“The world is changing, so money laundering techniques are too,” says Thomas Lanigra, a compliance manager at EQT Luxembourg. He specialises in anti-money laundering. “If you look at money laundering in textbooks from 20 years ago, it was completely different from today.” New elements--like cryptocurrencies--and an ever-evolving technology have revolutionised the sector time and time again.
“You have more advanced techniques both for money laundering and terrorism financing. Regulation is evolving to keep up with new techniques too,” he tells Delano in an interview. Ultimately, of course, “this is forcing [the field of AML] to evolve as well.”
The tasks linked to AML are therefore evolving. Originally, “the job of a compliance officer is to put in place the framework to ensure that you can do three things: that you comply with the law, cooperate with the authorities, and--this is really important--you have something that is fit for your business. Everybody can read the law, but then you have to understand it and see how you can adapt it to your business,” explains Lanigra.
However, now added to the list of to-do’s is anticipating new and upcoming technology. “Compliance officers need to understand the behind-the-scenes of technologies. Whether it’s AI or quantum computers or digitalisation in general, I encourage AML specialists and firms to look into new technologies and start digitalising their processes. The world and technology are evolving very quickly, and we need to be able to keep up with them.”
Digitise and automate
The field of AML also needs to go through a speedy digitalisation process, reckons Lanigra. As is the case in many other financial branches, regulation grows, and so does the data businesses need to function correctly and be in compliance with the law. “You need more data to better understand and mitigate risks,” which in turn means “more and more work.”
On top of the competition a potential arrival of an EU institution like the Anti-money laundering Authority (AMLA) could mean for the field’s talent pool, “the workforce won’t grow indefinitely, especially not in the current market, so you need to think up something else.” The solution for Lanigra lies in a shift: from seeking data to having data pushed towards you.
Asked if compliance officers would consider relying on AI programs similar to law firm Allen & Overy’s AI chatbot Harvey, which, implemented in an effort to tackle regulation and data inflation, scans regulatory databases instead of the lawyers, the compliance manager acquiesces: “There are a lot of applications for AI in this field so it’s definitely something you can look into because it could help with spotting risks or screening processes.”
A smarter end-user experience
What will be primordial for the success of AML departments is to also render the end-user experience as smart and smooth as possible. “For me, your internal controls need to be as seamless and fast as possible to ensure that everybody can comply with it,” says Lanigra. “Smart and efficient digitalised processes are the way to go to make sure compliance is respected.”
That is the next big trend to hop on, especially for those looking to grow while keeping up with regulatory changes: “Businesspeople need to be advised more and more, and you need to be able to know your regulation, know your risk, and to be able to advise them on the spot. So, digitalise and automate and much as you can,” concludes the compliance manager.
This article was published for the Paperjam+Delano Finance newsletter, the weekly source for financial news in Luxembourg. Subscribe using this link.