The use of sanctions as an international regulatory and compliance tool has risen exponentially in recent times. The increasingly complex nature of these sanctions programs has led to the need for qualified persons equipped with the knowledge to tackle the day-to-day compliance and operational duties brought on by the ever-changing rules that govern sanctions policy.
In order to gauge a real-life perspective of those in the business, the Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists (ACSS) has taken the time to ask sanctions professionals what they think is the best way of breaking into the sanctions field and how they see the future of the sanctions industry unfolding.
For this Member Profile, ACSS had a conversation with Scott Nance, an attorney specializing in economic sanctions and anti-money laundering. As a consultant he helps companies comply with sanctions laws, so we asked him how his career evolved, how he sees the compliance landscape changing, and what advice he has for someone wanting to break into the compliance consulting business.
ACSS: Could you please start by telling us a little bit about your sanctions work experience?
Mr. Nance: I began in the area of international trade law. Since then, I have been involved in advising clients on anti-boycott law, anti-money laundering, economic sanctions, and export control issues. I decided to pursue international trade law because I thought it was interesting, and I wanted to travel.
In 2013, I became ING’s Global Head of Sanctions Compliance in 2013. One of my primary responsibilities was to ensure that ING satisfied the terms of its settlement agreement with OFAC and its deferred prosecution agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice, and the State of New York. In this role, I performed an internal audit, formulated internal policies on OFAC compliance and trained personnel involved in US dollar transactions and those involving countries subject to US sanctions.
Currently, I own a consulting firm, Langley Compliance. We advise clients worldwide on creating sanctions compliance systems, performing sanctions risk assessments, drafting policies, and working with personnel to help implement sanctions compliance systems.
ACSS: What do you find most interesting about the work that you do?
Mr. Nance: One of the most interesting things is getting to understand an organization’s business and culture. It is an important part of developing a compliance structure. There isn’t much value in coming in with a parachute for a day or two. If I don’t understand their business, I am just giving them an off the shelf solution that isn’t catered to their exact needs.
I am advising a German bank right now, and I have a key card to the building and a company email. You become part of the institution, and yet you are still outside of it; it’s an interesting position to be in.
ACSS: What’s one thing that stands out about your experience in sanctions compliance?
Mr. Nance: I think my experience with international law and global organizations gives me a unique perspective on the multicultural dimensions of this industry. At ING I was working with compliance people from around the world. I’ve also done extensive work in the fields of international trade and economic policy, and have had the opportunity to advise a number of governments in Africa and Asia on trade policy.
You have to understand how businesses in other countries view the world, and it’s important to remember that not everyone thinks like an American. For example, I am dealing with someone in Singapore. I know what their regulations are like and the regulatory pressures they’re under, and that informs how I advise them.
ACSS: What is the most pressing sanctions issue that companies have to deal with currently?
Mr. Nance: I actually believe that the most pressing issue is with companies that don’t even have economic sanctions on their radar but should. I was talking to someone who was in marketing for a big software company, and I asked them if they had a compliance system set up. They just paused, and it was apparent they hadn’t even considered it. That’s the thing with sanctions, though. You could do be doing things unknowingly, and then one day you get a letter from OFAC.
ACSS: What about organizations that already know they must comply with sanctions regulations?
Mr. Nance: Probably the most pressing issue is making sure that your compliance program is complying with OFAC guidelines. They’re actually pretty clear, and they do a good job telling you what your company needs to do to be in compliance.
An essential first step I take with my clients is a risk assessment so we can figure out what their specific risks are. If your risk is fairly low; you don’t need all the bells and whistles. This helps a company prioritize and focus resources on those risky areas because you are never going to have as much compliance money as you like.
ACSS: What does your typical day look like?
The very first thing I do is I check my email. Most of my clients are in Europe, so I check it first so I can see if there is anything they need. Then I review transactions, especially if it is something that needs to go out tomorrow.
After I put out fires, I do business development. Since I am a solo practitioner, it is important to line up business and network because you always need to make sure you have work when you are done with your current project.
Then after that, I check OFAC and do reading to keep myself informed. I also try to learn about things I want to understand better.
ACSS: What’s an example of things you want to learn more about?
Right now, I am extremely interested in crypto-currency and how it ties into sanctions and those trying to evade sanctions. As financial institutions get more sophisticated; criminals get more sophisticated. You know that sanctions evaders are trying to come up with new ways to use and abuse it. They are unlikely to say, “We give up; I’ll go out, and we’ll go and get honest jobs now.”
ACSS: What is a piece of advice that you would give to someone who is entering the compliance field?
Mr. Nance: Get to know your client’s business. Compliance and the business side of an organization don’t necessarily get along very well. There is often an attitude that compliance is just there to say no. Knowing how your client makes money and how their business operates will help you to persuade them to invest in compliance.
I tell clients, “If you don’t sell products, or take deposits, or make loans, you’ll have zero sanctions risk.” They need to know that sooner or later, something is going to go wrong – 100 percent. A compliance department will never be a profit center, but the resources they put into it will be far less than what they’ll have to pay if they are fined for a sanctions violation.