The rise of AML specialists: why you need new expert skills to fight financial crime

The financial sector is looking for experts in anti-money laundering (AML), which is crucial for preventing and detecting illegal activities. Reports show that the demand for AML talent has risen by 58% since 2016.
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Effective compliance programmes need the right combination of technology and knowledge. 

With the increasing complexity of financial crime and regulators’ increasing demands, AML departments have drastically gained importance.

AML specialists have the knowledge, skills, and experience to design, implement, and maintain effective AML and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) programmes. 

They can also analyse and investigate suspicious financial activity and report it to the relevant authorities.

However, AML specialist skills are scarce. Rapidly evolving regulations and the advent of advanced technology have created a need for specialist skills. 

The job market has not kept up with these changes, and businesses struggle to find suitable candidates. 

According to a report by ACAMS, an association for AML professionals, the demand for AML talent has increased by 58% since 2016. The report also found that AML professionals earn 31% more than average.

The evolving role of the AML specialist

The reason for this talent scarcity is that AML specialists' roles have evolved over the past few decades. 

This is due to the changing nature and complexity of financial crime, the emergence of new technologies and data sources, and increasing regulatory expectations and scrutiny.

Dan Sjöholm, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Trapets, has noted this change: 

“The field of AML has evolved significantly since we joined it in the early 2000s. Back then, the focus was on compliance and legal aspects. Now, the AML specialist is a multifaceted role that requires a deep understanding of data, behavioural analysis, technology, and finance, to truly grasp the complexity of financial crime. This poses a greater challenge for businesses to find the right talent.”

These are the key factors that have redefined the role of the AML specialist: 

1. Understanding technology and complex data

AML specialists have become more innovative and digital in detecting, preventing, and reporting financial crime. 

They have adopted new tools and techniques, such as advanced analytics, network analysis, and artificial intelligence, to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency. 

To enhance their risk assessments and investigations, they have started looking at new data types, such as transactions, behaviours, and external sources.

2. From pure compliance to a holistic view

AML specialists have shifted from a compliance mindset to a risk management mindset and have developed a more holistic and integrated view of financial crime risks. 

They have moved beyond the traditional silos of AML, fraud, sanctions, and anti-bribery and corruption and have adopted a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the interconnected and evolving nature of financial crime. 

They have also aligned their strategy and risk appetite with their organisation's business objectives and values.

3. Stakeholder management

AML specialists have increased their collaboration and communication with internal and external stakeholders. 

They have engaged more proactively and constructively with regulators, law enforcement, and industry peers to share best practices, information, and insights on financial crime trends and challenges. 

They have also strengthened their tone from the top, accountability and incentives, training and communication, and culture within their organisations, to ensure that everyone is aware of and committed to their AML responsibilities.

The future of the AML department

The demand for AML specialists is expected to grow in the coming years as financial crime becomes more sophisticated and challenging. 

By acquiring and developing your or your team’s AML skills, your organisation can keep up with the rapid evolution observed in this field.

“The role of the AML department is evolving so fast that it’s almost impossible to find the necessary skills in the current job market. Businesses need to be the driving force in this change. They must upskill their staff, invest heavily in training programmes, and stay ahead of anti-financial crime trends," said Dan Sjöholm.

Our expertise

At Trapets, expertise lies at the heart of what we do. With extensive experience in AML, we know what it takes to run a successful AML programme. 

Our team comprises lawyers, engineers, data scientists, implementation experts, and much more, and we have developed and refined our solutions to deliver solutions that help companies fight financial crime.

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