Ahead of our 'Financial Crime in the Middle East' seminar on the 21st July, Caleb Hawkins sits down with Financial Crime Consultant & speaker at our seminar, Andrew Fleming to discuss his career journey so far, advice to graduates and a short commentary on the market.
When you were growing up, was it always a dream of yours to join the police service?
I lived in a small village outside a small town in the middle of the highlands. My plans were simple, I wanted to move as far away from the village as I could possibly get and the bigger the city I could get to the better. I applied for numerous positions with police services across the UK, however the Mets offer was simply too good to be true and the allure of London was too great to resist.
Having spent circa 15 years in the police service and making your way up to Detective Inspector, why did you decide AML/Financial Crime was to be your next area of expertise?
I spent thirty years in the Metropolitan police Service working in very difficult areas where extreme violence was a regular occurrence. However so was fraud and other types of financial crime. As I progressed from a uniformed officer into the Criminal Investigation Department and progressed up the ranks, I investigated all types of financial crime from public sector fraud all the way through to large scale cross border financial crime involving senior politicians, judges and captain’s of industry. This sometimes involved terrorist financing and large scale government institutions both here and abroad.
What steered you away from the public sector?
The public sector has not yet woken up to the true threat of financial crime, they pay lip service to it and often fail to recognise how it impacts on their budgets. Fraud departments are often under resourced and are not given the support they need to make a difference. An example of this is the NHS where they cannot give accurate figures for fraud and estimates have put loses to fraud in excess of £1 billion a year. This is public money and the NHS desperately needs it.
I want to work with companies who recognise the threat of financial crime to their business and understand that to deal with it they need to invest in people, training and automation not just talk about it.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced when you made the move into the financial services industry?
The biggest challenge for me was explaining to recruiters that I wasn’t a combination of Dixon of Dock Green and the Sweeney. I was once asked in an interview if I understood that I wasn’t allowed to beat up people I was interviewing, they just didn’t know who they were interviewing.
I believe that there is a lack of understanding that the modern police service contains specialists in cybercrime, financial crime, bribery and corruption and a host of other specialities that are far away from public order or dealing with routine burglaries or issuing a traffic ticket. The modern police service, especially in the cities, requires trained investigators to deal with difficult, complex investigations and this is often not recognised or understood. It represents a talent pool that industry needs to exploit, especially for compliance and AML roles.
More & more graduates are looking to get into this area. How would you suggest they go about doing so?
For a graduate I would suggest obtaining qualifications in financial crime and compliance. Companies are always looking for skilled individuals but just having a degree isn’t enough. We need individuals who are curious, who want to lift the stone and look underneath and who are willing to look beyond the first answer. In simple terms we are looking for Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, the type of person who won’t take no for an answer, is up for a challenge and who wants to look behind the curtains and see what’s behind.
What regulations do you see directly effecting the AML world within the next 12 months?
Brexit has made predicting new legislation difficult, however we will definitely see a tightening of money laundering regulation, countries will be challenged on their effectiveness in seizing criminal funds, we will see a move towards the prosecutions of individuals and terrorist financing is likely to be pushed to the fore. There also are interesting cases in the US that need watching, including one where families are attempting to have drug cartels re-defined as terrorists – Narco-Terrorism – so that they can use anti-terrorist legislation to sue financial institutions that have been used to launder their funds.
Why do you see the Middle East as such a tricky jurisdiction to monitor?
The Middle East is a vulnerable area geographically, it is an area with a number of on-going conflicts, has a very large floating population and terrorists and financial criminals view it as an area that they can exploit. Money is still king, we see large purchases being made in cash and there are still significant concerns with bribery and corruption.
For a financial crime specialists it represents a very challenging place to work but it is also a rewarding one. Companies that implement operationally effective policies and procedures, train their staff effectively and utilise adaptive technologies to identify unusual activity will prosper. However those that do not may find themselves of large scale fines and in the new financial landscape may find individuals within the company being prosecuted.
If you are interested in attending our Financial Crime within the Middle East seminar on the 21st July, please click here and confirm your attendance. If you have any questions around this article or the event please contact me via the details below.