• Ashwin Nazareth

Good Help is Hard to Find: 5 Tips for Hiring a Financial Crime Analyst

After three weeks of back-to-back interviews and what feels like a hundred candidates, you’ve finally found the perfect one. You pat yourself on the back, brief the rest of your staff, and send the required paperwork off to Human Resources. Fast forward three months. Your dream candidate is now permanently on staff, but things are worse than they’ve ever been and you find yourself in an endless loop of coachings, corrections, and complaints from the team about how (or rather what on earth) this new person is doing.


What happened? You had the perfect candidate, didn’t you?


Hiring is as much an art as it is a science - sorry, no easy one-size-fits-all rule to follow. But there are some things you can do when running through the selection process to minimize the chance of a nightmare scenario.


Look for competencies, not skills

More often than not, you see competencies and skills lumped together in job ads, but the two couldn't be more different. Skills are specific abilities that can be learned over time, whereas competencies are behavioral and cognitive traits that lead to success in a job. While competencies can be developed, they are significantly harder and more time consuming to impart than skills. Here are some of the competencies which a financial crime (fincrime) analyst should possess:


  • Attention to Detail - Perfectionism to the point of nit-picking. In any other situation, this competency would be deemed unproductive, however, a keen eye for anomalies is key to success in spotting a well-disguised financial crime.

  • An inquisitive nature - Always wanting to get to the bottom of things and not being satisfied with taking anything at face value. This type of person asks questions, challenges the norm, and is skeptical of all information supplied to them.

  • A holistic appreciation of financial crime - This includes knowledge that their job is more than just something mandated by a regulator, but rather stopping terrorism and organized crime in an industry with the greatest potential to do harm if left unchecked. This shapes the investigative thinking of the analyst outside of what a classroom can teach.

  • A passion for continuous learning - fincrime is constantly evolving and new methods are being uncovered every day. There is no premium assigned to an experienced candidate who 'knows everything' but their knowledge is out of date.


On the flip side, worry less about their 'skills', especially specific certifications in SQL, AMLCFT, or cross border finance. It's great if the candidate has these already but these tend to be things that a high-caliber candidate will pick up throughout their career anyway.


Go beyond the standard interview

Feel free to skip the ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ questions. While there is some merit to these, at the analyst level your time is much better spent on quizzes, case studies, and data exercises. Use both fincrime-specific and abstract case studies - things like ‘how would you calculate the total number of chairs in the world?’. You're looking for candidates who focus on asking for clarifications and talk through getting the information needed to answer the question rather than candidates who quickly jump into a formulaic solution using assumptions plucked from thin air. Don’t shy away from a candidate who 'figures things out' (i.e. Googling) during the session, as resourcefulness is more important than absolute knowledge in these evaluations.


Research your candidate's background including published research papers, blog posts, LinkedIn, or YouTube. You'll find a lot of useful information about how someone thinks based on the kinds of media they consume or topics they engage with. As a major disclaimer, only use information in the public domain and not things you have to request access for (i.e. don’t be creepy). Always respect a candidate's privacy, don’t engage with the candidate's online personas, and be mindful of any information that may be protected under privacy laws or even your own company's recruitment policies.


Find candidates with ‘transferable experience’

One mistake hiring managers often make is narrowing the candidate pool to those previously in the exact job. Expanding the search for people with 'the right stuff' but the wrong job title may yield a fresh perspective e.g. hiring a document translator who is used to reviewing documents and can easily spot forgeries or a fraud analyst who is used to finding anomalies. An added benefit is not having old habits and processes from their old job creep into your workflows.


Allowing a candidate to break into the role/industry of their dreams can be a powerful tool in keeping enthusiasm elevated for an extended period. A candidate could be looking for a career switch as part of their career development plan, but find rotations are not encouraged in their current company.


Be mindful of a candidate’s time and effort

The best candidates are often the busiest. Be practical about their leave availability on short notice or the total number of hours they would be willing to dedicate to your interview process. Remember, if you're fishing in the right candidate pool, you're likely to be one of several companies they are interviewing with concurrently. So, don’t have a selection process that prices-out good candidates who are just strapped for time.


Try to have flexible versions of your process to meet candidates' schedules. Some examples of these flexibilities include compressed sessions with all levels of the interviews scheduled back-to-back in a single day (should they make it through), sessions after office hours, or even allowing them to take assessments remotely.


Socialize the candidate with your team

Candidates are seldom offered the opportunity to mingle with existing members of the team before their official join-date, and it is a great source of anxiety on both sides about 'the type of characters they'll be working with'. Inviting the candidate to spend time with your existing team in the final stages of the vetting process will give any potential issue a fair chance to surface, as well as jumpstarting enthusiasm about their onboarding. Observe the interactions between the candidate and your team and look for clues as to the dynamic that emerges. Get a good amount of interaction in and take feedback from your team members before you make a final decision, but bear in mind these are ‘laboratory conditions’ that may not necessarily translate in day to day work.


Still can't shake the anxiety about candidate selection?

If you're reading this because you're currently hiring, we wish you the best of luck with finding your candidate. Contact us today if you would like help with designing your evaluation process or even reviewing candidates that you have identified. We have extensive experience in vetting risk management and compliance candidates at various seniority levels.

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