Anti-Money Laundering Jobs on the Rise in NYC and Beyond

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Anti-money laundering (AML) positions aren’t on the money making side of banking and investment banking, and so posts haven’t garnered much attention. But with the recent money laundering scandals at Standard Chartered and HSBC, and the stepped up role of regulators in general, anti-money laundering positions are gaining prominence.

Large global banks and investment firms are ramping up hiring in response, says Jack Kelly, managing director at The Compliance Search Group, an executive search firm. In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Kelly notes that the recent money laundering crisis is “waking up” senior management.

The larger U.S. banks and brokerage firms, as well as foreign banks and investment firms with significant operations stateside, are adding positions in anti-money laundering, especially in major metro areas.

Starting Out

But how exactly do you become an anti-money laundering analyst in the first place? According to Kelly, AML is a very specialized area. And, most of the people assuming the role of AML analyst simply happen into the role, most likely from some other legal or operational position, and subsequently rise up the ranks.

There are no true “training programs” at banks and broker-dealers, says Kelly, and so it’s a “learning on the job” experience. AML risk analysts starting out and on up to three years of experience might earn anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000 in salary on average, depending on the size of the financial institution.

The Tradeoff: Money vs. Security

Salaries increase to an average of $80,000 or more with five or more years of expertise in the field. Senior managers with considerable experience and background in AML could make anywhere from $100,000 to $125,000 in salary on average. There are bonuses for most AML professionals at the larger institutions. While Kelly concedes that the salaries and bonuses may not be as high as the top traders and others sitting on the cost center or client-facing side of a large retail bank or investment firm, the tradeoff for individuals in AML is that their job is relatively secure and always in need.

What’s KYC and EDD?

A resume of an AML specialist may not even reference AML at all and might merely say "Know your customer" or KYC compliance specialist, or Enhanced Due Diligence or EDD analyst, or something close to that. The bigger shops, like HSBC, may have dozens of people working on the KYC side, he adds. Whether it’s investigating new customers coming aboard, doing surveillance of transactions day-to-day, or filing suspicious activity reports, anti-money laundering personnel are often expected to be a jack-of-all trades at small- to mid-sized retail banks and smaller investment firms. Large and global banks and brokerage firms, on the other hand, have more delineated job functions.

Moving Up the Ranks

While there is no specific training set up for AML personnel, it’s expected you’ll move up the ranks as you become more seasoned in the role. After a number of years under your belt, Kelly says that most anti-money laundering specialists pursue the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) certification offered by the Association for Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS). According to a spokesperson from ACAMS, the vast majority of people pursuing the certification already hold an AML post. Kelly does wonder if people looking to segue into AML would even benefit from pursuing the credential if they didn’t already have some sort of entryway into an AML role.

AML Remains Recession-Proof

For those already in an AML role, the benefit of sunlight on the compliance area means ever-increasing job security and job options. Kelly adds that given the maturity of compliance and the focus on it, the roles will also continue to gain in stature. “The field is like an evergreen with a fair amount of need at different levels of experience,” he notes. “The positions are relatively recession-proof. Of course, they aren’t completely, but compared to most other functions, they’ve held up better than most.”

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