ACAMS Today had the opportunity to interview four key people who have played an integral part in shaping ACAMS and ACAMS Today.
ACAMS Today spoke with John J. Byrne, the current ACAMS executive vice president, Saskia Rietbroek, the first executive director of ACAMS, Perla Ortiz, a former contributor to the ACAMS Today and Dan Soto, the first ACAMS advisory board chairman.
ACAMS Today: What was the vision for the AT when it started?
John Byrne: To provide both compliance professionals and government representatives with essential detail behind relevant AML laws and regulations.
Saskia Rietbroek: When ACAMS Today first started I was wearing many hats. I was the executive director of ACAMS, and in charge of the day-to-day operations of a young and growing association, but also co-instructor of the exam preparation seminars, editor of the exam preparation materials, chair of the examination taskforce and editor of ACAMS Today. The March 2002 “inaugural issue” had only four pages. Later it was issued once every two months with eight pages and eventually we expanded it to 12 pages. Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for focused communication with our constituency. We wanted to position it differently than existing publications such as Money Laundering Alert by focusing more on the “human element” and “soft skills” of the AML professional. With ACAMS’ membership surging, we were able to have real-life input from the members in the following issues, such as career notes (promotions, job postings), insights from the ACAMS advisory board, member profile and a section called “In Your Words.” In addition, ACAMS Today was also issued in Spanish.
Perla Ortiz: At its infancy, ACAMS Today was one of the main member benefits given to its small but growing membership. The focus of AT was that of more in-depth articles that were mostly written by fellow members who were also industry leaders. This truly started a sense of information sharing amongst the compliance community. Since members of the association are such an integral part of AT, it has truly transcended throughout all the different educational events the association hosts and given a great sense of collaboration not only in the U.S. but worldwide.
Dan Soto: When AT started, it was clear that we needed to “get the message out” about ACAMS—who we were, why ACAMS mattered. At the time, Internet magazines were not as popular as they are today and having a magazine meant ACAMS had some swagger!
AT: What is the most memorable AT issue or article?
JB: For me, the recent article about how Al Capone’s criminal activities are still clear examples of money laundering. This article was both interesting and entertaining.
SR: I always liked the section “In Your Words” where we asked different members to answer the same question. We then evaluated the responses we received, and published three or four. Out of the three or four we published, we selected a winner and they received a free membership renewal. Some of the questions we asked in 2004 or 2005 such as “How can a compliance professional convince his or her superiors that compliance is an asset on the balance sheet, not a liability?” would still be applicable today.
PO: There have been many memorable articles throughout the years. The one article that resonated with me lately was the Al Capone article by Mark Webber in the September 2011 issue. I truly enjoyed reading it and so much so that I took advantage of the fact that he lives in the Bay Area and invited him to speak at the first Northern California Chapter event of 2012. Everyone, including me, truly enjoyed how the story of Al Capone unraveled and how techniques utilized back then are still being used today.
DS: The most memorable AT is the March-May 2011 edition because it contains an article published by Kevin Anderson and Melissa Morelli, both with whom I worked very closely when I first moved into the private sector with Bank of America.
AT: How has the state of AML changed from the beginning until now and how has the publication evolved to adapt and give insight into those new challenges?
JB: The biggest change is the expansion of duties well beyond AML. Today’s professional needs to understand and excel in the prevention of fraud, corruption and detection of sanction avoidance. These issues, coupled with the challenges associated with reporting human trafficking, elder care abuse and cyber fraud ensures that ACAMS Today will never be lacking in topics for the AML community.
SR: Initially AT was focused on purely AML. I now see more articles on issues such as corruption and other types of fraud. This is in line with the convergence of AML and fraud.
PO: This field is continuously changing and evolving. Along with that, AT has been able to evolve into a publication that brings significant educational material to compliance professionals around the world.
DS: The sophistication of money laundering schemes continues to evolve and the articles published in AT by AML professionals to simplify the schemes for other AML professionals continues to amaze me.
AT: Where do you see the magazine progressing in the future?
JB: With the addition of our online content, AT will continue to stay ahead of the pack covering AML challenges, wherever that takes us. For example, providing more interviews with industry and government leaders will give the AML community information on policy and legal direction worldwide.
SR: There will probably be more online content, with interactive features such as “like” or forward, and availability on the iPad.
PO: I think AT is in a great place at the moment. The publication is a great educational tool for compliance professional’s worldwide. In my opinion, the publication will not only continue to do the same but become the industry standard for educational content.
DS: I see AT continuing to progress with a combination of the private and public sectors working together to address schemes before they “adversely” affect the financial sector.
AT: What do you like about the AT and what would you like to see it focus on more?
JB: The coverage of global topics has been a valuable part of the AT delivery to our members and we are committed to continue in that direction.
SR: I like the variety and the quality of the articles. I would like to see more practical interviews with members about their daily work and challenges.
PO: I enjoy the guidance articles written by our peers. These articles bring practical knowledge to your everyday as well as inform the community on new trends and hot topics from around the world. AT is definitely a great resource for the busy compliance professionals because it provides great guidance material for compliance professionals all over the world.
DS: The diversity of articles in AT is a real plus and I would recommend that you continue to focus on bringing practical solutions to such a wide audience.