This article is authored by THE DATA INITIATIVE AB Member David Caruso.
A lot of us in AML are old. Old enough to say things to young people like, “When I was your age they played videos on MTV,” and, “What are you talking about, ‘The Safety Dance’ was a great song.”
How older people do things confuses younger people. In AML too.
To everyone paying attention, we see a growing generation gap in AML.
Younger workers expect modern technology to enhance their work performance. Clunky software and decades-old technology demoralize and drive away good people from doing the critical work needed to discover financial crime.
AML still relies on software that is inefficient, hard to use, and outdated. Yet deciding to make investments in new systems feels uncertain and risky, so on we work, using applications designed 10, 15, and even 20 years ago.
This is not sustainable.
AML Work Can be a Real Drag
An AML officer from a large U.S. bank said to me recently his biggest concern is the growing complacency among analysts and investigators. He said he didn’t blame them, “What they do all day is grueling, and they have to wonder why they’re using systems created when they were in middle school.”
His math on that is correct. If anyone on your AML team is younger than 27 years old, the AML systems they are using were developed when they were in the 6th grade!
Better Software Will Improve AML and Be Better for Workers
Everyone, regardless of age, expects technology to be simple, intuitive and efficient. Whether it’s a phone app, a new feature on our car’s video console, or how we order food.
There aren’t user manuals anymore. We expect that within a minute or two we will figure out how to use something new, and if we can’t, we drop it and move onto something simpler.
Of course, AML systems aren’t downloadable phone apps. There are good reasons for the slower pace of technology change in AML – It costs millions of dollars to replace existing systems, and there are a lot of risks in doing so.
However not moving more quickly to modernize AML programs increases many risks, including losing quality people who don’t want to spend their days clicking through false positives, copying and pasting, and waiting for screen images to load.
Quality people are the foundation of strong AML programs. New technology will increase the need for AML jobs (read this), and those jobs will require strong analysis, investigation, and decision-making skills.
Reluctance by AML officers to seek out and implement new software is understandable. Change can feel confusing and risky. However, if investments in better software aren’t started soon, AML will drive away quality workers, compliance will suffer, and risk will increase for management and institutions.
AML officers need to continue exploring new technologies, understand how they work, figure out if the claims of improvement are true, and if they are, how to integrate new applications into your AML program.