A career in financial services was never really a thought for Laura Kang. After graduating from NYU with a journalism degree, she was more interested in pursuing her dream of becoming an investigative reporter. But after discovering that she could put the skills she’d learned to good use as part of the Anti-Financial Crime (AFC) department at Deutsche Bank, she’s never looked back.
We talked to Laura about her unconventional path to financial services, what she enjoys most about it and how she feels she contributes to the success of the business.
Tell us about your background and how your career at Deutsche Bank started.
Laura Kang: I got my degree in print journalism and worked as a writer and editor at a couple of high-profile magazines. A few years after 9/11, I started looking for something a little more meaningful and wanted to find a role that made me feel like I was contributing to a greater good. So, when a friend told me that the Legal Department of an investment bank was looking for a journalist to conduct Anti-Money Laundering (AML) due diligence I was curious to find out more.
I had no idea what AML or due diligence even were at first but as I researched further, I was hooked. It’s like being an investigative reporter, which is something that has always appealed to me except now there was an opportunity to catch the “bad guys.” I didn’t have a business, finance or law degree but the skills I had established as a journalist – writing, editing, researching, investigating and analyzing – enabled me to seamlessly pivot into this role. I have been in the AML industry for over 10 years now and at Deutsche Bank for just under two.
What do you do in your position?
LK: Every day is different. Providing AML advisory means I work directly with Client Onboarding, the front office (the business side) and many other departments such as Anti-Fraud Bribery & Corruption or Sanctions & Embargoes Compliance. I try to ensure that any kind of business Deutsche Bank is doing around the world (that touches the U.S.) is the kind of business we want. This involves a lot of background research and analysis so I can make accurate assessments and recommendations. It’s my job to try to ensure that if an external or internal auditor or regulator decides to look into our reasoning in the future, everything is clearly documented with sound justifications that are within Deutsche Bank’s policies and U.S. regulations.
What else do you particularly like about your role?
LK: Another aspect of my department that I find really interesting is how timely it is. Events like 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis have transformed the regulatory environment, so what we do in AML and AFC is not only crucial to conducting business, but more important now than ever. We need to look at everything in such fine detail while maintaining the bigger picture and really think about who our clients are and why we’re choosing to do business with them. Does the client fit with Deutsche Bank and is it the kind of customer we want?
The other part I love is the people I work with and the culture here at Deutsche Bank. I have direct access to senior leaders. They are so approachable that whenever I have a question I know they’ll happily answer it for me. Everyone is calm, level-headed and rational, and they’re always prepared to give me the support and resources I need. Also, having worked at a variety of banks throughout my career I can honestly say that the Deutsche Bank culture is very welcoming. They want you to succeed.
How do you feel your role gives you a sense of purpose?
LK: This is a big job with a lot of responsibility, but I get an immense amount of satisfaction from getting the job done right. Being AML Compliance Officer at Deutsche Bank, and throughout my career, is more than just a job. It has given me a real sense of purpose and the opportunity to do what I can to protect the U.S. financial system.
What kind of person do you need to be to work in AML?
LK: Curiosity is key. You have to ask the right questions to uncover pertinent information. If something doesn’t seem right to you or doesn’t make sense, you have to listen to that gut feeling and keep digging. Having a strong interest in business is also essential, and to a certain extent, a sense of creativity; criminals of all kinds are known to be quite creative, so you need to be able to keep pace!
It’s not the typical kind of profession that most people know about while they’re considering their career choices. And as far as I know there is no such thing as an AML or Compliance degree. But if this sounds interesting to you, I would suggest checking out ACAMS – the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists – and it will tell you how to get certified. There are other certifications out there but if you’re CAMS certified, it’s a great start.
There may not be immediate graduate roles available in AFC at this time. However, there are plenty of opportunities for curious, investigative minds in Deutsche Bank’s other divisions. Does this sound a place where you can make your mark? Head over to Deutsche Bank’s page on WayUp for more information!