Fighting financial crime: you can’t be half-hearted

The former Director of GCHQ on what it takes to tackle financial crime

I come from a career in the national security world – motivated by an urge to stop bad things happening: terrorism, nation state belligerence, military conflict, cyber-attack, serious crime. When I left government, I didn't think I would find the same commitment to protect our societies in the commercial world, but wanted to maintain some connection to that ethos.

I was wholly wrong: at Standard Chartered I have encountered a powerful ethic to make a difference, to detect threat or risk and to prevent harm. I've found not just the same spirit of inquiry that underpins investigations in security and law enforcement agencies, but also a professionalism and competence to complement and add value to the work of government agencies and the police.

Not half-hearted 

Self-evidently, commitment and intent are not enough on their own – substantive leads and results matter. And of course, it's an endeavour that can't be half hearted – it needs robust leadership and strong support from those at the top, as well as those charged with the investigatory tasks.

Also, the initial suspicions that then harden into interrogatory queries and which may then become leads, often result from the gut instinct of front-line staff using their experience-based intuition to challenge. We shouldn't forget the value of being able to rule out false positives – proving the negatives allows the experts to focus on what needs deeper investigation. This is not so different from my old world.

Challenge the status quo

So I have found the determination to pursue indicators of potential financial crime really motivating and refreshing. But given that the Bank deals with a billion transactions a year, it would be pretty disappointing if those running the systems over which those transactions travel did not exercise both the opportunity and their responsibility to watch out for nefarious indicators.

Like my colleagues on the Board Financial Crime Risk Committee, I'm in a great position to offer strong support to those involved in this mission to fight financial crime, but equally to be relentlessly and vocally challenging if I see any lack of imagination or perseverance or follow-through. I have great respect for the Bank and admiration for many of the people I've met engaged in this endeavour, but I take it as my brief not to be taken prisoner and become a cheerleader in any sense, but to state candidly based on evidence the sufficiency of what I encounter.