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Four ways to safeguard business from financial crime

Imagine being offered a job which promises excellent money in exchange for very little work. It sounds like a dream.

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The farm we visited has built its own 'green' eco system where they develop their own crops, recycle and produce power through grass and recycle their water. This is not just environmentally sound but reduces input costs: the more waste products can be turned back into productive feed or used to fertilise pasture, the more efficient the operation.

Besides seeing these happy cows (especially when they were getting a massage), the enthusiasm of the employees couldn't be missed. They were really proud of taking good care of their cows and no doubt each of these cows had an important impact on them.

The employees are encouraged to come up with ideas to innovate, optimise and find ways to continuously make things better. That in turn produces even better milk for the farm's customers.

Coming away from the trip, I have no doubt this farm has all the ingredients to achieve its goals.

There are broader lessons here too. In today's world, more and more do we recognise the wellbeing of employees is crucial. We don't want our staff to feel overwhelmed or under undue stress or high pressure. To manage a really efficient organisation, as managers we must ensure the right environment is there to realise the potential.

And of course, what I don't mean is our staff are like cattle. Rather, our staff are the most important element in delivering a superior business outcome, whether that is more, better quality milk or superior customer service. It is the satisfied staff we must work on.

The leadership of organisations has a genuine opportunity to create the right environment to have the sort of open dialogue which empowers employees to try out new things – and it is that which results in driving the change which can deliver a better outcome for our customers.

Organisations that do that well will be able to differentiate themselves, have happy employees, be able to unlock discretionary effort and be successful in serving their customers. Taking care of our own before we can take care of our customers is an invaluable insight. Our dairy farm has shown us that …

Foreseeing the huge market demand, Fengxing Milk has sped up their expansion plan in recent years. It is estimated that in 2017, capacity of both dairy cattle feeding and dairy products processing will be double.

And Fengxing knows that if that ambitious goal is to be achieved, they can't forget about staff engagement. After all, happy staff means happy cows and better milk.

A

On your first day, you're eager to impress, so when your new boss tells you they have deposited some money into your account and all you need to do is go to your local Western Union and transfer the money to an account somewhere in Eastern Europe, you're keen to get the job done.

"Safeguarding our communities is a joint responsibility and one where we can all play a role by taking a few simple steps."
Mark Evans, Chief compliance officer, ANZ

You transfer the money, completely unaware it was acquired illegally. And, unwittingly, you've become complicit in money laundering. The dream job is now a nightmare.

As Chief Compliance Officer at ANZ, this so-called 'money mule' scheme, in which innocent people are tricked into laundering money after being hired for bogus jobs, is just one example I see among many of the increasingly diverse schemes criminals use when trying to make bad money appear good.

While the activities of organised criminal gangs can make good headlines and movies, I am certain the overwhelming majority of people strongly believe in doing the right thing. For Australians like me, the idea of fairness is as ingrained to our national psyche as sport, sun, sea and surf.

So it came as something of a surprise to see Australia labelled a 'major money launderer' by a recent US Government Department report. Australia was named alongside the UK, USA, France and Germany as regions of “primary money laundering concern".

Is that a label which stands up to scrutiny? Is Australia a law-abiding nation or are we the delinquent in the international community?

Obligation to protect

As in any developed country, no-one would deny organised crime is an issue in Australia. The US report highlights the Australian Crime Commission's estimate that serious and organised crime costs Australia near to $15 billion each year, with money laundering a key enabler of this.

When you combine this with the fact Australia has one of the largest pools of consolidated assets under management globally (valued at $A2.35 trillion) and is a major destination for foreign direct investment, it's perhaps less surprising we make an attractive target for criminals seeking to use our financial system to legitimise the proceeds of crime.

Many of us, not just in Australia but throughout the region, enjoy a spot of gambling and while most of us can sensibly enjoy the odd wager, casinos and gambling can also make perfect locations to launder large sums of cash.

It's a threat every financial institution treats very seriously. We have all seen the enormous fines and reputational damage suffered by financial institutions who have breached anti-money laundering legislation.

In the financial world, we have an obligation to protect our customers and a duty to do the right thing by the wider community. Working with law enforcement agencies, educating our employees and customers and ensuring our processes and systems are robust are all important elements in helping to prevent criminal activity.

That's why it was heartening to also see that the report praises the work we do here in Australia to detect, prevent and prosecute money laundering. Along with regulators, law enforcement agencies and our colleagues in the financial world, we are working tirelessly to do everything we can to eradicate money laundering.

Individual obligations

Countering illegal activity is most effective when we all work together. Safeguarding our communities is a joint responsibility and one where we can all play a role by taking a few simple steps.

  • Stay alert and report any suspicious behaviour or activity. Most organisations have well-defined channels for reporting suspicious behaviour, so make sure you know what they are and how to use them. Importantly, don't be afraid to speak up.
  • Keep up with the latest trends and developments. The tactics criminals use to attempt to enter stolen funds into the financial system or defraud people are changing all the time – keep an eye on current affairs and any communications you receive from your financial institution for things to look out for.
  • Sign up to your bank's social media channels. Social media can be a useful source of information about the latest threats and scams criminals are using. At ANZ we use both Facebook and Twitter to highlight these to our customers and employees.
  • Be aware too of social media. Social media however can also be used by criminals to attempt to trick people into sharing sensitive information so stay alert and avoid any offers which look too good to be true.

Mark Evans is chief compliance officer at ANZ.

nouk De Blieck is ANZ's Hong Kong-based General Manager Human Resources - International and Institutional Banking. You can read her take on corporate kissing here.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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