Recently I had the privilege to attend two customer events hosted at SAS’ new Executive Briefing Center. The first was a two-day SAS anti-money laundering (AML) customer connections workgroup which was then followed by the 7th Annual Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering Forum. Some of you may be thinking, “Isn’t anti-money laundering old news? Didn’t every bank already implement their AML software solution years ago? Why does SAS continue to invest in this mature and saturated market?”
Well, it is true that most banks across the globe do in fact already have an AML solution, but there are very good reasons why we continue to stress the importance of our industry-leading solution and facilitate customer gatherings here on campus every year.
On September 11, like many of you, I reflected on the events that occurred 10 years ago when the US experienced the greatest terrorist attack ever perpetrated on US soil. Since that time, we have invested hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up our defenses to ensure that such an event would never happen again. If you are like most people, what comes to mind when I mention this is the Homeland Security Department and other agencies that are monitoring electronic chatter and using other high-tech means to detect and foil our enemies’ efforts.
In reality, one of the most effective means of finding and preventing these nefarious activities continues to be through the financial system. The fact is: all such efforts require funding, and thanks to the controls put in place through the USA PATRIOT Act and other global legislation, we can detect an incredible number of illegal activities just by watching how the money flows through the financial system. Our keynote speaker for the forum was Juan Zarate, who developed and oversaw the implementation of the US government’s counterterrorism strategy from 2005 to 2009 and led the US Treasury’s domestic and international efforts to attack terrorist financing from 2001 to 2005, which included leading the global efforts to hunt down and return $3 billion of Saddam Hussein’s assets.
In his address, Zarate explained in fascinating detail how effective and powerful the financial systems’ controls are at combating even the most hidden terrorist activities. We all have read about various high-profile scandals, including the Eliot Spitzer case, which were detected and blown open by anti-money laundering reports. But there are many other illegal activities that are found by simply running analytics on financial transactions.
Even in countries that are known for being supportive of terrorist organizations, the controls originated in the US help dry up the funds available to our enemies. The various blacklists and sanctions applied to “terrorist-friendly” countries and financial institutions provide real incentive for the legitimate members of the financial community to cease doing business with such entities, thereby cutting off their ability to move money and support terrorist activities. Never have I been so proud to be associated with SAS and our AML solution - named the number one worldwide AML product by the Aite Group earlier this year.