Congratulations! You have just become part of what is perhaps the fastest growing and hottest profession in the world! Money laundering compliance officers (MLCOs) are highly sought-after professionals and quite scarce. I am certain you are already overwhelmed with both the challenges and the prospects of your new position. The following five ideas aim to help you embark on a fruitful and exciting journey where you can learn and at the same time prove to be a valuable asset to your organization.
1. Make Time to Understand Your Business
For an MLCO to be effective, he/she must make the time to really learn and understand the business he/she is trying to protect. Writing policies, reading suspicious reports, monitoring and training become pointless if you do not understand the environment you are in and the needs of your peers at the front line. Take time to sit with them, engage in their day-to-day activities and make inquiries in regards to the challenges they face and issues with which they need help. Ask and be prepared to listen to what they have to say. That will help you truly understand what they are doing and how you can become a valuable and necessary partner.
2. There is No Shame in Training
People sometimes think that when they get their dream job they can avoid further training, mainly because they seem to have already proven that they are up to the challenge. I have news for you, this is not the case. There should be no shame in receiving training. Training should be continuous, even if you are repeating yourself. Try to find training opportunities in your area, in your town, in your country and internationally. Choose carefully and try to find those seminars or workshops that will help you in successfully discharging your duties. Trainings can even provide you with ideas for conducting your own training for your colleagues. There are many training opportunities on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF), but there are also more specialized ones about the role of the MLCO and writing MLCO reports. It is important to realize and appreciate that the costs for such trainings are very small when compared to the personal benefits you will receive and, more importantly, for your organization.
3. Seek Resources Outside of Your Immediate "Environment"
Do not concentrate just on the local legislation and the relevant regulatory guidelines or directives. Those are obviously important, but they are not enough. It is equally, if not more important to broaden your horizons. The European AML Directives apply across all of Europe, so you will find that there is more guidance out there that will help you understand your duties and how to be more effective. There is also useful guidance from U.S. regulators, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Australia, New Zealand and more—just use Google search. A number of professional bodies also offer free subscription newsletters on know your customer and AML, as well as general compliance and ethic matters.
The MLCO role requires a lot of critical thinking and analysis and accordingly I would advise you to set up your own library of guidance notes, training materials, presentations, articles and case studies. Organize these into folders and refer to them when you are uncertain about a situation or when you feel like confirming something before you make a business decision or provide advice.
Also, there are some useful and current books on AML and CTF, as well as general compliance management. They can be helpful both as a tool to get you started, but also as a reference, from time to time.
4. Memberships to Professional Organizations
Nowadays, one can find quite a few professional membership organizations for AML compliance professionals. One of the best ones to subscribe to is the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS). Becoming a member of one or more of these organizations opens the doors to abundant resources and practical tools to help you perform your duties and excel in what you do. Some of these organizations also offer training opportunities, seminars and conferences you can attend to become and stay current with what is happening in the AML world. Specifically, ACAMS offers the CAMS certification—the gold standard in AML certifications—and also organizes a number of conferences in Europe and the rest of the world. These are especially useful to anti-financial crime professionals.
5. Network, Network, Network
Attending relevant conferences in your country or abroad is a great way to meet with peers. Networking is very important in today's fast-paced environment. It is vital to exchange ideas, to share resources and experiences and to seek help. Many of the professional membership organizations described offer local chapters or forums where members can gather and organize relevant and specialized trainings, exchange ideas on the way they do things and even have fun together! Also, social media is very important—use LinkedIn or even Facebook and Twitter to follow professional bodies and professional membership organizations that share important news as they happen. You can then share what you have learned with your colleagues. Your colleagues will appreciate the valuable and relevant information you provide.
Contrary to popular belief, MLCOs can be an exciting, popular and innovative person, and a valuable asset to his/her colleagues and their organization. Remember to be open and welcoming, and embrace the challenges and prospects of your position and be prepared to make a difference.