Spotlight on ACFCS Members: For Moody’s Katie Conroy, fincrime analytics, compliance problem solving reflect the holistic approach of anthropology, study of ‘how’ you learn, not just ‘what’ you learn – CFCS

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By Brian Monroe
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September 27, 2022

For Katie Conroy, solving fincrime compliance problems is more than just analyzing rules, brooding over regulations and digesting data and settle on an acceptable level of risk.

It is about the history of human problem solving itself: anthropology to reinforce strategy.

It’s not just about what bad people have done, are doing or might do in the future – fraud, corruption and money laundering aren’t new, but they are evolving and adapting – it’s about who we are as humans and how we are collectively weighing broad financial and geopolitical shifts against regional risk folds to anticipate the future.

This mindset has led Conroy to her current position as Content Innovation Strategist at Moody’s Analytics, a nearly $4 billion company specializing in financial intelligence and analytical tools to fuel business growth while mitigating a range of risks, including Financial Crime and Compliance.

In many ways, the Anthropologist’s Principles reflect the need for fincrime compliance professionals to view past and current trends through a variety of lenses: the schemes, scams, and crimes that generate illicit finance.

At its core, anthropology is the study, analysis, and cataloging of what makes us human.

Anthropologists take a comprehensive but also detailed and painstaking approach to understanding the nuanced and varied aspects of human experience, a dynamic holism.

This strategy bears striking similarities to fincrime teams, which in recent years have taken a convergent, holistic approach to bring together formerly disparate and siled anti-money laundering (AML), fraud and cyber teams.

These groups are also aware that criminals will not simply launder money through a bank or bully a bank with just one type of fraud scheme: they will use old and new tactics, classic cash and newer cryptocoins to clean up tainted funds.

The bottom line for the modern fincrime fighter: An anthropological approach to understanding illegal acts and actors can help refine and redefine compliance defenses to stop them.

Anthropologists look to the past, including archeology, to look for the physical characteristics of societies and individuals to see how human groups have lived throughout known history.

The goal: to work out what was important to them and to gain important insights into how overarching problems could have solutions over time that are relevant for today.

“Being a strategist is like being an anthropologist — you’ll never meet an anthropologist who specializes in the same field, uses the same tools, or even defines anthropology in the same way,” Conroy said.

“In my opinion, strategists combine the ability to analyze a complex set of variables across different constraints to determine the most effective way of solving a problem.”

At Moody’s, Conroy works with cross-functional teams to identify key opportunities to develop technologies that better harness and leverage data, the lifeblood of banks, regulators and law enforcement in the fight against all types of illicit threat actors.

For the past two years, she has led discussions on high-profile webinars, podcasts, and blogs on topics such as modern slavery, wildlife trade, identity reconciliation, and how it correlates to evolving due diligence and compliance.

Conroy spent her undergraduate years at Tulane University in New Orleans, University College of Dublin, and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil, earning her Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and International Development with multilingual research foundations in the fields of human rights and environmental justice.

Before joining Moody’s, she worked in technology sales, media broadcasts and political campaigns.

One of her secrets to success is opening yourself up and understanding that unlocking and recognizing how you learn, retain and operationalize information – and bringing that knowledge together with the skills and experience of leading thought leaders – can be of great value to anyone festivals

So how did she break into the fincrime compliance space?

Conroy’s most direct “in” was her research background, which included advanced multilingual writing skills along with expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and an understanding of multilateral frameworks.

“This made me a great candidate for interpreting data on a global scale, especially with negative media, and easily adopting new analytical tools,” she said.

“Driven by my passion for language and social environmental rights, I translated this into financial risks by speaking to experienced compliance and RegTech professionals.”

Not surprisingly, one of her top pieces of advice for others trying to enter the field or advance their careers is to focus on learning.

“Expertise she learn and find out how others learn,” said Conroy. “Financial crime is inherent in every industry and the risks are constantly evolving, so you can always use your expertise to make a unique contribution to this industry.”

Conroy was kind enough to share some of her insights in our latest ACFCS Member Spotlight:

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