Why do you work in Financial Crime Compliance?

Payal Patel, who leads our new office in Asia, tells us why she works in Financial Crime Compliance and how she initially found her way into the field.

Payal combines her legal education and extensive compliance experience to build 'best-in-class' anti-financial crime programmes for clients and is focused on enabling innovative business whilst balancing risk and regulatory demands. She brings over 14 years of experience in financial services across multiple regions, focusing recently on FinTech and crypto. She has led engagements with regulators on new business models and has worked with a wide range of organisations globally on international best practices.

‘Why do you work in Financial Crime Compliance...isn’t it boring?’

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question in some form.

Truth be told, I never intended on pursuing a career in Financial Crime Compliance. After completing my LLB and my legal training, it became very clear that my legal career wasn’t going to be like an episode of Suits, and I decided to follow many of my friends into the world of banking. During my undergraduate degree, we had talks from practically every bank selling us the pre global financial crisis dream of trading and earning pots of money. But I wasn’t sure that world was for me. I hadn’t heard of compliance until a recruiter called me about an entry level role that preferred people from a legal background. I was particularly intrigued as soon as she started talking about fighting financial crime. As a further plus. the team seemed nice, and the work was new, so I took the opportunity.

14 years later, and despite many opportunities to move into other areas, I’ve chosen to continue working in this space - and here’s why.

It impacts us all

People often forget the social impact of money laundering and terrorist financing - it costs us all. Serious crime, from drugs and cybercrime to people trafficking, has huge negative  impacts on society and the people affected, as well as costing the economy billions each year. The trickle down effect of this is that taxes need to be raised to compensate not only for the financial loss but also the additional resource required to police the activity going forward.  The price of consumer services increase as businesses seek to cover the costs associated with the higher taxes. Incidents of corruption, violent crimes and job losses go up and all of this can ultimately destabilise companies, industries and even developing nations. For the victims of crimes enabled by laundered money, the effects can be devastating and lifelong, including great personal and family loss. I see my role as preventing the criminal activity at a crucial point – where criminals seek to convert and clean their money by concealing it within the financial system, essentially allowing their crime to pay off.

Business enabling

Further, I strongly believe that compliance done right is business enabling. Throughout my career, I have actively sought to work in partnership with Business Heads to fully understand their business and the bespoke nature of the financial crime risk it introduces, seeking ways to illuminate this, and show how combatting it will give the business not only the stability it needs to grow, but how fighting financial crime actively builds trust among its customers. This collaborative approach has allowed me to creatively think of new and innovative ways to manage risk whilst also allowing me to be an integral part of the product / service roll out.

The cost of getting it wrong

From an organisation’s perspective the cost of getting compliance wrong can also be devastating, not only financially but also reputationally. Whilst the value add of a robust compliance programme cannot be tagged directly to sales or revenue, the fines imposed for failures can be massive, and licenses revoked or not granted at all.

As I now turn my focus to the world of FinTech, I am more passionate than ever about my role. As technology evolves, so does criminal activity. I want to make crime, corruption and terrorism harder for perpetrators. I want to protect the reputation of the organisations I work for and help them establish and maintain relationships with legitimate customers. This seems far from boring to me.