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The Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protectors of OCBC

The Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protectors of OCBC

  • 19 October 2019
  • By Benjamin Seto
  • 7 mins read

The Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protectors of OCBC

OCBC Bank is run by a team of diverse people. Some hold jobs that most would never have known existed.

Hear from Thia Yukai and Benjamin Seto who both joined the Bank in 2013 and are part of the Transaction Surveillance team.

“Hey, I’m Benjamin. I’m the Deputy Head of the Group Transaction Surveillance team. The team is responsible for monitoring the Bank’s customer accounts to detect any suspicious activities that alert us to possible money laundering or terrorist financing.”

“I studied Business Administration at the National University of Singapore and joined the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force where I became a Senior Investigation Officer. I then moved to an insurance company specialising in investigative work focusing on consumer complaints.”

“Hi, I’m Yukai. I too am a graduate from the National University of Singapore but in Engineering. My career path is different from Benjamin’s. Prior to my current role, I was in oil rig building and then I moved to a shipping company as a planner.”

Being good investigators

Benjamin: “The team’s core function is to monitor OCBC Bank’s customer accounts to uncover suspicious activities. It’s like detective work! We look out for potential money laundering activities to ensure the Bank’s products and services are not being used by professional money launderers and criminals.”

“The current regulatory climate is going through rapid change, as it should, and this means that as AML Officers, we need to constantly adapt and optimise our processes to meet these requirements.”

“Keeping up-to-date is super important in our roles. We can never remain static and assume that we know all the tricks of the game. We manage anywhere from four to twelve cases a day per analyst, depending on the business segment. The straight- forward ones can take about 30 minutes to an hour to resolve while complicated ones may take a few hours or even a day if the case includes more complexities.”

Achievements of the team

Yukai: “Between the both of us, we lead a team of over 40. The functions we manage are diverse. We have Transaction Surveillance, Suspicious Transaction Reporting (STR), Quality & Development, and Design and Solutioning.”

Benjamin: “Since being appointed as Deputy Head of Group Transaction Surveillance, one of my team’s biggest achievements was converting our internal STR submission into a paperless process about a year ago. This has improved our work efficiency considerably and more importantly delivered on our vision of being ‘Future Ready’.”

“The other achievement that I am proud of is that despite the doubling of our headcount, we have not lost sight of our role and vision. We have remained focused as a team. Despite having sub teams tackling the different demands of the business units, the teams’ overall vision remains aligned. Ensuring the team remains as a functioning unit is key to success. But that is just one piece of the puzzle. The other is our regular dialogue sessions with the business units. Building strong working relationships with different business units improve the anti-money laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) controls within the Bank.”

Yukai: “For me, I’m proud of our implementation of technology to augment the existing transaction monitoring platform. This has strengthened our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism controls as we are able to detect suspicious activities much more quickly.”

AML team, 2019

GTS offsite event, Jul 2019

On being a successful crime-buster

Yukai: “You need to have an inquisitive mind and the drive to get to the end of an issue despite the challenges you may have along the way. Always be willing and hungry to improve and upgrade your knowledge as criminals will always find new ways to outsmart the banking and financial system.”

“Being flexible is key. AML typologies and processes within the Bank constantly evolve and one has to be able to adapt to these changes quickly to stay relevant and see opportunities where others see obstacles.”

The future of AML policing

Benjamin: “As financial crimes become more complex, regulators rightly expect greater granularity and rigour from banks in AML policing. Hence, we have embarked on a machine learning journey to prioritise high risk cases and identify anomalies in customer transactions.”

Yukai: “We are also implementing robotics process automation to consolidate information from investigations. This allows the Bank to improve our operational efficiency by allowing our teams to focus on analytics for more complex investigations.”

“The greatest job satisfaction comes when the team successfully detects suspicious transactions and prevents criminals from abusing the Bank’s network and hence protecting the Bank’s reputation.”