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“Time of the Season”*

It’s conference season. Here’s a smarter approach to attending

With a nod to pop music, veteran John Byrne’s blog scans the anti-laundering and anti-terrorism world. John pierces silliness and inconsistency, and strongly believes in private-public partnership. With a nod to pop music, veteran John Byrne’s blog scans the anti-laundering and anti-terrorism world. John pierces silliness and inconsistency, and strongly believes in private-public partnership.

As we approach spring, despite the many continuing weather challenges, conference season has arrived. Conferences for us in the AML world include seminars, forums, roundtables, and summits. Training is a crucial area for the entire community (private and public sector), so don’t waste your time at any of these programs. Attend with a strategy and keep notes!

As of this writing, certain current and former government officials are happy they documented contemporaneous recollections of important information—and so should you. There is nothing as valuable as your thoughts at the time you hear something, or note points made on a slide.

Plan your conference

It is common for program attendees to receive full agendas prior to arriving at the event. Depending on whether the conference is relatively large over a few days or just a one-day event, if there are breakout or concurrent sessions, decide how to cover everything.

For example, if a session repeats, easy enough to handle; but if not, find an ally or peer. Go to the session where you have the least amount of knowledge and then you can get the major points on the other session (or sessions) from that ally.

Make the most of the Q&A

A good rule of thumb for all sessions is to document the questions and answers portion because that is when most panelists are most candid and may make news.

This focus is particularly useful with keynoters, if they even take questions. Many keynotes provide their speeches on-line simultaneously with delivery at the conference, so taking notes then is not always productive.

As for keynoters in general, if it is someone you have not heard before or who is new to an agency or position, it certainly is worthwhile to assess whether they have a grasp of the material or are just reading. (Yes, you can tell.)

I can’t tell you the number of times we have heard from someone who clearly did not place a priority on the issues being covered, so ask some AML veterans at the program what they think before you head back to your office to communicate what you learned.

Don’t forget the networking

Another part of the conference experience that often gets neglected is connecting with others in your community while on-site. I have found AML professionals to be extremely generous with their time and advice. So don’t hesitate. Introduce yourself to others, ask for their contact information, and tap their expertise on issues that challenge you.

So whether at a break, a reception (yes, attend those as well) or any other time you have, ask questions and offer your own advice. We need to keep the AML community going strong!

Keep it going back home

When you return back to your organization, strategically share what you have learned with others.

Senior management needs to know about any new themes or trends. Tell them what the regulators emphasized and how law enforcement covered their priorities.

Do not simply forward presentations or speeches. Provide some “value added.” Summarize and do some comparing to issues in your region or specific institution.

Share the tidbits. Perhaps you have picked up some “rumors” about potential direction regarding policy or regulatory oversight. If that is the case, make sure you do not create an unnecessary “fire drill” but you are only passing on that you will stay engaged to see if there is any validity to a possible change that may need a compliance modification.

Finally, hold the conference producers’ feet to the fire. Fill out surveys and provide feedback.

And if you were promised a certain focus, make sure it happens or at least understand why your view may be different from theirs.

Retirement of a dedicated public servant

Last week, I was honored to attend the retirement ceremony of Fairfax County Police Department Second Lieutenant Jim Cox, who left the force after 30 years.

Jim, the recipient of the Career Achievement Award from ACAMS in 2016, was most recently Supervisor–Special Investigations/Narcotics Money Laundering Unit in Fairfax, the first of its kind in the United States.

Jim’s legacy is extensive, but seeing representatives from around his county force, the FBI, and the Virginia Attorney General (to name only a few), drove home the tremendous value of law enforcement to our collective financial crime challenges.

With all of the noise and nonsense emanating from those that want to disparage law enforcement, especially at the FBI, it is so important we support our partners. Jim is certainly a role model for partnership.

* The British group, the Zombies (still touring and recording, by the way) released “Time of the Season” 50 years ago this month from their “Odyssey and Oracle” album. It reached #1 in the US.

John Byrne

John Byrne is Senior Advisor to the Advisory Board  of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists and Vice-Chairman of AML RightSource. ACAMS, with more than 70,000 members, develops anti-money laundering/sanctions/financial crime detection programs and certifies specialists in financial and non-financial businesses and government agencies. Byrne is a nationally known regulatory and legislative attorney with over 30 years of experience in a vast array of financial services issues, with particular expertise in all aspects of regulatory oversight, policy and management, anti-money laundering (AML), privacy, and consumer compliance. He has written hundreds of articles on AML; represented the banking industry in this area before Congress, state legislatures, and international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF); and appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and many other media outlets. Byrne has received a number of awards, including the Director's Medal for Exceptional Service from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the ABA's Distinguished Service Award for his career work in the compliance field. His podcast, "AML Now" (on ITunes) received a 2017 Communicator Award for hosting from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. Byrne's blog on AML and Fraud on received a Gold Hermes Award in 2016. John received the ACAMS Lifetime Service Award in September. Byrne can be e-mailed at [email protected]; and don't miss John's updates on Twitter! You can find him at @jbacams2011

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