The 2008 recession resulted in a lot of change throughout the financial services and accounting industries, from revamping of existing regulations to creation of entirely new ones. As a result, compliance has been a rapidly growing field ever since, and many financial services employers have a hard time finding qualified compliance professionals since the field went from small and specialized to an industry-wide need overnight. Most recently, there has been an increasing need for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) specialists, and this specialty is no exception to the contrasting high demand for talent vs. low supply of that talent in today’s job market.
An Anti-Money Laundering specialist typically oversees the systems of a financial institution to catch suspicious transaction activity and ensure there are no violations of regulatory requirements. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), “firms must comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and its implementing regulations (‘AML rules’). The purpose of the AML rules is to help detect and report suspicious activity including the predicate offenses to money laundering and terrorist financing, such as securities fraud and market manipulation.”
In a time wrought with concerns over security, it’s no wonder that AML professionals are in high demand. For those looking to break into the field, it’s important to gain knowledge in forensic accounting, statistical data mining, and risk management. Furthermore, it is always helpful to become a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist by earning the CAMS certification.
Though being certified is in no way required to be a successful AML professional, those who do hold the certification tend to earn more money, according to the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS). In fact, ACAMS shows consistently higher earnings for certified individuals in their 2015 compensation guide regardless of the individual’s experience level. Those with the certification also tend to be first pick by employers among their non-certified competition.
So, aside from equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge and giving yourself a leg up with a certification, how else can you make your way into the AML field? Here are some ideas for making yourself marketable, especially if you don’t already have prior experience or training:
- If you already have accounting or financial services experience, look for transferable experience and skills to emphasize on your resume and in interviews, such as prior compliance work with Dodd-Frank and other relevant laws and regulations. There is also a lot of report writing involved in an AML career, so be sure to emphasize writing and communication skills as well as any analytical and investigative experience you may have.
- Join an AML-related LinkedIn group to read about, discuss, and stay up-to-date on the industry. Connect with other professionals in the field if possible, and express your desire to move into the field in your LinkedIn summary.
- If you are already employed, consider expressing your interest in the field and asking your employer to give you more exposure to the firm’s AML practices. If your particular firm has current AML needs, this could be a great way to transition into the field while staying with your current employer.
- Try landing a temporary role as an AML Analyst or a similar role. Temporary work is an excellent way to gain the experience necessary to secure a long-term job with a reputable firm in the future.
- To go the extra mile, consider taking an applicable prerequisite exam to become eligible to take the Series 24 Exam—the General Securities Principal Examination— from FINRA. This is often a must for senior-level AML professionals, and the sooner you become eligible for and pass the exam, the sooner you can showcase your expertise in the field.