Maritime Veteran Turned Finance Detective

“I really needed to take stock of what I wanted to do next. How do I stay relevant for the future economy?”

Having spent over a decade in the maritime industry, Bobby was in search of something new to reignite his passion and drive. It was time to try something different.

Reflecting upon his interests and current market trends, Bobby decided to switch to the finance industry and started researching extensively for the right opportunities.

Embarking on a mid-career switch in his thirties, Bobby’s initial apprehension at job-hunting soon gave way to elation when he was successfully hired for the transaction monitoring team under Maybank’s compliance department, the financial equivalent of crime scene investigations (CSI).

To help accelerate his transition into banking, Bobby was offered a place in Maybank’s Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) – a structured skills conversion programme offering on-the-job training for PMETs wishing to transition into new roles or sectors.

After joining Maybank for over a year, Bobby became a successful PCP graduate, and well-equipped to hit greater heights in this new line of work. Bobby attributes the success of his transition to the skills gained from his previous job, his desire to learn and the support that he garnered along the way.

Finding a Purpose

Bobby’s previous role in the maritime industry revolved around people management. He handled sales, identified cash flow risks, and followed up with a variety of stakeholders on a daily basis to ensure that projects were delivered on time. From these experiences, Bobby began to hone a keen interest in compliance and risk management.

“The maritime industry has its own [set of] regulation.

In my previous role, I had to manage risk for the company and that was the part that I enjoyed the most. So I decided that going into compliance in the banking industry is actually quite suitable for me.”

That did not necessarily mean that Bobby had everything he needed to work in banking compliance, but the knowledge gaps were not as great as he initially feared. From juggling stakeholders to project management, Bobby already possessed a substantial variety of soft skills. All he was lacking were the technical skills and the broader domain knowledge specific to banking compliance to make him a better detector of fraudulent activity.

“It’s a different task in a different industry, so you need to pick up all these different skill sets that are necessary for the financial industry.”

It takes a well-oiled team to ensure all banking operations are smooth and protected. From managing risks through close monitoring and surveillance, conducting background checks, maintaining a high standard of reporting, to competent data management – these are the challenges that await a compliance officer.

Luckily, improvements in the technology behind a large-scale operation like banking compliance have certainly helped in detecting possible criminal activity.

“We leverage technology to analyse large amounts of data,” Bobby emphasised. “The bank has in place monitoring systems that flag transactions that may be suspicious or unusual based on risk indicators, parameters, thresholds and scenarios. It enables the bank to detect and assess whether the transactions pose any suspicion.

Bobby and his team will analyse the data to get a fuller picture of the transaction by comparing it with past transaction patterns. If suspicious activity is found, investigations will be carried out and action taken if need be.

Recently, Bobby’s team helped protect an elderly customer from potential fraudulent activity, when their system picked up “irregular withdrawals being made.” It caught the team’s attention and they investigated it further.

“Through our commitment to protect our customers’ interest, we were able to uncover that the customer’s primary caregiver was fraudulently withdrawing large amounts of cash from the bank account,” Bobby recounted. “The case was subsequently reported to the authorities for appropriate action to be taken.”

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A Team Effort

A mid-career change can be daunting. Fortunately, Bobby’s wife was hugely supportive of his new endeavor from the onset and advised him to “just go for it”. She knew that the challenges from Bobby’s career transition was just a temporary phase and that they would find a way to manage in the interim.

After enrolling with Maybank’s PCP, his learning and development became more structured. In addition to full-time work responsibilities, Bobby was required to undergo 101.25 hours of mandatory training, comprising seminars, courses, and exams over a year.

For example, PCP participants from the compliance department were all required to complete an advanced certification course in governance regulatory from the International Compliance Training Academy (ICTA).

Maybank’s compliance team was already supporting several staff members for PCP due to the growth of its compliance arm. Given that the bank understood the requirements and benefits of the programme, Bobby’s colleagues and supervisors were always on hand to make the transition easier.

Despite the difficulties involved with undertaking part-time study on top of full-time work, Bobby acknowledged that the PCP structure was immensely helpful. He was allowed to leave work earlier to study, and was able to apply the theoretical knowledge that he picked up to his day-to-day job, which fast-tracked the learning process.

“Whatever you study and listen to during lectures, you’ll end up applying to job. And because of your job role, you spend less time studying, since you end up doing it every day. It’s a very natural process.”

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Staying Ahead of Crime

Prior to joining Maybank, Bobby had signed up for a basic anti-money laundering certification course. While he did not necessarily have to take this course, he took the initiative as he wanted to know what he was getting himself into.

“Don’t take your professional development for granted,” Bobby advises.

“Make sure you take stock and once in a while, look back to see where your professional journey is going. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

While Maybank curated a list of internal and external training opportunities that were relevant to Bobby’s needs, he also pursued ad-hoc courses that would aid his job, such as trade-based money laundering and sanctions.

Trusting in his skills and ability to learn enabled Bobby to successfully transition from maritime guardian to a financial protector. However, he still harbours higher aspirations. In the immediate future, Bobby wants to study data analytics at one of the polytechnics and a diploma with the ICTA. And in the long-term, he plans to kickstart a project that utilizes innovative technologies to benefit the compliance department.

Bobby’s story shows that if you are committed to transitioning to a new industry and upskilling yourself through the PCP, there are organisations like Maybank that are willing to offer the right support.

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Keen to transition your career into the banking and finance industry? Speak to a career adviser at The Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) to learn about the opportunities available to you.