Tell us a bit about your background, describe your current role and your responsibilities
Started as a deputy public prosecutor in Singapore, and then moved to private legal practice. In 2000, left as a litigation partner to pursue a Masters in Law with Columbia Law School in New York. Then joined the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva as a senior legal officer to review and recommend compensation awards to those affected by Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait (1990-1991). In 2005, decided to move into the financial industry and joined Citi Private Bank in Singapore. Started as AML Compliance Officer developing global AML/CFT policies and then undertook a 3-year stint as Internal Audit with Citi. In 2013, I joined Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore as the Country Head of Financial Crime Compliance. Then returned to Private Bank when I joined Bank Julius Baer, Singapore as Head of AML/KYC Compliance.
Since 2009, I have been supporting ACAMS. ACAMS is the largest international membership organization dedicated to enhancing the knowledge and skills of AML and financial crime prevention professionals from a wide range of industries. In October 2020, I formally joined ACAMS as the Regional AML Director-APAC. As the AML/CFT Subject Matter Expert (SME) for APAC, I am part of ACAMS Thought Leadership in partnering with the financial communities towards effective AntiFinancial Crime measures. I develop and deliver AML/ CFT trainings, support the organisation of ACAMS’ events and product development.
What is the Most Rewarding Part of Your Role?
Being part of the Thought Leadership on AML/CFT, in shaping and guiding the conversation in the financial community on effective Anti-Financial Crime (AFC) Risk management. I especially enjoy Capacity Building – teaching and showing the AFC professional on ‘how to fish’.
What is Your Opinion on AML/CFT?
Money laundering and terrorism financing through our financial systems are real. These are not hypothetical risks. But we cannot wait for a successful prosecution of the predicate crimes before we can pursue the proceeds of the crime and get the criminals. Like comprehensive fire safety controls in a building to prevent and detect a fire, we need effective AML/CFT controls now, and not run about only when there is a fire. So AML/CFT controls are the measures we now take to detect and disrupt illicit flow of funds through the financial system.
What made you interested in AML and financial crime?
I have innate sense of justice. I feel strongly that no one should be disadvantaged or exploited by others for their own ends. There is also a human face to ML/ TF. This is the face of those who are the victims of fraud, corruption and trafficking (drugs, arms, humans, wildlife). Effective AML measures ensures that the criminals do not succeed. Given my legal background, I also appreciate the rules by which we all have to play if we are to disrupt financial crime. I like this role of guardian and gatekeeper.
What is the most important thing you have learnt when it comes to AML?
The art of balancing the ML/TF risk and managing the client experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges in AML?
When the Front /Business sees the risk but does not want to make the hard decision.
What would you consider the key thing people forget or do not understand when it comes to AML?
The client. The client can no longer feign ignorance on the need for AML/CFT controls. They are not living in a ‘bubble’. Yet, they are surprised or become upset when they are required to answer questions and provide the necessary information to their financial institutions.
Also, the Business does not always see or accept their role as the 1st Line of Defence. So the internal challenge invariably comes from the Bankers who appear to espouse the cause of their customers. Both the client and the Business need to be educated on ML/TF risk awareness and doing the right thing to combat financial crime.
How do you keep up to date with all things AML?
I read online for the latest developments in international and local AML/CFT regulations and published enforcement actions. The local regulator’s circulars and the guidance issued by FATF, APG, Basel and Wolfsberg Group provide invaluable insight on emerging threats, trends, and typologies, as well as guid