Presenting Your 2021 Award Champions: Hong Kong Chapter

Hong Kong Chapter

Every year, ACAMS recognizes and awards several outstanding members for their contributions to the anti-financial crime (AFC) industry. This year, ACAMS honored four exceptional individuals and one extraordinary chapter at the return of the in-person ACAMS Las Vegas conference. ACAMS awarded the ACAMS AFC Professional of the Year Award to Ahsan Habib; the ACAMS Today Article of the Year Award to Sarah Beth Felix, Lauren Kohr and Angel Nguyen Swift; and the ACAMS Chapter of the Year Award to the Hong Kong Chapter. ACAMS Today spoke with the award winners about career paths, trends in the AFC industry, what inspires them and more.

ACAMS Today spoke with co-chairs Kyran McCarthy, CAMS and Moray Taylor-Smith about their chapter’s success, the benefits of being a chapter member and the most pressing issue AFC professionals face. It is the Hong Kong Chapter’s mission to strive for excellence in preventing money laundering and terrorist financing by creating a forum in Hong Kong for training and the exchange of ideas within the financial services community.

ACAMS Today: Congratulations on winning the Chapter of the Year Award!  What do you consider to be the benefits of joining your local ACAMS Chapter?

Kyran McCarthy and Moray Taylor Smith: Thank you very much—we are very proud to have been selected for this award. The award is very timely as we are due to celebrate our 10th anniversary in March next year.

The chapter was established because there was a need to bring financial crime compliance professionals together and build an ACAMS community in Hong Kong and Asia.

The work in establishing the chapter started a year prior to April 2012, which marked the enactment of formal AML regulations in Hong Kong. Since then, the regulatory landscape has evolved. Over this period, the chapter’s membership and our network have grown significantly, and we are proud that it is viewed by regulators in Hong Kong as a trusted group of industry experts, which now includes representatives from the gaming and fintech industries. Regulators continue to turn to the chapter board and members for support when drafting amendments to AML regulations, as well as implementing their supervisory approach.

Regulators continue to turn to the chapter board and members for support when drafting amendments to AML regulations, as well as implementing their supervisory approach

AT: Could you expand on the different professional backgrounds of your chapter members since the establishment of the chapter?

KM and MTS: Initially, the chapter membership was comprised of AML specialists either working in banking or consulting. Over the years, the board made a concerted effort to expand, and now our membership includes financial crime compliance professionals from gaming, fintech and insurance. The composition of the chapter’s board is also a key focus to ensure each industry has proper representation and that the composition of the board remains diverse.

AT: Could you share some advice on how to establish and maintain a successful chapter?

KM and MTS: Being clear on the objectives from the outset and working closely with the ACAMS team is crucial. As mentioned, the composition of the chapter board is very important—we have benefited from having very committed individuals at the board level who meet regularly—and much focus is needed for keeping up with the latest trends and looking for ways to support our members’ needs.

AT: What is the most pressing AFC issue for the Hong Kong chapter members?

KM and MTS: Ongoing education and keeping up with the latest trends are absolutely crucial for our members. We host at least four events every year covering the latest trends and topics—each of these events is very well attended.

Costs of ongoing education are significant, and many employers now do not have policies in place to sponsor individual certifications. To address this, we launched an ACAMS Hong Kong Chapter scholarship program to support two of our members with obtaining the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) certification—we believe we are the first ACAMS Chapter to do so. We hope this initiative will encourage the sector to support their financial crime compliance professisonals to be CAMS-certified. Moving forward, the chapter is planning to expand and offer more CAMS scholarships annually.

AT: What is the next big trend in the AFC industry?

KM and MTS: It has been more than a year of unprecedented times in Hong Kong with restrictions due to COVID-19. As challenging as it has been, it is still not possible for the chapter to host in-person events. In line with the increasing use of fintech that was accelerated by the pandemic, we adjusted our programming to emphasize technological innovation, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive modeling, and their application in FIs. At the same time, we continue to try to leverage our sizable network to promote initiatives against child exploitation and wildlife trafficking, which we see as significant areas of risk that need focus.

Interviewed by: Karla Monterrosa-Yancey, CAMS, editor-in-chief, ACAMS, FL, USA,

Stephanie Trejos, CAMS, editor, ACAMS, TX, USA,

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