In this series, we interview compliance officers and other financial crime experts to find out the latest career tips, industry insights, and interesting trends you need to know. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out on upcoming interviews!
In this instalment of our Fincrime Fighters Expert Interviews, we had the privilege of speaking with Victor Widjaja, Head of Financial Crime and BSA Officer at Nearside. You can catch Victor on LinkedIn and at Nearside.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi! I’m Victor Widjaja. I am the Head of Financial Crime and the designated BSA Officer at Nearside. We are building a business bank account for small and micro businesses.
What was your route to becoming a BSA Officer?
I started at Chase, where I worked in client list screening. After a few months I moved to Due Diligence, and then later to their AML Investigations Group. I did Management Information Systems reporting right before I left for my first startup, which was Deserve. There I had experience standing up a small AML program, and at the end of my time I got designated as the BSA Officer which enabled me to get experience running audits.
I had some really great mentors that really taught me a lot. One of those was Bert Friedman who was Chief Compliance Officer at Deserve, and is also now at Nearside.
What is your favorite thing about being a BSA Officer?
There’s a lot I like! I really like the feeling of standing up a program, and having a really agile environment to do that in. The work I get done meaningfully reduces the risk to the company. I have a lot of agency at Nearside, and it does feel like I am making an impact!
The work I get done meaningfully reduces the risk to the company.
What is the hardest thing about being a BSA Officer?
I think the hardest part, especially in my current role at a startup that is trying to grow quickly, is balancing compliance initiatives and business initiatives. Advocating for my compliance resources, even though that may necessarily put business development below certain initiatives I am looking for, is hard.
I think the hardest part, especially in my current role at a startup that is trying to grow quickly, is balancing compliance initiatives and business initiatives.
Everyone is prioritizing work for the good of the company. They want Nearside to succeed just as much as I do. But, when you’re a fintech you need an AML program that grows with the risk of the business. So if we are going to accept cash deposits or allow international ACH, which are definitely on our roadmap, we are going to need more people and software.
If you had to choose the number one most important skill to do your job, what would it be and why?
I would say being outspoken, even if what I am saying may put off some people in the company. The ability to compromise and be empathetic to others is very important, but I still need to be that champion for my team and my role, which is reducing financial crime risk.
What is your top interview question for hiring financial crime compliance experts?
I like asking candidates what they think the risks at Nearside are, once I've told them a bit about what we do.
Good question! What are the biggest financial crime risks that Nearside faces?
I would say the biggest risk at Nearside is related to our target demographic; small and micro business, businesses which are just trying to get off the ground. They have less public presence, and it can be difficult to verify them and know what their transactions should look like. But these are the people who need most help from a financial products perspective.
Have you found anything particularly useful for mitigating that risk specifically?
We are still iterating on solutions and trying things out. We spend a lot of time talking to customers, but I want to make that process more efficient. We don’t want a lot of friction for these business owners who are just trying to get their businesses going.
You’ll have lots of financial crime control vendors to help mitigate these risks. Is there one control vendor that stands out as being a game changer for Nearside in terms of risks mitigated or efficiencies gained?
I don’t think there is just one that I would mention. Probably the biggest thing in terms of efficiency is case management and transaction monitoring. We are in the process of onboarding Unit21 for this.
When you wake up, what is the first financial crime related thing you think about? What’s your 9am thought?
That is hard to answer! There is not one consistent thing. Something that has been on my mind lately is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans. They are targeted at our exact customers, by the government, but they also incentivise fraudsters to try and open a relationship with us. In terms of money laundering, the money comes from the government so they are low risk from that perspective. But they are somewhat large amounts - over $5k, but sometimes $100k’s - so from a fraud perspective, they can seem quite high risk for us.
A lot of manual work still exists in the financial crime compliance space. If you could magic away a piece of that work, what would it be and why?
Due to how AML investigations works, there’s often manual evidencing of the key facts via screenshots, despite the data points and searches we document being available in the data. Reducing this manual work for AML investigation is a key goal of mine, whilst still maintaining procedures that meaningfully reduce risk.
Reducing this manual work for AML investigation is a key goal of mine, whilst still maintaining procedures that meaningfully reduce risk.