Friday, 21 March, 2014 – 00:00
Shhhh. “How does that make you feel – identifying suspicion in money laundering and terrorist financing”(1) has gone through final editing and pre-press and is now in proofing (which is a bit of a technicality because it’s been proofed in its final print format several times during production). Looking good to pop out of this final stage later today (tomorrow in the USA) Why “shhhhh?” Now it’s all in someone else’s hands and I’m going to sleep for three days.
130,000 words. 650 pages. And a sleep deficit that would break the Geneva Convention as cruel and unusual treatment.
When I was writing this book I knew I had to make it accessible to the widest range of people possible. For many around the world, English will not be a first language. So the book had to avoid technical terms (or at least explain them in simple terms) and jargon. It’s a management book that’s devoid of management-speak. It’s a law book that’s devoid of legalese. And it’s an academic work that avoids long complex sentences and difficult words.
I knew that it was impossible to produce a book on this subject with a linear structure so instead of “chapters” there are “phases.” Each phase is designed to, as far as possible, stand alone as an examination of one aspect of the issues addressed while having a common thread: how do we identify suspicion?
I knew that people find professional and management books dry, so I adopted a style that includes humour – and plays pranks on the reader.
I wanted readers to “hear” my voice as they read and so it’s written in a way that makes the reader feel that we are sitting in comfortable armchairs, a cup of coffee at our fingertips, while I explain things.
Yet it also has to be authoritative: it deals with heavy and complex matters that are make or break for Money Laundering Risk Officers and even entire organisations.
Some years ago, a salesman told me that, to grab a person’s attention, a salesman must make sure that his message has “you-ability.” It’s a terrible expression that says exactly the right thing – people buy familiarity. So, throughout the book, I use influences drawn from an enormous range of everyday experiences from star-gazing to pop culture to act as reminders, to provide illustrations and, sometimes, because it demonstrates that, with constant awareness, we can improve our cognitive abilities.
I knew from the outset that it would be a large book and it’s turned out about 30% bigger than I expected. It is important that readers do not feel the time they invest in reading and understanding it is wasted. So I tried to make every sentence carry a punch – a series of short jabs followed by a cross to the jaw to make the point forcefully. The plan was simple: lots of words, none of them wasted.
I knew that the book would address one simple question – how do I know if I’m suspicious?” – with a series of long, very much not simple, answers and that each answer would approach the question from a different starting point.
I think I’ve largely succeeded in these objectives but I have also managed something that, when I started work in this book (which, I guess is, in truth, 20 years ago when I was first asked that question) I thought would be impossible.
I have found the Holy Grail of the MLRO’s quest.
I have a answer to that question and it’s a simple, single sentence that encapsulates all the research, analysis and writing.
I had that lightbulb moment literally in the minutes before I signed off on the final pre-production stage when I had, for the last time, re-read the entire book and it was all loaded in my head, cross-referencing every aspect of it.
I had gone out for a walk, out through the car park and approaching the compound gates. I had my pass in my hand, ready to open the gate under the watchful eye of the guard.
I lifted the pass to the RFID reader… and turned around and walked back into my building.
In that moment, a sentence had appeared, unbidden and unannounced, in my head.
Until then I had been convinced that I, like everyone else, would continue to stand, like a deer in the headlights, struggling for an answer that would make sense to a room full of people of diverse intellect, background and, even, desire to be there but would not make me look stupid.
It may seem grandiose but, with that one sentence, I think I have brought things round a full circle.
Now I have an answer to the only question I felt I could not properly respond to.
Today, as the book heads into production using a highly streamlined system that means it will be published and available around the world within a matter of days, I hope that you, the readers, will enjoy it and find that it aids you in your daily challenge
– to understand suspicion and
– how it is formed or not formed and
– to help you to design and build systems that improve the quality of reporting and
– to ensure that your organisation is, so far as it is possible, protected against financial criminals who want to commit fraud, money laundering or provide support to terrorists or other criminals planning or executing crimes.
And then I, too, will start to look at the more day to day functions of the world of financial crime risk and compliance that we inhabit.
But not until I’ve slept, cleaned up my pit that in the final stages of the preparation has come to look like an artist’s impression of a crazy academic’s rooms, had a haircut so that I don’t look like Einstein revisited and had a proper meal or two.
Before I do that, I have one more task and it’s very important.
As the book goes to bed, I’ve a message to send
– to those who have brought or otherwise supplied whisky, coffee (including the elusive Blend 37), curried tuna from FairPrice (it’s 350km each way to get an own-brand product from a supermarket chain that operates only in Singapore), chicken wings from the best chicken wing shop in the whole world (150 metres from my back door), the best grilled skate wings ever (only 250 metres), oysters and Guinness (WTF? Great idea!!!), a bag full of Chunky KitKat (not such a great idea. OK, Yes it was, but maybe not such a BIG bag) and helped with finding a decent price for an forthcoming flight;
– to those who turned up, threw me on the bed, gave me massages then left; brought Marks and Spencer’s Cava and various other fizzy drinks (but not the friend who bought a case of Drappier Nature then drank it instead of sending it to me – I’ll see you in a few weeks and if there isn’t a fresh case waiting for me, ready chilled, there’s going to be trouble!), goat’s cheese from Paris, black pudding from England and TimTams from Australia (ah, the “flying squad” are real lifesavers), the makings of carpet picnics and a steady supply of good music to keep me going;
– to the people who somehow managed to create and maintain an eco-system that kept my life in order when I was was the victim of a bag-snatcher that caused no injury but enormous disruption to my life and work – even though it cost them both time and inconvenience to do it;
– to the people who have stayed out of my hair and those who have put up with my grumpiness and generally provided the support that an artist needs as the end of the project approaches; to those who even offered to do my housework (all offers rejected with embarrassment) and help with some minor repairs around the place (not rejected! I’ll see you in a few hours – you know who you are!),
– to the little shop around the corner which regularly accepted that I was so focussed on work that I would forget that I needed money to buy things and, even though I hadn’t paid, would deliver my shopping to the door,
– to those who from time to time, turned up and dragged me away from my desk – sometimes even away from the flat – for a couple of hours, and those who checked up on me from afar,
It’s difficult to define the term “friend” in a world where Facebook has seemingly hijacked and debased it but suddenly, and without noticing it happening, it seems I’ve got far more, and far more real, friends than I thought I had, more than I ever thought I’d have. I’d offer to repay your kindnesses but they are incalculable so I’ll remain forever in your debt.
(1) the book was retitled “Understanding Suspicion in Financial Crime” . See https://www.antimoneylaundering.net/public/Counter-Money_Laundering/understanding-suspicion-financial-crime
© 2014 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
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