Implementing and managing AML protocols can be challenging for any institution, but perhaps more so for small- to mid-size institutions and community banks.

What’s more, community banks are seen as less sophisticated, and therefore, are more often targeted by money launderers, noted Dan Eckhart of Dan Eckhart Law. This was the focus of an afternoon panel on day two of ACAMS 2017: “Budget Stretching 101: Practical Strategies to Help Compliance Dollars Work Overtime.”

“We all come with the same problem: limited time, limited staff, limited funds, limited support and increased demands and responsibilities,” Nancy Lake, director of Compliance, Atlantic Community Bankers Bank said. For leaders of smaller financial institutions, they know they need AML compliance, but they often leave the work to the experts. And as Lake noted, that makes the work that much harder.

As a former teacher and fan of pneumonic devices, she suggests that compliance professionals at these institutions FOCUS, which stands for:

Find the facts

Organize yourself

Calculate your risks

Unite personnel

Seek solutions

She suggests taking a comprehensive look at your products, services and customers to better understand the risks for each. For example, if you serve international money service businesses (MSBs), the risk profile is greater for your institution than services you provide to a local grocery store.

She also promotes the value of organizing your work, processes and projects to not only better understand your work, but also to explain to leaders what the scope of compliance looks like. This also includes metrics reporting, which as Scott Nathan, managing director, Financial Services, Accenture, suggests, “Use the technology to help you, not hinder you,” to present data with visuals.

Eckhart also suggests working closely and proactively with local, state and federal law enforcement. He discussed that bringing law enforcement into your bank to meet staff, and offer training on incident and robbery response is a great way to show bank leadership that you are engaged.

He also suggests that small institutions get involved in law enforcement networks like Financial Crimes Task Force, or even non-AML groups like Elder Crime Task Force. Participation in ACAMS Chapters and local peer groups, he added, is the best way to keep abreast of trends, be aware of local fraud activities and more.

In the end, the panel noted the objective may be to change your compliance team from a cost center to a cost-savings center.