The world is changing rapidly, and the illicit financial threats we face are growing more complex. In today’s anti-financial crime (AFC) community, there is a heated battle over who can successfully negotiate these challenges. Organizations are looking for hardworking, adaptable, trustworthy, resilient and mission-oriented people with can-do attitudes to combat financial crime and mitigate risk effectively. There is an experienced talent pool with these skills (and many more) that is not yet being fully tapped—our military veteran community.
Every year, U.S. Veterans Day falls on November 11. It is a day in which the nation collectively honors “America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”1 We honor the men and women, both past and present, who have served the nation in defense of freedom. In advance of this federal holiday this year, ACAMS is launching a series of articles that will feature veterans in the AFC community, from describing the value and skills that veterans bring to the AFC workforce to highlighting organizations that excel at attracting and retaining veteran talent, to spotlighting veterans who successfully transitioned from the military to AFC roles.
What Veterans Bring to the AFC Workforce
Why do veterans make an excellent fit for the AFC community? AFC professionals are tasked with doing the right thing in the right way. Within a financial institution, for example, AFC professionals are expected to serve as credible, trusted partners who bring an unbiased and balanced view to protecting businesses, clients and communities from the harms associated with financial crime while also enabling safe and sustainable growth—all of which are in the skill set offered by veterans. The best AFC professionals take a holistic view of the risks they help manage and incorporate diverse and forward-thinking perspectives to drive timely and effective decision-making. Through professional experience and training, veterans have the core values and skills needed to make significant contributions to the AFC community. And what they do not know on day one, they will quickly learn. Included below are some of the most important characteristics or attributes that veterans typically bring into civilian roles.
- Adaptability: Due to the nature of the jobs, rotations, deployments and constant change in training and doctrine, veterans learn to adapt and overcome in a dynamic environment. Learning curves are often steep, and most military personnel will change assignments every 18-24 months, often requiring them to learn a new technical skill set.
- Teamwork: Another area where the military shines is driving and reinforcing teamwork skills. Service members learn the importance of supporting one another and trusting that those around them will do their part to ensure the success of the mission or task. Since being mission-oriented is a common part of the military experience, veterans excel at collaboration.
- Resourcefulness/problem solving: Military resources are often limited, especially in austere operating environments, which forces veterans to quickly become adept at finding creative solutions to problems.
- Resilience: Veterans must perform their jobs under some of the most stressful situations imaginable. Military personnel are required to set priorities, accomplish missions and meet schedules daily. With this responsibility comes added pressure and stress, but veterans are trained to handle these factors in constructive ways. That means veterans are less likely to crack under pressure, even on the busiest or most stressful days in the workplace.
- Discipline: Veterans tend to develop a high level of professional and personal discipline. Military culture dictates punctuality, preparedness and accomplishing tasks to standard and time. You can count on veterans to be in the right place at the right time (and in the right uniform). Actually, they will probably be there a little early.
- Diversity and cultural awareness: Constant rotations, deployments and mobilizations create an appreciation for different worldviews. These assignments expose veterans to different cultures, languages and religions, which they learn to respect, understand and appreciate.
- Decisiveness: Veterans develop strong decision-making skills as they progress through the ranks and learn to assess the situation, identify resources needed and create detailed, feasible plans to meet the mission or task at hand. Veterans are trained to act and make decisions in life-and-death situations—they are quick and intentional in their actions.
- Continuous improvement: Military members receive rigorous training, producing highly motivated employees who set ambitious goals for themselves. They learn to work toward greater efficiency, pay close attention to detail, ask for guidance when needed and exercise self-discipline in professional settings.
- Proactive mindset: Veterans are self-starters driven to get the job done right the first time. They are comfortable with ambiguity and tend to be highly autonomous. Veterans know how to analyze and resolve difficult and complex problems without constant guidance from supervisors.
- Leadership: Perhaps most importantly, leadership is a fundamental skill that all veterans acquire during their tenure in the military. Each service member is taught to lead by example and guide others with an expert hand, ensuring the success of not just each individual but also the broader group. Since veterans are highly aware of what it takes to lead effectively and the importance of letting others lead, they integrate well into all organizational structures.
Attracting Veteran Talent
If your organization does not already have a veteran hiring effort or strategy, there are a few simple ways to get started.
- Start by leveraging your existing veteran talent pool to help guide and advise you. Figure out who they are and get to know them. Many leading organizations benefit from a veteran- and military service member-oriented employee resource group (ERG). ERGs are “voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve.”2 They can help foster and maintain an inclusive and engaging corporate culture where people are valued for who they are and the ways in which they contribute. A veteran-focused ERG in your organization will help champion veteran perspectives through discussions with past and present service members, and they can serve as critical partners to your human resources/recruitment staff and corporate sustainability teams.
- Next, strategically partner with one of the many amazing veteran-focused nonprofit and service organizations. Many of these organizations have dedicated hiring programs and access to the veterans you seek. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers numerous online resources that support veteran recruitment, workforce integration and retention process, including free online training and hiring toolkits.
Retaining Veteran Talent
How do you integrate veteran talent into your company and retain these key contributors? As with recruitment, ERGs can play a critical role in the successful integration of veterans into your corporate culture and support longer-term retention. If established and run correctly—and supported by senior leadership—they can essentially serve as the voice of veterans within your respective organizations. Colleagues need not be veterans themselves to join but can serve as allies who can advocate for veterans-related issues, such as military-friendly policies for reservists and guardsmen.
- ERGs connect veterans with one another and can enable professional development and mentorship in your organization. They also provide a forum for colleagues to discuss issues faced by veterans, military personnel and families/friends within the workplace.
In addition, to better support colleagues who continue to serve in a reserve or guard capacity, employers can engage with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program.3 ESGR was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers and has a presence in every state. This will help your colleagues continue their military service while also supporting the company.
The difference-making talent an organization needs to fight financial crime is out there in the veterans community. You can help build and sustain pathways to welcome these courageous and highly competent people into your teams with just a few simple steps. In doing so, you will provide them with an opportunity to fight financial crime and positively impact your organization.
- “History of Veterans Day—Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, July 20, 2015, https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp
- Claire Hastwell, “What Are Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?” Great Place to Work, January 7, 2020, https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/what-are-employee-resource-groups-ergs
- “Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve,” ESGR.mil, https://esgr.mil/