The lure of money laundering

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Pay's not great, but anti-money laundering is high on intrigue, immune to downturns, and allows its officers to battle terrorists without joining the armed forces.

Thanks to new Money Laundering Regulations (MLRs) that come into effect on 15 December 2007, demand for anti-money laundering (AML) professionals may be about to increase.

The new regulations extend AML obligations to the likes of car dealers and money service businesses such as FX dealers and electronic funds transfer networks.

The bad news is that many of the new roles won't be particularly exciting. Roger Aldridge, director of forensic services at KPMG, says a lot of them are likely to involve simply filing reports of untoward behaviour.

Nevertheless, Aldridge says that the job of anti-money laundering reporting officers (AMLROs), whose duty it is to implement organizations' AML regimes, is becoming a) more important, and

b) more exciting: "As the number of areas covered broadens, the role of the AMLRO is becoming more sophisticated and senior - AML is increasingly part of an organization's risk function."

Marnie Woolf, managing director of Woolf & Co, a compliance recruitment consultancy, confirms that there are exciting jobs to be had in money laundering. She says the most thrilling involve detective work, which explains why they appeal to former members of the police force (like Aldridge): "If a private equity fund is investing in a company, it will be necessary to ensure none of that money falls into the wrong hands."

The bottom line

These interesting jobs may help compensate for a lack of hard cash. Although AML is also increasingly bundled in with compliance, Woolf says its practitioners are paid a lot less. Heads of AML can expect 100k in base salary plus a bonus of less than 50%; head of equities compliance can command a similar base salary, plus a much more substantial bonus.

Meanwhile, a salary survey from recruitment firm PSD Group found the average salary for an AML reporting officer with between five and seven years' experience actually fell marginally between 2006 and 2007, to 74.5k.

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