The New ACAMS Brand: The Journey

The idea of improving the world while also changing how you interact with it is best articulated by Leo Tolstoy, who famously said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.”

ACAMS decided it wanted to do both. With help, guidance and support from a global financial crime prevention community peppered across 175 countries and jurisdictions globally, we embarked on the mammoth task of affecting positive internal and external change. The task was challenging, as our members around the world relate to and are very passionate about the ACAMS brand. What added complexity to the project canvas was the parallel task of a full website redesign for ACAMS’ global membership base. This process entailed an improved user experience, with streamlined training being adapted for nine different languages.

The launch of the new ACAMS brand follows over 100 hours of interviews and meetings with members, partners and employees across six continents, nearly a dozen rounds of testing with focus groups and the consideration of more than 165 logos and design directions.

I was incredibly honored and humbled to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading this initiative that began in January 2019. What was clear from the start was that we needed to heed feedback from our members indicating that we needed a world-class brand that reflected the best of our legacy while keeping an eye on our collective future. Having previously led global brand strategies for Kellogg’s and Sony Electronics, I led this project through three distinct stages: discovery, value proposition and design.

Following the nearly four-month discovery phase, where we solicited industry feedback on what ACAMS means to our members, the project shifted to whiteboard debates among management and the core brand team on how to align the findings and key insights with a new brand identity and corporate strategy. Then came the design phase, when everything had to be translated in a way that reflected the association’s re-energized outlook.

Perhaps the most obvious change is the ACAMS logo: a simple but distinct and somewhat bold design that was literally colored by feedback from our members around the world who pointed out the potentially sensitive cultural nuances and local perceptions of visual elements in preliminary designs that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. With the aim of finding a logo that would best represent ACAMS membership across more than 175 countries and jurisdictions, the rebranding team went back to the drawing board to rework its initial drafts.

A less obvious change, though one of arguably more importance, is a rethink of what ACAMS represents. When our association was first launched in 2001, the world was a different place. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, “compliance” often served as shorthand for anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing, and so the organization began as the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists.

Since those early days, compliance expectations have broadened, and not just for banks and other traditional financial institutions. Today, businesses ranging from digital banks to cryptocurrency exchanges to real estate agencies must implement AML compliance policies and procedures designed to detect and report illicit financial activity. At the same time, the scope of financial crime has grown as well, with new efforts to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade, human trafficking and modern-day slavery, domestic terrorism and other criminal activity that was once outside the purview of compliance.

In light of these changes, the rebranding also signals our broader efforts in the anti-financial crime space with a simplified but familiar name that represents more than AML compliance: ACAMS. Just like International Business Machines with IBM and United Parcel Service with UPS before it, we have embraced the simple and succinct.

However, the rebranding is not only about aesthetics and name recognition. A fundamental part of the project involved deploying localized content to better serve our members around the world as well as enhance how members apply for certifications and take part in online training. Thought-leadership initiatives are also in the works to align with the ACAMS website’s new interface.

The brand’s refresh and enhanced online experience is only the start. The ACAMS product and subject-matter expert (SME) teams are working tirelessly to introduce new training opportunities for members and partners tasked with preventing new methods in financial crime. The ACAMS events team is reshaping how the financial crime prevention community comes together in a time of unprecedented challenges and travel restrictions. Behind it all, the ACAMS marketing team is helping members make the best use of our resources, whether they are attending a virtual conference, studying for a certification or accessing content created by our network of SMEs.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one can do it alone. The changes at ACAMS are not the work of a handful of people who have never met a financial crime compliance officer. They are the outcome of listening to the community at large and representing the passionate individuals who are doing their part to end financial crime and make the world a better place. 

Fernando Beozzo Salomao, global director marketing, ACAMS

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