Looking for a needle in a haystack

Detecting Financial Crime (DFC) is the umbrella name for all teams working to prevent money laundering and other financial crime. I’m on the Transaction Monitoring team, a division of DFC. As soon as I identify a suspicious transaction in an account, whether it’s a personal or a business account, I look into it.

We use an algorithm to review all transactions in ABN AMRO accounts. The algorithm filters out anything unusual, such as a transaction with a high-risk country, e.g. a war zone, or an extremely high cash deposit. I don’t know exactly what raises a red flag in the system. That’s for a reason: if we don’t know why the algorithm flags a transaction, it’s easier for us to be unbiased. 

Suspicious denominations
I’m responsible for finding out whether or not there’s a legitimate reason for a suspicious transaction. In my job, I consult public sources and look at the structure of a business, but I also check the details of a deposit. One of the key aspects of my review is the type of note used or the denomination as we call it. Five hundred euro notes are seldom used in the Netherlands. Ninety percent of cases where these notes are used turn out to be criminal transactions. That’s why a cash deposit consisting of a large pile of five hundred euro notes qualifies as unusual.

Just the facts
If I can’t explain a transaction, we contact the client to ask for an explanation. I don’t personally talk to the client; that I leave up to my colleagues on the customer contact team. All in the name of being objective. I can’t be distracted by a very reliable-sounding person. For me, the facts are all that matter. If a client is unable to explain a transaction or refuses to cooperate, we file an internal report that can be referred to the Financial Intelligence Unit, an independent government body under the administrative control of the Dutch national police. They also investigate financial and economic crime.

Being alert and making an impact
I spend a lot of time on my computer. That may sound boring, but really it’s quite exciting. Not every red flag is actually a sign of financial crime. What I’m looking for is a needle in a haystack. But once I’ve identified an issue, I can really make an impact. That’s why I’m always on the alert. 

Field work
My degree is in Crisis & Security Management, which focuses mainly on working in the public sector. My current job doesn’t quite tie in with my degree, but that’s a plus in my opinion. I’m happy to start out in the field. As a policy maker, you need to know what it’s like to have your boots on the ground. That was always my plan: start in the field and climb the ladder from there. That’s also one of the reasons why I chose to work at ABN AMRO. It being a commercial organisation, the bank will allow me to develop faster than I would be able to at a government agency. I’m ambitious, so that’s exactly what I need.

Maartje Kreikamp – Customer Due Diligence Analyst
18 mei 2020