Separation Anxiety: AML, Privacy, Vendors & Multinationals

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 20th Annual ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference in Hollywood, FL.  From my understanding, it was the first time the organization had offered a panel on compliance and privacy for cross-border data flows. Our panel was well-attended, which demonstrated the industry’s growing concern about these issues. It was a great experience and I had a wonderful time with my fellow panelists.

I attended many panels in those two days as the lone academic in a sea of compliance professionals (social anthropology note: they dress better than academics, drinks are free and top-shelf, nice swag).  I had great conversations, quite a lot of fun, and the insights I gained from these interactions reinforced some of the mantras in my research.

So this intrepid academic decided to do some very informal interviewing and observations at the exhibition hall.  I walked through to see if any vendors listed privacy as a service in their displays (only 2). At the same time, I randomly asked about their experience with AML and privacy.

My opening salvo went something like this:

Do you have any technology-driven or governance-centered services that address AML and data protection for national or international banking?

“No, each of those services are client-driven.”
“We don’t have anyone at this conference who can speak about privacy.”
“It’s separate from AML.”
“Our service doesn’t handle data protection.”

At this point, there are few, if any, services able to provide the financial community with technological solutions that take into account INFOSEC, data protection, and compliance (AML and otherwise).   And, we cannot ignore the governance and policy instruments that must come with them.   I love the automated aspects of the filed but they cannot, and should not, dominate compliance.

Now I’m not blaming the vendors solely for these shortcomings.  They respond to their customers’ demands.  Everyone is focusing on AML because the fines are getting bigger and privacy is pushed to the low-risk back-burner.   (By the way, I’ve found similar problems with privacy professionals, so I’m not picking on AML.)

These conditions also reflect a separation between security and privacy in the regulations themselves (e.g. I’ll be speaking about the still unresolved problems in the 4th Money Laundering Directive and data protection in London in May).

However, privacy is catching up.

I predict that in 5 years financial institutions will find themselves scrambling to respond to data protection/privacy regulations that are already issues, or in the pipeline.  They will spend money to employ a new team of specialized consultants, which will produce redundant services that could easily be integrated into existing structures with a little ingenuity. They will do all of this not realizing that privacy is already part of their business, because their clients already expect it.

Innovation involves seeing relationships beyond your nose – and the horizon.