Let’s shift the conversation around money laundering

For a can-do approach, we need can-do tech solutions.

Guðmundur Kristjánsson (GK)
3 min

Words are powerful. When we set out to reshape a particular field, we should pay close attention to the narratives and semantics surrounding it. In the case of money laundering, much of the conversation was designed by the creators and promoters of legacy anti-money laundering (AML) systems. It reflects beliefs that are no longer relevant as technology now pushes us to new heights.

Embracing a new tone can help empower compliance professionals, reach better results, and boost customers’ trust. Instead of allowing legacy technologies to intimidate us and instill a fear-based approach, combining the right tools with a positive outlook will create new and exciting opportunities. Here are a few actionable changes that must take place in the new age of anti-money laundering solutions.

Plain and simple

The best way to drive anyone away from a certain topic is to make it so complex and incomprehensible that they feel unqualified to handle it at all. We see the same approach towards online privacy policies, pension plans, and other critical elements.

When it comes to AML, legacy systems are often so complex they drive users away. In fact, research shows that more than 25% of financial institutions in the Middle East and North Africa do not feel confident about their crime programs due to a lack of understanding of the technology solutions they’re offered. When technology lowers our confidence, that’s a bad sign.

User-friendly tools can turn things around. With explainable AI technology, the entire process can be streamlined and result in clear and actionable insights. For a can-do approach, we need can-do tech solutions.

Have no fear

Legacy technology is often promoted in a way that intimidates users into choosing it. This narrative is also evident in the results of research conducted in the field. Recent studies found that 25% of banks fear personal civil and criminal liability in case of noncompliance, and 14% of compliance professionals in Asia state that AML compliance threatens their firms’ ability to do business.

Why should our industry be worried, intimidated, overwhelmed, and threatened? Replacing the fear-driven debate with empowering narratives that focus on exciting technology can make all the difference. We have every reason to be positively thrilled about our ability to solve such a significant problem. The old AML dictionary might deter professionals from ever approaching this issue, and we’ll all miss out on great talent in the field.

Human AI empowers compliance professionals and gives them superpowers. By contextualizing the information that algorithms and models produce, AI can be democratized to be used by anyone. This allows us to rely on technology and do a far better job instead of worrying about human error.

Don’t get so defensive

One reason the conversation around AML is so fearful is that outdated, complicated systems create a perpetual chase after undetected risks and violations. To solve this problem, we must embrace a proactive, rather than defensive, approach. This requires technology that turns AML monitoring into an everyday activity. The more routine it becomes, the less scary and complicated it will be.

Getting it right

Accuracy is another critical factor. Showering people with false positives presented in an outdated UI will never make AML procedures more productive, proactive, or positive. Unfortunately, false positives have become the norm for financial institutions that use legacy systems, with more than 90% of alerts failing to result in an actual report.

For compliance professionals to stop worrying, they need technology solutions they can count on. Advanced AI technology is not just user-friendly and approachable. It is accurate and precise, first and foremost.

While money laundering in itself is upsetting, the process of fighting it doesn’t have to be. We are fighting the good fight using great technology, and the perception around it should be positive. Looking at what current AML technology is capable of, we have no doubt that the conversation around it is about to change for the better.

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