As an anti-money laundering (AML) practitioner, I particularly like this quote from Reuters: “The kings of Wall Street used to be the traders and investment bankers who said yes to big deals and big trades, but today’s power brokers increasingly are the compliance officers who quite often say no to risky proposals.1When I read these words, I feel a certain secret joy. Nowadays, everyone in financial institutions knows compliance and financial crimes/AML professionals are hot, sought after commodities. When most other functions are cost cutting, the AML function continues to grow, in both budget and recruiting, and at a rapid pace.

This is good news for my fellow AML practitioners, especially those in the market to switch roles! But for hiring managers, this is a constant headache.

In a recent AML breakfast roundtable we hosted in Hong Kong, the most heated discussion was around talent management. Financial institutions share the same concerns around high turnover rates within their financial crimes compliance departments. Firms also face huge demands in their Know Your Customer, investigation, and monitoring and surveillance spaces due to the expanding responsibilities created by evolving regulatory requirements.

Also, the type of skillsets enterprises are looking for are more diverse than in the past. Regulatory and compliance knowledge is not going to be enough. Financial crimes compliance officers are now expected to be tech savvy, business savvy, and have great communication and interpersonal skills. The pressure, the workload and the expectations are increasing concerns for professionals in the AML field. Seems it is not easy to be “the kings” of Wall Street.

As high turnover becomes a market norm, financial institutions are more and more focused on how to retain their AML and related talent. In my opinion, it is essential to establish a tailored talent management program for the financial crimes compliance department. Such a program should have three key elements:

  • A structured human capital strategy that emphasizes defining and developing the AML career path and focuses on attraction and retention.
  • Role-based training and learning to help AML professionals address modern challenges.
  • Existing training methods that have been thoroughly reviewed and appropriate in today’s technology and regulatory climate.

With these three elements in place, financial institutions should be better positioned to meet many of their AML talent goals. In my next post, I’ll take a deeper look at each of these three steps and identify priorities within each of them.


[1] “Wall Street’s hot trade: compliance officers,” Reuters, October 9, 2013. Access at:

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *