Congratulations to the Southern California Chapter: The 2012 Chapter of the Year Award Recipient

Pictured L to R: Susan Wahba, Bryan Tinoco, Chuck Taylor, Andrea Winter, Liz Slim

The ACAMS Southern California Chapter launched on September 16, 2009 and currently has a membership of 70.

The ACAMS Southern California Chapter was formed in order to provide the anti-money laundering community with professional resources in support, guidance, training and peer interaction across industry lines. The chapter’s goal is to raise awareness and further educate and identify the issues that are specific to their region. The ACAMS Southern California Chapter has achieved their mission by hosting numerous learning events and providing their members with local networking opportunities.

ACAMS Today had the opportunity to speak with chapter co-chairs, Elizabeth Slim and Chuck Taylor, both from City National Bank.

ACAMS Today: How did you first become involved with the chapter?

Elizabeth Slim: ACAMS has been a great organization in furthering my career in the AML field and I wanted to see an ACAMS presence in Southern California. I was hoping that a chapter would be formed in the Los Angeles area and realized that it would not happen unless someone took the lead. In early 2009, I took it upon myself to work toward that goal of forming a local chapter. I made a few calls to fellow AML compliance officers to see if there would be an interest and if they would sign the Letter of Intent. It was not a difficult task as many were very supportive. I did the legwork of drafting the Letter of Interest, reached out to ACAMS members in the Los Angeles area to obtain his/her signature and with the support of ACAMS, well the rest is history — the Southern California Chapter was formed. It took several follow-up phone calls and emails to obtain the required 25 signatures but I was persistent. Once I was able to meet the requirements, everything fell into place. Several of the founding members volunteered for the various board positions, the West Coast AML Forum graciously allowed us to hold our inaugural mixer event in the evening during their Southern California AML conference and it was a great turnout which validated establishing this chapter. I have served as the founding co-chair since the inception and it has been an awesome and rewarding experience.

Chuck Taylor: I was contacted by Liz Slim to be a founding member of the chapter and attended the kick off meeting that she organized. At the meeting she asked for volunteers for board positions and I candidly told her I would fill any position other than secretary. I got a note from her later asking if I would fill the last position she had not filled: co-secretary. I accepted and am happy I did as it has been a great experience even while taking minutes. When the original co-chair resigned I was able to step in and leave the secretary role behind.

AT: How has the chapter helped financial crime prevention professionals in Southern California?

ES: Our chapter has been able to provide learning events that are unique to Southern California and present topics that are timely, such as Banking by the Border, Trade-Based Money Laundering, Ponzi Schemes and Law Enforcement Panel discussions that present cases relevant to our area. In addition, the learning events and mixers allow attendees to network. Attendance at our events has been a mix of Money Remittance/MSB companies, state and federal regulators, local law enforcement officers, consultants and compliance officers from financial institutions. These sessions bring value to organizations that are cutting costs in training due to budget restraints and it is satisfying knowing that we are able to provide quality events to our community that is free to chapter members or for a nominal fee to non-members.

CT: I think it has created a great vehicle for networking and learning about the specific issues that face the region. Many financial crime professionals do not have the time or budget to attend big conferences and we have been able to provide great content on a local level. The quality of learning events and presenters has been outstanding.

AT: What three things have contributed to the chapter’s success?

ES: Not sure I can name three things, but I firmly believe that having an active and supportive executive board has contributed to the chapter’s success. I can count on everyone to perform his/her function, make recommendations and jump in to help at learning events.

CT: I had to list four:

  1. Team Work — The board that we have works very well together. They gladly volunteer their time and are never short on opinions. In addition, we have a diverse group of perspectives as the board members are from various sectors of the field; bankers, vendors, consultants, former law enforcement etc.
  2. Programming — Our programming team has been phenomenal, currently Mikhail Reider-Gordon and John Everett. The quality and diversity of the programs and presenters they have been able to provide has been the main key to our success.
  3. Creativity — The board members are always thinking of ways to improve our processes and better meet the needs of our constituents. We have had membership drives, online surveys to solicit information from members, partnered with other groups on common topics, solicited sponsors and held events in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
  4. FUN — We always seem to have fun at our board meetings and events. I am sure that is a major factor in our success.

AT: Which chapter event was the most memorable?

ES: 1) Our inaugural mixer held on September 16, 2009. At that time, we had over 100 people RSVP which according to ACAMS was a record turnout for a new chapter and we were also honored to have Tom Fleming, assistant director of FinCEN as our guest speaker. It just proved to me that establishing an ACAMS Chapter in Southern California was the right thing to do. 2) In addition, we hosted a half day event last year titled “Internet Investigations.” We had two guest speakers and they just wowed the attendees by showing them how to use the internet to perform investigations. The attendees were captivated by what they learned and of course, the handouts were excellent.

CT: For me it was our Holiday Mixer/Learning Event in December 2011. We had an excellent panel made up of federal law enforcement who detailed the latest money laundering schemes being employed in the region. In addition, we invited two charities to attend the event and make brief presentations about their programs. The event concluded with a catered holiday meal and networking. We raised over $1,000 for the charities and had to politely ask people to leave when our time was up as they were having too much fun. It was a great event all around.

AT: What would you like to see the chapter accomplish in 2013?

ES: To continue to provide topics that are meaningful to our community of AML professionals, reach out to other industries such as insurance, casinos and broker/dealers and be able to hold events in the more outlying areas such as San Diego and Ventura County.

CT: I would like to see our membership continue to grow. We are already discussing new ways to attract members in 2013. In addition, I am hoping we can continue to provide value to our membership and build upon our past successes by providing even better learning events and networking opportunities. We are also planning on retaining the title of Chapter of the Year in 2013, so watch out other chapters!

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

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