• Laurence Birnbaum-Sarcy, Leadership |

The world of financial crime is never static. In addition to traditional crimes, there are always new ways for financial crimes to disrupt your organization. This has been exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a major shift in the way people and organizations work. Remote working has skyrocketed, bringing on a wealth of challenges, especially in departments where security of information is paramount. It's more important than ever for employees to understand and demonstrate their responsibility to comply with regulations and tackle financial crime, no matter where they're doing it from.

Equipping your team for the new world of work

As things have evolved, leaders are having to face many moving parts. Teams may be using mismatched platforms and technology, people may be fatigued, which can lead to corners being cut, and there may be a lack of visibility regarding processes being followed correctly when done remotely.

So, what can be done about it?

Responsibility needs to become a core value within your organization, creating a culture where addressing financial crime is discussed frequently and openly. Those at the top play a crucial part in this, leading by example and fostering a working environment that's based around accountability and action. 

A key element to fighting financial crime is to have a risk-based approach. There are risks to allowing employees to work remotely and adapting the tools and processes to meet this. But if that's what it takes to recruit and retain the best staff, then it's one worth taking.

In my opinion, there are two different mindsets when it comes to tackling the causes and effects of financial crime. Central to this is the tools and processes that are put in place.

The first approach is a reactive one. This simply means doing what you're asked to by regulators, treating compliance as a tick-box exercise and dealing with issues as and when they arise. Understandably, most employees operating under this model are likely to see complacency set in. They'll do the bare minimum required to complete the process and are unlikely to take personal pride in ensuring financial information is as secure as it can be.

The other approach is to be proactive, where teams are encouraged to go over and above basic expectations. In the traditional office-based environment, this was easier to achieve. In-person collaboration and team meetings led to a sense of togetherness that helped people see their responsibilities as part of a team. Distributed workforces are undoubtedly harder to train and galvanize, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Give people a platform where they can share their experiences and opinions and discuss the latest developments in financial crime so they can see this is a battle that's being fought collectively.

The very nature of financial crime means that predicting and preventing every single instance is highly unlikely, but being proactive can give you a far better opportunity to prevent your organization from falling victim to exploitation.

Continuous assessment is key

To continue to meet regulatory obligations, programs need to be constantly updated. It isn't about getting the latest technology and considering your part in the fight against financial crime as dealt with. It's about getting the right tools, knowing how to use them, challenging their effectiveness regularly and continuously assessing where the risks are.

I believe this is an area in which you need to give your people a major role. While procurement teams will have been involved in selecting the appropriate systems, and technology teams will have been involved in implementing them, it's the people who use them day in and day out that have great responsibility when it comes to assessing whether they're fit for purpose.

All the way from onboarding to performing routine tasks, ask questions about whether the processes are working and how could they be made better. Don't be satisfied with sub-standard tools and processes that people find workarounds for. Give people both the ability and responsibility to drive positive change in the way they work that will benefit both them and their colleagues.  Financial crime keeps evolving, so it's important that the resources used to fight it show the same kind of flexibility. 

Transforming the way you fight crime can be a daunting task. KPMG professionals can help you with that transition. From assessing potential gaps to implementing transformational technology, they can help ensure your teams have the right tools and proper training to thrive in this new world of work.

Read additional blogs in our Financial Crime series.

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