Do you have what it takes to join the ranks of anti-money laundering specialists, aka financial crime fighters? Do you need them on your financial services team?
Our research at Robert Half indicates an increasing need for these risk and compliance specialists across the finance and accounting profession, a trend fueled by business growth, increasing regulatory demands and government scrutiny of banking corruption and terror activities.
What are anti-money laundering (AML) specialists? They are business risk assessment experts who oversee a financial institution’s systems to prevent it from violating regulatory requirements and monitors transactions for any suspicious activity.
What technical expertise does it take to work in this field? Who’s hiring, and what’s the salary range? Are there recommended certifications?
Here's an overview of those topics, with more information about anti-money laundering specialists below.
Technical and regulatory compliance requirements
Anti-money laundering specialists must be knowledgeable in forensic accounting, statistical data mining and risk management. Richard White, division director of Robert Half Management Resources in San Francisco, emphasized in a recent blog post the importance of businesses adhering to compliance requirements.
Financial institutions, White says, should pay particular attention to the following regulatory compliance requirements and changes, each of which can have significant potential financial ramifications: the USA PATRIOT Act, Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC).
For more information on these regulatory compliance matters, see the Guide to U.S. Anti-Money Laundering Requirements, Frequently Asked Questions from Protiviti, a global business consulting and internal audit firm composed of experts specializing in risk, advisory and transaction services. Robert Half is Protiviti's parent company.
Salary trends and hiring advice
The expected salary for anti-money laundering specialists in 2017 will range from $78,000 to $104,500, up 4.1 percent from the year before, according to Robert Half's latest Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.
Additionally, financial professionals who have the certified anti-money laundering specialist (CAMS) certification earn, on average, 42 percent more than their non-certified peers, up from 32 percent from the previous survey in 2013.
The ongoing implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and Basel III is fueling demand for professionals with experience detecting and preventing money laundering. Global banks and investment firms such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. have stepped up hiring of compliance officers.
Whether you’re a job seeker or a manager, the incentives for working in AML or for having compliance, risk and anti-money laundering specialists on your team are innumerable.
Special training and certification
The CAMS credential is offered by ACAMS, the anti-money laundering trade association that oversees the exam. In order to qualify for the exam, you must be a member of ACAMS.
The University of South Florida has joined a growing number of colleges and law schools adding compliance-related graduate-level academic programs. It has a graduate certificate program in compliance, risk and anti-money laundering.
Money laundering defined
Money laundering, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is the process of making illegally gained proceeds (i.e. “dirty money”) appear legal (i.e. “clean”).
Typically, it involves three steps: placement, layering and integration. First, the illegitimate funds are furtively introduced into the legitimate financial system. Then, the money is moved around to create confusion, sometimes by wiring or transferring through numerous accounts.
Finally, it is integrated into the financial system through additional transactions until the “dirty money” appears “clean.” Money laundering can facilitate crimes such as drug trafficking and terrorism, and can adversely impact the global economy.
The scope of the problem
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the amount of money laundered globally ranges from $800 billion to $2 trillion per year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Global Financial Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy group that tracks illicit financial flows, said those flows are growing at an average of 9.4 percent per year.
Editor's note: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and was updated recently to reflect new Salary Guide data.