Current ways of reviewing negative news results are monotonous, frustrating, and harmful to AML compliance.
Negative news is the best way to identify AML risk, yet reading piles of irrelevant results can zap the attention and spirit of every AML investigator.
So, a troubling paradox exists: The process of finding what matters most ends up weakening AML compliance. Wading through endless irrelevant results wastes time better spent on meaningful work. The monotony erodes an investigator’s attention and initiative, increasing the likelihood of mistakes.
Reviewing Negative News Is a Grind
You’re an EDD analyst, a SAR investigator, or a transaction monitoring alert analyst. Day after day part of your responsibility is to search and review negative news results. And, day after day you are confronted with having to read dozens or hundreds of profiles, news articles, and watch list hits. At the forefront of your mind is this reality: the vast majority of what you will read is either irrelevant or incomplete.
That is depressing.
Yes, all jobs have tasks that are boring and leave you questioning, “Why am I doing this?” But, unlike the skills Danny LaRusso gained by waxing on and waxing off, painting the fence, and sanding the floor, reading endless irrelevant negative news results has no purposeful benefit.
The Problems with Reviewing Negative News Alerts
For the past 15+ years, in order to find negative news, AML investigators use databases and/or search engines. Both approaches have serious flaws.
Negative news databases create two big problems: (1) irrelevant results, and (2) incomplete information.
Search engines also present (1) too many irrelevant results, and (2) just too many results in total that no one has time to properly review (does anyone look at page 4 of Google results?).
Negative New Database Headaches
“Irrelevant results” is a softer way of saying “false positives.” Not much more explanation needed. Everyone in AML knows the frustration. A full explanation why negative news databases return so many irrelevant results is its own topic for a future blog.
But in sum, negative news databases return so many false positives because people’s names are not unique identifiers, basic key word searches used by databases are outdated, and negative news databases don’t incorporate modern computer science.
Problems with Profiles
Negative news databases typically provide a “profile” for an investigator to labor through. These profiles contain multiple fields such as date of birth, passport number, and aliases. Most of the time these fields are blank and serve no purpose other than to distract an investigator trying to process endless information all day long.
Included somewhere in these profiles is a short snippet summarizing whatever negative news items relate to the result. This synopsis is never enough information on which to base a decision, so the investigator clicks the web link included in the profile. And then, as the link is launching, the investigator waits to see the dreaded, “404, Page Not Found” error code.
What a waste of time.
Now the investigator, believing there may be something important, leaves the negative news database, goes to Google and begins searching the world-wide web, asking themselves, “Why do I even use the database in the first place?!”
Search Engines Challenges
Seeking some measure of confidence, and hoping to avoid the consequences of missing critical information, the investigator goes to Google and starts the negative news process all over again. If they are lucky, the search name is unique and the investigator must only look past a few advertisements, LinkedIn results, Twitter feeds, and Facebook accounts before they spot the negative news.
If they don’t see what they think they are looking for right away, they either continue to page through results until their eyes glaze over, or start the search process over yet again this time devising a search string that will hopefully return better results.
This is AML in 2017.
A Better Way to Review Results
Instead of relying on methods devised in 2005, AML investigators today should expect to use negative news applications that are simple, fast, and enable them to make better decisions.
Negative news results should be relevant and they should be scored so an investigator can see what is important and move quickly.
Results should be easy to read, and there should be far fewer of them.
It is time AML applications support the way investigators want to work. Investigators should not have to adapt their work to the limitations of the systems they are forced to use.
Next week in part 4 of the series, we discuss a better approach to documenting negative news work. The days of manual and monotonous steps of copy, cut, paste, screenshot, and PDF – another huge waste of time, are finally over.