly encourage them to do it. A local chapter can give an ACAMS member access to a network of like-minded individuals and provides forums where professionals can mingle with colleagues, exchange ideas and stay abreast of industry trends, hot topics and potential solutions that may be applied in their workplace. Being able to call upon a network of local contacts that can share information, serve as sounding boards and/or assist in the resolution of problems can be priceless.
AT: As a chapter board member, what would you like to contribute to help maintain the success of the New York Chapter?
VC: On a personal level, my involvement with the New York Chapter has been extremely beneficial for my career. The knowledge I have gained and the relationships I have been able to forge have really been invaluable and contributed to my development as a financial crimes compliance professional. I hope to pass that passion along to others so that we can continue the great work of the New York Chapter.
AT: What does the future hold for the New York Chapter?
ML: The future is bright for the New York Chapter. We will continue to work with ACAMS and our diverse membership to ensure timely and relevant programming. Our networking events will continue to foster relationships between law enforcement and the financial community so that we may all better protect our financial system. Our job fairs will provide a forum for employers to seek out the most qualified applicants for AML positions. In addition, we will continue to create an environment where AML professionals know they can come and ask questions and find answers to pressing topics of the day.