My Journey into Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance

I began elementary school in the mid-80s and didn’t know until later in life that I lived in the epicenter of the Cocaine Cowboys era which was the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.

This era (as showcased in the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” and worth checking out on Netflix) spanned nearly two decades (the 70’s and 80’s). The widespread drug-related money laundering activity helped visually transform the city of Miami into the vibrant metropolis that it is today.

70’s Miami
Miami Today

What Would You Like to be When You Grow Up?

In kindergarten (or maybe even sooner), we were all asked this proverbial question. I believe my first response was either a police officer or baseball player. From what I remember, I do not recall any of my classmates uttering the words “Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Professional”.

On a large scale, the AML profession is relatively a newer profession and lacks the mainstream prominence required to land on a kindergartener’s radar today.

I doubt he is thinking about terrorist financing.

Despite the lack of mainstream appeal, AML is one of the hottest fields in the banking industry. With strengthened regulations for financial institutions, AML professionals will rise above disposable asset status, since the profession has the staying power to remain relevant for decades to come. In fact, the University of South Florida recently developed a Graduate Certificate program for Compliance, Risk and Anti-Money Laundering. Furthermore, the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) has partnered with Charles Sturt University to offer a Masters of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing. If these universities can spot the uptick in the demand for Anti-Money Laundering professionals, then other universities will soon follow suit.

How My Journey Began

Since obtaining my Bachelor’s degree from Florida St. University in 2002, I have worked a variety of jobs from Language Arts teacher at a charter school to working as a staff writer at a national publication (The National Notary).

I was first introduced to banking as a career in 2006. I was employed as a Universal Sales and Service Banker at Wells Fargo Bank in Concord, CA. It was a call center environment where I provided assistance to customer concerns over the phone and upsold Wells Fargo’s products and services on the back end. The job itself was decent. I quickly developed a track record of success and earned numerous awards, which highlighted my excellence. Nearly two years passed and I felt the need to explore other opportunities within banking. Opportunities that allowed me to further utilize the skills and experience that I accumulated from previous employment, along with my educational background.

During the spring of 2008, I have a little bit of down time while visiting family in Tampa, FL and began browsing job listings on CareerBuilder. I noticed quite a few postings from different employment agencies each advertising openings for Anti-Money Laundering Analysts. The pizazz of the job title itself was enough to pique my interest which clearly seemed way more exciting than working in a call center. My vision could have been a scene from Miami Vice.

I pictured myself behind a computer and conversing with law enforcement as soon as I spotted criminal bank account activity. My daydream progressed to law enforcement apprehending the criminals and giving me high fives for a job well done. Once I snapped back into reality, I quickly updated my resume and submitted it to the employment agency.

It didn’t take long to hear back from the recruiter, who screened me over the phone before inviting me into his office for a face to face interview. At the face to face interview, the recruiter gave me much more detailed information about the actual position and it was definitely a far cry from my Miami Vice vision. The job detail did involve transaction monitoring; however, there was no direct contact with law enforcement. Upon hearing this, the excitement factor did wane a bit but not enough to turn down the opportunity. The position was at Citi, which has a large, beautiful campus in Tampa, visible from I-75.

The job itself was an entry level position where on the job training was provided. On day one, I found myself in a sink or swim environment with a training class of roughly 50 people of various career backgrounds. Training was broken down into two phases, which lasted about one month each. Phase one covered money laundering and introduced the history, along with key terms and legislation that solidified the need for our position. During this phase, turnover was extremely high and the field of roughly 50 trainees dwindled down to nearly 25 by the time the second phase began. Phase two delved into transaction monitoring and remediating different types of sample cases. Our total number of trainees took another hit and by the time we were placed on the floor with the veteran analysts, our number shrunk to 15. I spent almost two years at Citi before my temporary assignment ended.

In 2016, I am closing in on my ninth year in the AML profession and have become a boat-burning road warrior that has done AML projects in Minneapolis and the DC Metro area.

As previously stated, AML is a relatively newer profession with little to no mainstream appeal. With that being said, we all have unique journeys as to how we were introduced to the AML profession. I invite everyone to share their individual journeys to AML/BSA Compliance.

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Follow me on Twitter: @RavonTaylorIII or @AMLSolutions

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