The fight against money laundering requires bankers bat 1.000, or face an embarrassing round of bad publicity and government scrutiny.
And for global transaction services, that's not the only challenge. In addition to battling crime, bankers face a more competitive market filled with well-funded bank alternatives, putting Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Stephanie Wolf on the spot to play offense and defense for one of the world's largest financial institutions.
"This is a time of tremendous change in the transaction services business. Risk has increased from multiple perspectives, including fraud and anti-money laundering risk, while the pressure to reduce prices for various services can at times be quite intense," said Wolf, who has been managing director and head of GTS sales for public sector banking and financial institutions and Canada for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the past five years.
The laundering threat is increasing and is getting more complex, with fraudsters adopting new tactics such as transferring goods as a substitute for money. At the same time, Wolf is an indelible part of her company's response to the proliferation of non-bank providers that are attempting to disrupt the traditional correspondent banking model.
"These digital players are attracting industry-wide attention and funding from a variety of constituencies," she said. "The concepts underlying digitization of payments can detract or augment the traditional correspondent banking business."
To ensure that services are safe, quick and comprehensive, financial institutions must invest in their systems continuously, said Wolf, who has pushed the financial services industry to build a "know your customer registry," which would aid in battling money laundering, terrorist financing and other crimes through collaboration, sharing and standardization.
"This investment must be covered by revenue earned over the lifetime of the investment," Wolf said. "It is important to me to be transparent to my clients as to the costs involved in offering best-in-class services for their benefit and to earn a market return in doing so."
Wolf, who has worked in the banking industry for two decades, has found that women can make the key contacts in their business and make a direct contribution through participating in industry organizations.
"Industry organizations are always looking for volunteers to arrange events, participate in working groups focused on industry objectives and to attend seminars and conferences," Wolf said. "These opportunities allow networking, training and a chance to contribute back to the industry in a meaningful way."
This networking can involve both men and women.
"While there are organizations which focus exclusively on women, I do not think that one need only participate in gender-specific groups," she said. "I personally like to be involved with incoming talent, in terms of recruiting, training, mentoring and managing."