How did you get into financial crime?
I spent nine years in Customs & Excise, the last five with the National Investigations Service, prosecuting Money Launderers. In February 2002 I moved across to the private sector as the DMLRO for DrKW.
Was financial crime your first career choice?
No, I wanted to be an Officer in the Royal Marines, but didn’t pass the Navy’s Admirals Interview Board. None the less it was a great learning experience.
How did you obtain your first job in financial crime?
I applied directly via the Company website.
The job applicants were whittled down to two, me and someone both more senior and seasoned than myself. Eventually they choose me, given that I had demonstrated a great hunger and capacity to learn. So be mindful, in an interview, experience only gets you so far.
What were you doing before?
Up until my move across to the private sector I had spent nine years in Customs & Excise.
Initially I was a VAT Assurance Officer (not the most glamorous of careers) and, over time, worked in various fraud investigation roles, before joining the NIS as a financial investigator, prosecuting MLs.
What attributes do you think have made you successful in your career?
Back in 2002 it was rare for someone to make the leap from the public to private sector, so there was certainly some trepidation on my part about making the transition. I remember being concerned about being out of my depth intellectually and surrounded by ex-graduates from Oxford and Cambridge.
At the time I overlooked my core skill set (which I had wrongly assumed everyone possessed) namely: strong decision making, calmness under pressure, clarity of thought, great work ethic, willingness to learn, team player and the right morale compass.
Those qualities gave me the platform to succeed.
Do you look for candidates with a particular educational background or particular qualifications?
Not necessarily – Ideally I’m looking for the relevant experience gained in a similar working environment.
Over the last five years we have seen candidates pro-actively gain appropriate qualifications in the AFC space, which is a good indicator of a candidate’s suitability.
In terms of academic qualifications and establishments – It certainly demonstrates a high capacity to learn, but you need to do more to impress me. I have a soft spot for the underdog, who is highly motivated, proactive and passionate. You can do great things with a team who bring their hearts to work and buy in to your vision for change.
What advice would you give to a junior starting their career?
Throw yourself in, fully immerse yourself into the experience, you are a blank piece of paper and can achieve greatness.
Always act with integrity and honesty. It will pay you pack in spades and give you longevity in this profession.
What advice would you give to a mid-level professional?
As an AVP / VP you are at a critical junction in your career. Do you stick with AFC or twist in another field / discipline. You need to understand your career motivations.
Be careful on your next step. The AFC job market at the mid-level is very buoyant, but the roles now have much more accountability and the consequences for getting it wrong are severe. Increased compensation is a key factor but not the only one, think about:
- The firm – Do your EDD – Company’s standing, business model, legacy/existing/ future litigation, negative news. Do you understand the arena you are entering?
- The role – R & Rs, what will you be accountable for?
- Growth & Development
- Do you have the tools to succeed? Headcount, budget, Senior Management buy in. Are the milestones realistic and achievable?
- Lip service role? Is there an existing AFC infrastructure in place or is this just a one person role?
- Culture / Tone for the top
- Is the company making sustainable profits? Does it have a successful business model – No profits = No investment
- Geographic footprint / Risk Appetite / Risk reward – Does it align with your own moral compass
- Travel – both commute to work and expectation to travel in new role
- Work life balance – FWA?
What advice would you give to a number two?
Only make the step up when you are ready, don’t rush in.
I accept the kudos of a salary increase and a senior corporate title is appealing, but it comes at a cost. Greater personal liability, greater accountability, longer hours, reduced work life balance and increased levels of stress. Don’t be put off, have your eyes open and remember “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”.
Learn from your boss, some make it look easy, it’s not.
Increase your own learning, act as a sponge, soak it all up.
Consider a foreign posting or additional qualifications.
What do you see as the growth areas of financial crime in the next 18 months?
A lot in the regulatory space, whether that is:
The 4MLD, Criminal Finance Act 2017, New Banking Secrecy Bank CDD provisions.
Next FATF inspection on the UK (scheduled for 2018)
Next wave of SAMLP inspections
Impact of the Senior Managers Regime
Fallout of Brexit
Ongoing re risking
Fintech, block chain
Use of Technology – Cost of Compliance reduction
Has there been anyone that you have worked with that has inspired you.?
Yes, two previous bosses.
James Coulson (former Head of Compliance at SG) for his drive, passion and leadership. He had an innate ability to inspire those around him, fostering real loyalty, to the point where you would happily walk through walls for him.
Andrew Proctor (Former Global Head of Compliance at DB) for his supreme intelligence and all round composure. He never compromised his integrity, held strong his values and beliefs and always did what is right.
Last, but not least, when you’re not in work, how do you unwind?
My family , two boys aged 12 and 6.
Otherwise sports, fitness, golf and dance music production (created without talent!).