Harpreet Jagdev, Group Head of Risk & Deputy Head of Compliance, Choice Group
1. What has the journey looked like working in AML?
Working in AML hasn’t been an easy journey, but it’s been a rewarding one. AML and Financial Crime is a very much a male dominated industry, so for us women, making our mark here is that tad bit harder. Not to mention the constant upkeep with laws and regulations to keep your knowledge relevant. Every profession has its hurdles, its important to remain focused on your goals to overcome these. For me, I get excited and am proud of the essential role I play in fighting financial crime. Knowing I have made that little bit of difference makes me even more hungry and passionate to go that extra mile.
And what part of what’re learnt has helped or led to your current role?
AML is made of several elements including Fraud Prevention, Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD), which you must develop expertise in, through education and hands on experience. I found it’s better to have a solid foundation of all areas of AML, rather than focusing on one area; that way you have a broader financial crime skillset.
2. Is this something you’ve consciously worked towards, or saw as an opportunity to gain more experience in the AML sector and your AML journey?
My journey began from a young age, I have always had an interest in crime related novels, movies and TV shows, so I knew I wanted to grow up, fighting crime. At university I studied Criminology, which very much set the foundation for my career. My first job was working as a Customer Services Rep for Post Office products and three months in, I heard the Fraud Prevention Department was looking for someone to join their team. Eager to get into my dream job at the time, I put together my CV and approached the Head of Fraud to give me an opportunity in his team. Impressed by the guts I had in approaching him, he offered me a role! From there, I began questioning our processes and procedures, focusing on AML; it was then I completed the ICA Diploma in AML and was promoted to the Risk & Compliance team. I was always intrigued at how some movies and documentaries are shown for drug trafficking, guns and violence, and realising how little understanding our society has of how closely AML and Financial Crime is linked to the heart of these; as soon as you mention AML, people lose interest!
I love working in AML and after completing my diploma, I knew this industry was where I belong.
3. Has there been a collection of experiences you wished to have that where measurable?
During my work experience I worked closely with Barristers and Solicitors, which was so enlightening and made me want to do a GDL course to study further into Law. Unfortunately, I never got around to completing this, however it isn’t off the radar! I believe having better knowledge of the wider legislations, not only financial services would provide me with a better understanding of how everything fits together.
How are these reflective of your own personal values?
Personally, I think honesty is key. Being true to yourself and playing by the rules, allows you to flourish respectfully.
4. What are some of the biggest challenges, in your opinion, businesses and people face with AML? And does this differ from industry-to-industry?
The biggest challenge with money laundering and terrorist financing is to stop it at its most vulnerable point; where criminals attempt to convert and integrate their illicit funds into the financial system. As AML professionals, we are aware of the adverse effects of money laundering, where if not caught in time, can increase financial burdens due to the hole in the economy. Taxes rise to assist the funding of law enforcement to combat these crimes, which can lead to an increase of corruption within the government, then leading to more crime and additional financial burdens on the national healthcare. However, if this is prevented with extensive verification and investigation, it can help keep the economy in a stabilized manner.
I don’t think this differs from industry to industry really, the same methodology applies; prevention is the key to stop a problem from developing.
5. Do you think there is a lack of understanding or confusion with AML?
I don’t think there is a lack of understanding with AML, but I do think there are “grey” areas. The legislation and regulations are quite clear on what is permitted and prohibited, however sometimes these may cross the path at the same time, which is where the juggling begins, and the “grey” areas rise. It’s so important to bookmark all the relevant laws and regulations, so when you are in this situation, you can refer to them as guidance on the right steps to take.
And what can those in the industry do better, in your opinion?
Think outside of the box! AML is not an “one size fits all”. What has worked for one case may not work well for another and this where the research and analysis skills come into play; they must be constantly modified to fit the current trends or situation. If people were to think outside of the box, they would be able to pre-empt potential financial crime and successfully fulfil the objective of their roles, whilst protecting the business.
Personally, I’d also love to see an increasing number of Women involved in the Financial Crime space, to even this industry out a bit! Women are known to be better at multi-tasking and what better position for them than in the AML space, where you are constantly kept on your toes!
What are or is the biggest positive change you’ve seen?
I think the AML industry has come such a long way; there are so many AML SMEs who actively share their knowledge and experiences through LinkedIn, Blogs, Articles and Conferences. It is really inspiring and comforting to see individuals face similar challenges to yourself. Educational institutions such as the International Compliance Association (ICA) and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments (CISI) provide a range of courses in AML at different levels, which means there is appropriate training available for everyone. The AML industry has particularly done well in keeping up to date with technological improvements, with a range of companies providing bespoke systems to support the evolving regulations, in an efficient and reliable manner.
6. During your career have there been standout people who’ve motivated and mentored you?
How did they, if at all, impact where you are now?
I’m really lucky to have had a lot of support from people around me during my career. Each of them has played a huge part in mentoring me and molding me to the woman I have become today. One person in particular, has to be David Brunsdon. He was the Head of Fraud Prevention at First Rate Exchange Services and gave me an opportunity to begin my career in financial fraud prevention. As he moved to his role of Head of Risk & Compliance, he again, supported me and gave me the opportunity to shine within the compliance function. He truly believes in giving everyone equal opportunities and supports those individuals even through difficult times, to help them achieve their goals. Without the support of David, I may not be where I am now.
7. What are your top tips/ suggestions for those looking to further their journey in this sector?
Networking is essential for individuals in this sector. I have found discussing the challenges you face, requirements of new regulations and customer journeys with individuals who are in the same industry and positions as you, provides you with a wealth of insight and knowledge to the complexity of the subject. The AML industry is really supportive and often where I turn if I need any information or solutions to problems we may face. These individuals are always so keen to assist, provide guidance and their interpretations of the laws and regulations. At the end of the day, we are all in the same fight against financial crime.
Harpreet Jagdev, Choice Group
For more interviews from those working in the AML industry read First Mortgage Trust’s Head of Compliance & Quality Assurance, Julie McCullough’s AML journey.