Measuring the MLRO

As some of you may know, I am a magistrate.  (For non-UK readers, magistrates are volunteers who hear cases in courts in their community; we deal with crimes like minor assaults, motoring offences and theft, are assisted by a legally-trained adviser in court, and hand out penalties including fines, unpaid work and prison sentences.)  In order to check that I have not lost my few remaining marbles and started acting like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” (“Sentence first – verdict afterwards”), I am regularly appraised by fellow magistrates.  And I wondered whether there is scope for something like this for MLROs.

Of course, things are simpler in court in that magistrates are not in commercial competition with each other, or bound by the strictures of client confidentiality, and so the work of one magistrate does not have to be kept secret from another.  But I have to say that I find my regular appraisals both helpful and comforting.  Other magistrates know exactly what I am trying to achieve, and are familiar with the problems that I face: changing guidelines, incoherent defendants and witnesses, overworked and harried solicitors, grandstanding barristers…  And they can offer suggestions on how to deal with such situations.  They can also appreciate when I do something well, and – again, with that lack of competition between us – can compliment me on it, reassuring me that I am doing what I should in the way that I should.

In my regular workshops for MLROs, I strive to provide something of the same mutually supportive and advisory environment.  We all agree that the confidentiality of the workshop will be respected, and I hope that the MLROs who attend find it a welcome device for both decompression and encouragement.  But if only we could find a way to, say, pair off MLROs who then go and observe each other at work and provide feedback afterwards – definitely not with a view to catching each other out and snitching to anyone, but simply to say, yes, I think that was a sensible decision in the circumstances, and no, I don’t think shooting the Director of Sales will help very much.  A pipe dream, I suspect, but if you do have a particularly friendly relationship with a fellow MLRO at another firm…

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8 Responses to Measuring the MLRO

  1. Tanguy, Nikki says:

    What a fantastic idea. Even taking one step back and perhaps having a network who regularily meet over lunch to say “hey I had this scenario – how would you have dealt with it”.

    Nicolla J Tanguy
    Managing Director

    Bank J. Safra Sarasin Ltd, Guernsey Branch
    Direct Dial +44 1481 739801

  2. Kelly Argent says:

    I love this idea Susan, sometimes being an MLRO is a very solitary position to be in with few people to bounce ideas with. I have often thought about trying to organise an informal forum for likeminded compliance individuals in Guernsey where we talk openly and honestly and share (sanitised) experiences with each other, both as a support network and also continued development. Bravo I say!

    • Thank you for your comment, Kelly, and welcome to the blog.
      You’re exactly right: being an MLRO is by definition a solitary role, and I think a support network could really help. After all, I’m sure judges get together to let off steam, and who knows what goes on after the port at those international summits – you can imagine all the world leaders sharing concerns about civil servants who won’t toe the line, or how ungrateful the general public can be!
      Best wishes from Susan

  3. I’m glad you like the idea, Nikki. And I have to say, if it’s going to work anywhere, it’s Guernsey. I was also thinking of perhaps running “MLRO clinics” myself, where MLROs can come to me for one-to-one consultations about (AML!) things that are bothering them – not necessarily a specific client or report, but “I really don’t understand these changes to the topping off legislation”, or “how can I choose the best sources of information to populate my high risk country list”. But that would probably have to be here in the UK, as I couldn’t fly out to the islands for only a couple of hours. Although perhaps I could set aside a day in a longer visit for consultations – the AML doctor is in!
    But if you could get a little network going, I think it would be a really excellent ongoing source of comfort and expertise for those participating.
    Best wishes from Susan

  4. Karen Mason says:

    I also think this is a great idea, and agree with Nikki and Kelly that a likeminded Guernsey network to have contact with on varying MLRO and compliance matters would be really helpful – the sharing of experiences and knowledge and getting a different point of view from someone else in the same boat can only be a good thing!

  5. cdwos says:

    Interesting idea I wonder, because of the solitary world in which we operate, how much each others performance we could realistically measure – Tipping Off comes to mind – as the really testing and stretching decisions that really count and possibly could come back to bite are likely to be those that cannot freely be shared without great care.

    On the loneliness topic for those who are unaware of the recent attempt to obtain a criminal conviction against an MLRO in Jersey by the JFSC (sorry, authorities) for failure to file an external SAR gives the loneliness and risk/reward of the role a whole new perspective !! It also says something about the partnership (!!) between the regulator and the finance industry……………

  6. Hello cdwos. You may be right – “measuring” might be a bit ambitious. But supporting and encouraging should be possible. And if you share a less delicate situation and get good feedback on your approach from fellow MLROs, you might feel a bit more confident and a bit less daunted when that testing and stretching decision comes along.
    And yes, the Jersey case has been fascinating (we had a little chat about it here: https://ihatemoneylaundering.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/begone-bad-mlro/) – although jolly uncomfortable for those involved.
    Best wishes from Susan

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