ACAMS Today interviewed Sandra Edun-Watler for International Women’s Day 2022. Edun-Watler is an attorney-at-law and the head of the Compliance and Reporting Services for Mourant Governance Services in the Cayman Islands, who provides anti-money laundering, automatic exchange of information reporting and compliance officer services. From compliance to being a key player for her organization, Edun-Watler discusses the role of women in the anti-financial crime (AFC) field, her professional journey and tips for new AFC professionals.
ACAMS Today (AT): This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias in your workplace, communities and beyond?
Sandra Edun-Watler (SEW): The compliance field has a higher number of women than other areas in the financial sector. However, within top positions, that number drops significantly. I try to break the bias by being involved in industry associations, volunteering to sit on working groups and most importantly, mentoring staff, colleagues and people in the workplace.
AT: Tell us about your journey entering the AFC field. What keeps you interested in the subject?
SEW: I started as a litigation attorney then joined the financial regulator as legal counsel. During my tenure with the financial regulator, I was trained as an assessor for the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force on the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations. I was then tasked with being the legal examiner for the British Virgin Islands during the third round of mutual evaluations and from there, my passion for this area continued. Knowing that I am protecting the world, my jurisdiction and my organization from bad players/actors keeps me motivated in my job.
AT: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in your career? What advice would you give to new AFC professionals?
SEW: This would have to be dealing with people feeling threatened by your input and contributions. For new AFC professionals, my advice would be to be a team player and state your positive views on how your organization can improve or benefit from having you onboard. Keep on top of the latest trends and stay abreast with training and conferences.
AT: As an AFC professional with an extensive history of working with the law, tell us about the financial crimes you encounter most frequently.
SEW: Fortunately, I have been on the proactive side of the law and I have not seen financial crimes committed. The biggest issue I have seen is trying to maintain a balance to ensure that you have all the details of each transaction. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons and mitigating the risk during circumstances where something might seem unusual can be challenging. I think that sums up the role of an AFC professional in general.
AT: What do you enjoy doing when you are off the clock?
SEW: I am very active in my community by sitting on various charity groups. I am also an avid orchid enthusiast.
Interviewed by: ACAMS Today Editorial, ACAMS, firstname.lastname@example.org