Meet the ACAMS Staff – Sonia Leon, Head of Latin America

Sonia Leon, Latin America, ACAMS

Sonia Leon was born and raised in Colombia. After studying marketing, Leon joined Kraft Foods as a sales supervisor. She was in charge of a robust product-promoter group and responsible for leading the line of business-specific strategies. Leon relocated to the United States in 2004 and joined ACAMS eight years ago as an account executive. She was responsible for the growth of ACAMS' members in the Latin American region and developing strong relationships with financial institutions and government entities to help them meet their anti-money laundering (AML) and financial crime training needs. As a result of her dedication and commitment to the members in the region, in 2012, Leon was promoted as head of Latin America. In addition, Leon finished her MBA program in March and she is also fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

ACAMS Today: Describe your current role and responsibilities?

Sonia Leon: In my new role as the head of Latin America, I am responsible for the strategic direction of the region. I am leading the company's efforts to provide members with substantial benefits that meet the training needs of the financial crime detection and prevention professionals in Latin America. I am also directing country-specific strategies with an emphasis in establishing long-term partnerships with banking and other professional associations. These partnerships will offer our members extensive resources designed to develop and sharpen the skills required for superior job performance and career advancement.

AT: You have been with ACAMS for eight years, how has the ACAMS community evolved since you first started working for the association?

SL: Financial crime detection and prevention professionals today have a more demanding job, with the increase of regulations and the transition to a more global financial system. Today, professionals are more conscientious about the importance of training and the development of superior skills required to protect their institutions. In today's world, it is pivotal to maintain effective anti-money laundering and financial crime training programs.

AT: What will be the hot topics discussed at the Latin American conference in July?

SL: ACAMS returns to Cancun, Mexico in 2013 for its 7th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference. This event is Latin America's most extensive financial crime prevention forum, professionals will have the opportunity to engage with industry leaders on a number of crucial topics, such as:

  • Implementing FATCA and avoiding penalties
  • How international standards and AML laws impact Latin-American countries
  • Analyzing the newest financial crime typologies affecting Latin America
  • Executing FATF recent recommendations and analyzing the new mutual evaluation criteria
  • Conducting Know Your Customer and Enhanced Due Diligence Procedures
  • Regional highlights: Identifying trends, challenges and best practices in AML compliance in the Latin-American region
  • How criminals are integrating U.S. dollars to countries with dollar restrictions
  • Implementing a solid anti-bribery and anti-corruption program

AT: What obstacles will compliance professionals in Latin America face in 2013?

SL: Latin American financial institutions are learning to be more international and to provide several global financial services. By building a strong global compliance program that addresses the increase in U.S. and local regulatory changes, achieving regional and U.S. examiners expectations and keeping up-to-date with the latest financial crime typologies is one of the biggest obstacles compliance professionals in Latin America face in 2013. 

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

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