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  • Writer's pictureD.R.

How to be a better financial crime professional in 2021 – Part 2 - Technology, Risk & More

The previous blog post on how to be a better financial crime professional in 2021 is focused on learning. In this one, we summarized the remainder of the advice received from our guests. These include technology skills development, understanding risk, and tips for networking, personal branding, and learning from our mistakes. Let's dive in.


Martin Markiewicz from Silent Eight told us how to focus on getting more comfortable with new technology.

This can be by mastering some kind of excel formulas or just making sure that when you have data and you have a computer, you can tell the computer to do something and get insight out of these data. You may decide to start on very hardcore programming like learning some SQL or python and trying to write your own piece of software or script. But you don't have to go this far.

“You have a lot of tools like Microsoft Excel that you can actually dive deeper and become real expert in using all the built in functions. Being on the path of tech literacy, you're getting more and more fluent with advance technologies and that in many industries is the only way forward, including compliance”.

This is how all these jobs will be transformed in the future. So being able to work with technology, that's the best bet someone can make when investing in themselves.

Similarly, the recommendation of Shub from PiChain was also related to technology and how to focus on what matters.

Shub shared that one part of the compliance profession is being expert on regulations, another part is technology. He suggests to compliance officers to start digging deeper into the technology piece and start adopting more technology. Because in his view, in the future there will be technology aiding the compliance professionals which will allow them to focus more on what they do best - identifying non-compliance. Compliance professionals have to adapt and learn more about how AI systems and systems of the future can aid them in their job and lead to upgrading to the next step.

Risk Management and Risk-Based Approach

If you go to work every single day, then you're taking risks, you might get killed, you might have a car crash, you might have rainy days and you might get wet. So what do you do? Would you avoid going to work, would you take an umbrella, not to cross the path with red lights? There are lots of things one can do.

One of the lessons which Alexander Dill shares with his students at UCLA is on risk management, and this is because it is very important to the understanding of risk. Here is why:

“There's a two-part process to compliance. In enforcement actions, I see this all the time. You design the compliance policies and procedures and that's where the risk assessment comes in. You try and understand what risks are, what risk management is, and then develop policies and procedures. The second part is the implementation and enforcement phase of compliance. Many times that's where it breaks down.”

Alexander explained what the DOJ calls cosmetic compliance. It’s having the policies and procedures, but what do you do with them?

While speaking about cryptocurrency crimes with Mary-Liis, she told us how important is for different financial institutions to understand risk, risk appetite, and risk-based approach.

She believes to prepare better for the future of financial crimes, compliance professionals need to understand what their obligations are, how to depict suspicious activity, and how to report the suspicious activity.

On one hand, the industry needs to understand virtual currencies and that there is a legal obligation to report suspicious transactions. And also in the classical banking sense, we need to learn more about how to use a risk-based approach. Normally, a risk-based approach does not require avoiding risks, it means that we accept a certain level of risk, but we need to make sure also we mitigate unacceptable risks. Mari-Liis’ recommendation for all financial institutions is to use digitalization, automatization, AI, robotics. There is loads of data available and technology that can be combined with human intelligence, and use those tools to mitigate risks and prevent financial crime. She also said:

“Businesses need to take compliance as a partner and compliance needs to deliver their message as a partner. They are not acting as a prohibition officers in the bank and their goal is not to say "no" or "yes", their goal is to manage the risks.”

In her observations, more and more financial institutions and compliance professionals would like to use a rule-based approach instead of a risk-based approach. Therefore, in a formal way, they would like to comply but in essence, they are not doing too much to mitigate the risks.

“We have to understand that in each and every business we are taking risks. If you think about financial institutions, their main goal is not to mitigate risks, the main goal is to help consumers get loans, to help them conduct their transactions, not to mitigate risks.”

But as a compliance professional, you need to understand what a risk appetite is, what the activities are or what actions you are taking to mitigate the risks. None of the regulators or supervisory bodies are saying to stop the innovation, or “please don't do this or that”. That's why a risk-based approach exists and people can actually assess their own risks and then agree on which customers they want to serve, what are the consequences if they are servicing these customers, what are the risk mitigation actions.

Career Plan

If you just recently started your new role in compliance – what next? How to craft a good plan? Ruzaan Karwa spoke about how important it is after becoming good at what you do to meet with others and learn from them.

“If you're already inside the doors, firstly you need to build your plan within the team so that your expertise and knowledge are showcased.”

Maybe it's time to consider certifications or designations if you don’t have any. Research them and if needed reach out to others who can help you get a good sense of what is preferred on the market. Through certifications, you will be able to portrait your expertise now.

Ruzaan recognizes that in larger organizations often there are small units and siloes. This means that you might be doing only one particular task or set of tasks in a department or role, maybe ones you are in and you are good with it and become an expert, it's time to learn other things within the anti-financial crime domain being so large. Learn what other departments do, how they operate, how this is connected to what you do.

That's what helps you think about the broader picture in AML. Operating in silos means you will master only a set of tasks.

Ruzaan shares his experience too: “What actually helped me was when I got to learn a bit more about the other side of things - triage, name screening, transaction monitoring, sanctions, EDD. I got that opportunity to have conversations with other folks in different departments of AML at bigger banks and ask them what they do and how is it different than I do”.

“Those conversations are well-educated, well-aware of the role and they lead to good connections and maybe to that future role that you may want to get.”

Once you know about the role, you have that practical knowledge, it's easier to just go and apply for the position. Your resume will speak the right keywords, on your interview you will make an impression that you’re knowledgeable despite not having the exact experience.


We are often being told that networking is important for our careers. In 2020 the networking game took different forms and dimensions. We had more time to learn how to connect better online, share our stories, and learn from our peers. Compliance Time spoke with Ruzaan Karwa and Stephen Brent Sargent who shared their views on how to master networking and be authentic when connecting with others.

Ruzaan mentioned that networking can create a learning platform for you in which you gain knowledge by talking to people with different backgrounds, from different industries or subindustries. Networking is a two-way street – you help each other and this way you both grow. It is a growth mechanism. Additionally, it can help you get referred for new job opportunities. You can get firsthand information about the environment and values of the company, is it suitable for your skills. Based on all that, you can prepare to highlight your unique selling points (USPs) and create a resume or use them during an interview to help you stand out.

What are the mistakes we make while trying to network? Stephen said a very large number of people just reach out looking for jobs. And he shared that’s not a good way to connect. He teaches how to build meaningful connections. Stephen advised that you should reach out to people with the aim to build a genuine connection, not to ask them for a job.

Sometimes the job market is rough and people get desperate. Have you ever gotten one of those messages on LinkedIn where someone’s first message to you is a CV and a question for a job in the company you work at? This desperation and attitude towards networking are the exact reasons why the candidate is not getting hired. Hiring managers are looking for people with confidence and resourcefulness. Stephen’s networking challenge for job seekers is “to show people the ability to connect with somebody and get them to reply”. Just because you sent somebody a connection, it doesn't mean that they would automatically reply to you, especially if you're telling them about how many years of experience you have. They already know that you're fishing for a job. One piece of advice – ask a genuine question for the person you’re trying to connect with. Look at their profile and biography on LinkedIn, and add your own personality and curiosity in the message.

Personal Branding

As Stephen greatly put it:

“Applying to jobs is easy. We know now LinkedIn automates a lot. You just need to make several clicks and you’re done. But often this is not a great formula for success.”

What can help is personal branding. Next, we explored how personal branding in compliance looks like.

Although compliance is a field dominated by legislation and regulations, there are many creative people who rarely show their skills, as nobody has really stepped out of the box and done something different.

To Stephen personal brand is “the story that people are going to be telling when you are not there. It’s the value that you've brought to somebody but you're not there to actually hear the conversation”.

The struggle with personal branding for lots of people is that they are trying to do things that would probably get them a job instead of doing things that come naturally and are authentic to them. This way, without realizing it, they are omitting the things sought for when people are hiring. Anyone can hire a person with 6 years of AML or KYC experience but they want to know you - what are your extracurricular activities?

This is why applying for jobs is easy and that's why you see hundreds of applicants on jobs two days after the post on LinkedIn. Whereas writing your own blog or vlog, or doing videos about AML - that's tough work.

Stephen believes if professionals start understanding how the job market actually works, then they will focus more on their personal brand. Another component of building your personal brand is posting online. Often people are really scared to share online. The fear is related to what their current employer thinks or some relative/connection. But getting yourself out there is a great way to start a conversation and build true connections – people will comment on your post or message you. You can seek advice when posting or ask for assistance with your current struggles.

Learning from Mistakes

And for the final, let’s prepare for the future by learning from our mistakes. We can enter with the right mindset and follow our plan to get that dream job or place we want to be in. This is what Stephen identified as the most common issue which job seekers are faced with: “on 100% - mindset”.

Commonly, job seekers often don’t know what job they look for. They are just applying for everything which has certain keywords in the title like "AML" without asking themselves first – “what are my job requirements, where do I want to work, what do I want to do, what do I want to get paid”. According to Stephen what really helps in answering all these and more questions is to write down your dream job. In the process of writing out your dream job description, you are shifting your mindset towards looking at what you want.

And Ruzaan reminded us not to lose hope, even if sometimes is tough. A lot of people fall into the “apply, apply, no reply” route which is very discouraging. When you reach a certain number of job applications and no results or meaningful feedback is received, it is time to change your strategy. If you failed, then maybe something is not working but you can still learn from it. The biggest mistake is if you aren’t talking about your experience. Seek a mentor, get another set of eyes on your resume, and get insight on how to improve.

Together with hope, Ruzaan also advises us to keep our curiosity alive. Learn new keywords particular for the domain you would like to work in, read articles, and thoughtfully incorporate all that into a resume.

Finally, once you land that job, do not stop there. When this happens people stop networking, connecting with others, attending sessions. Look at the new job as a milestone in your career journey.

We hope you enjoyed this summary of the rewind episode, and all the tips and advises we shared today would be useful on your career path. Subscribe from our homepage to receive monthly updates.

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