Tanya Montoya: It’s All About Risk Assessment

ACAMS Today spoke with Tanya Montoya, senior product development manager at ACAMS, about ACAMS Risk Assessment and human trafficking.

As senior product development manager for ACAMS, Montoya is responsible for the management and strategic oversight of ACAMS Risk Assessment®, the association’s first risk assessment software designed to offer financial institutions worldwide, a standardized means of measuring, understanding and explaining their money laundering risks.

During her five-year tenure with the organization, Montoya has taken the product from inception to a full launch and forged strategic relationships and partnerships with key industry members in both the public and private sectors, comprised of anti-money laundering (AML) thought leaders from global financial institutions and banking regulatory authorities. In this capacity, Montoya is also responsible for the full governance and audit of this critical software tool as it relates to global AML best practices, guidance, regulation and cybersecurity. Through these endeavors, Montoya is able to extend her expertise and knowledge in the space to ACAMS Risk Assessment users that seek guidance in the application and implementation of the tool against their institution’s own risk assessment obligations.

In addition to her principal responsibilities, Montoya chairs the ACAMS Fight Against Human Trafficking Committee, a cause she holds dear to her heart, which develops employee volunteer programs and collaborates with organizations worldwide to assist in the fight against this heinous crime.

Prior to joining ACAMS, Montoya held over 15 years in strategic management for a wide range of corporations, industries and governmental organizations. Montoya holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Florida International University.

ACAMS Today: How has the ACAMS Risk Assessment tool evolved since its launch in December 2014?

Tanya Montoya: The tool was developed with the basis that its evolution would depend on three major factors: global authoritative guidance and regulatory updates, subject-matter expert and user feedback, and cybersecurity protocols and best practices. Since the launch, we have kept our promise by staying abreast of the latest global guidance and regulatory updates and by making enhancements accordingly. From updating our country risk rating at least three times a year in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s plenary sessions to launching our securities module in September 2016 to meet the AML risk assessment needs of the securities financial segment worldwide. Our latest addition, launched this summer, is a full suspicious activity report assessment category developed to support the needs of institutions looking to risk rate their internal controls.

AT: What was the biggest challenge when building the product from its inception to its launch?

TM: I would say that our biggest challenge became our biggest strength. With the support of our advisory board and John J. Byrne at the helm, we understood the importance of ensuring the standards set by the tool were truly global in nature. This meant our product development and launch schedule would be longer and require more extensive reviews and consensus than if we had based the content solely on U.S. guidance and regulation. Our commitment to setting global standards has paid off in that we are able to reach all regions with our offering. In the end, the fight against financial crimes is a worldwide endeavor and it is an honor for ACAMS to be able to support a financial institution’s efforts in mitigating risk no matter the jurisdiction.

AT: What is your favorite component of the software and why?

TM: I would say more than any particular feature or benefit, it is our relationship with our users and the AML community at large that is at the top of my list. We have a user group that meets about three times a year, where I, along with Jeremy Thompson, our technical program manager, and Dr. Richard Harms, our lead subject-matter expert, have the unique opportunity to receive direct feedback that is used back at the home office for future product roadmapping. In between meetings, our open door policy with everyone using the application has benefited both parties immensely. Likewise, working with both the institutions and global regulatory bodies has afforded the risk assessment team with a priceless opportunity to keep working toward meeting our vision of offering institutions worldwide a standardized means of measuring, understanding and explaining their money laundering risks.

AT: As a longtime advocate for human trafficking (HT) awareness, can you tell us how you first became involved in fighting this heinous crime?

TM: Raised in Colombia, South America, I remember at 15-16 years old, seeing many girls my age going overseas with the promise of legitimate job placements that would enable them to help their families back home. Soon after, we learned of their true fate and it became “the elephant in the room” at many social gatherings. The silence on this started to become deafening to me. Later on as an adult, I decided to conduct research on the subject, and it was Nicholas Kristof’s book Half the Sky that paved the road for me to do more to break the silence.

AT: Tell us more about what the ACAMS Fight Against Human Trafficking Committee is currently doing to help fight HT?

TM: We have three main objectives: awareness, community engagement and strategic collaboration to make a global impact. Currently, as Polaris Freedom Circle members, we are helping disseminate their most recent report, “The Typology of Modern Slavery” to our members. We are also supporting Kristi House, a local organization in Miami, Florida in their efforts as well.

AT: As an avid reader, what book are you currently reading?

TM: I’m reading two actually: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, and The Circle by Dave Eggers.

Interviewed by: Alexa Serrano, CAMS, editorial assistant, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA, aserrano@acams.org

In need of an AML Risk Assessment tool? ACAMS Risk Assessment® is the first AML risk assessment software of its kind to provide an automated means of measuring, understanding and explaining an institution's money laundering risks. To request a free demonstration, visit http://www.acamsriskassessment.com/. You may also reach us directly via email at riskassessment@acams.org.

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