We recently sat down with Lisa Drinkwater, Head of Financial Crime & MLRO at PCF Bank, who has been a member of The Institute since 2003, to talk about her journey as a financial crime prevention professional. In our chat with Lisa, we learned about her experiences and took a closer look at current and emerging issues in financial crime prevention. This Member Spotlight shares not only her journey, but provides practical insights and advice for fellow professionals, focusing on real-world issues and trends in the sector.

The Institute: How did you begin your journey in financial crime prevention? 

Lisa: Having qualified as an Accountant in practice, I moved into an Internal Audit role in Financial Services and was given the role of Deputy MLRO. As the firm grew, I moved across to second line and set up a new Compliance function which gave Audit their independence. Having developed an interest in financial crime prevention, I have continued in financial crime risk and compliance roles at a challenger bank, a FinTech and now in asset finance. I have also completed my ICA Diploma in Anti-Money Laundering.

The Institute: How has being a member of the Institute impacted your professional growth? 

Lisa: Working in smaller firms with limited financial crime prevention resources, particularly in second line functions, my membership has been an invaluable source of current and relevant information in respect of regulatory development and training. The membership meetings and conferences provide access to representatives from Government bodies, Regulators and industry experts that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to learn from. It has also provided me with a valuable and diverse network of professionals to reach out to as a sounding board for queries or for benchmarking opportunities.

The Institute: Can you share a memorable experience or accomplishment in your career that you're particularly proud of? 

Lisa: Receiving a colleague recognition award for producing and delivering Risk Culture Awareness workshops to the whole firm, on top of the day job. 

The Institute: In your opinion, what are the emerging trends or challenges in financial crime prevention that professionals should be aware of? 

Lisa: Emerging trends in the political landscape are impacting the cost of compliance in the financial services sector which is already heavily regulated and supervised. Recent and upcoming legislative changes (Financial Services and Markets Bill, Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, and the Online Safety Bill etc. are bringing new requirements in respect of the revisiting the treatment of domestic PEPs and the de-banking issue, and the likely introduction of a new corporate offence of failure to prevent fraud. This will stretch limited resources at a time when efficiencies from Companies House reform and the SARs reform have not yet materialised. Firms will need to maintain their business-wide risk assessments to direct their prevention controls and resources proportionately and within risk appetite.

The Institute: What piece of advice would you offer to someone just starting in this sector or looking to transition into it? 

Lisa: Be brave enough to always challenge the status quo – ask questions where a process or control doesn’t seem to be designed correctly or work effectively. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot something, and it’s a good way of getting to understand the financial crime control framework and to meet your internal stakeholders in a new role.  

The Institute: Are there any resources, courses, or books you would recommend for those keen to deepen their knowledge in financial crime prevention? 

Lisa: Two connections through The Institute members’ meetings and conferences - I find both the Dark Money Files podcasts and the Financial Institutions News (FIN) briefings from Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP very informative. In terms of books, I have always used the annual “The Money Laundering Officer’s Practical Handbook” by Money Laundering Resource as a useful reference book.

The Institute: Can you share an instance where networking or collaborating with institute members led to a successful outcome or fresh insights? 

Lisa: Through a connection made at an Institute workshop with the MLRO of a Gambling institution (a former Committee Member), he kindly agreed to provide some onsite training to my Financial Crime team. This provided valuable insights into the detailed KYC and financial crime prevention controls at his organisation and allowed our firm to enhance our source of funds procedures for accepting gambling winnings credited to our customers’ credit card accounts (as allowed at that time).

The Institute: To help us know you a bit more personally, what are some hobbies or passions you pursue outside of your professional life? 

Lisa: I relax by watching TV quiz shows but my escapism is musical theatre with regular visits to the West End and my local theatres.

The Institute: What are your professional goals for the next 5 years? How do you see the association playing a role in achieving them? 

Lisa: I’m actively looking for my next opportunity to use my skillset to help another firm to structure and enhance their financial crime framework. Having experienced the contrast of successful challenger and digital banks, remediation programmes following regulatory enforcement, and now a bank in run-off, I like a challenge! I’m very excited for the new member support and development initiatives the association is introducing. I’m always keen to develop best practices and efficiencies, and I like the opportunities to be able to add value to our growing membership network.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to Lisa Drinkwater for making time to talk to us. Come join us, and meet Lisa at one of our upcoming members meetings.

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