Investigation skills are an essential asset in the fight against financial crime. The recent U.K. National Fraud Strategy illustrates this clearly.


The International Compliance Association (ICA) is a professional membership and awarding body. ICA is the leading global provider of professional, certificated qualifications in anti-money laundering; governance, risk, and compliance; and financial crime prevention. ICA members are recognized globally for their commitment to best compliance practice and an enhanced professional reputation. To find out more, visit the ICA website.

The U.K. government hopes to reduce fraud and cybercrime by 10 percent by 2025, and the creation of a new National Fraud Squad, including more than 400 specialist investigators, is central to its plans.

Of course, the problem of financial crime is not confined to the United Kingdom and similar responses to addressing it are being taken elsewhere. For example, the Canadian government is currently committed to developing a new Canadian Financial Crimes Agency, which will be the lead enforcement body for investigating complex financial crimes.

Neither is the response restricted to the public sector. As the U.K.’s strategy noted, “70 percent of fraud experienced by U.K. victims could have an international component—either offenders in the U.K. and overseas working together or fraud being driven solely by a fraudster based outside the U.K.”

This reinforces the need for both international and public-private sector collaboration in the fight against financial crime, including through improved data and intelligence-sharing arrangements. Europol, with its emphasis on data and intelligence sharing across borders and its explicit aim of supporting law enforcement, is an excellent example of the utility of collaboration.

Joining the dots

In this context, the drive toward upskilling in the field of investigations is not exclusive to the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Investigations knowledge and expertise among those working within industry will also become an increasingly valued commodity—not only to counter the threat to businesses and their customers from internal and external criminal activities but also to manage the growing complexity of investigations and facilitate improved working relationships with external agencies and police forces.

The success of public-private partnerships relies on “joining the dots.” Parties on either side require an understanding of both the mechanics of an investigation and the workings of financial crime within a financial services context. This enables those in the public and private sectors to speak a common language, facilitating the “whole system response” to tackling financial crime, as described within the U.K.’s Economic Crime Plan.

Meeting the need

In the face of evolving financial crime risk, it’s important practitioners in monitoring or investigatory roles maintain a clear and up-to-date understanding of what financial investigations entail. They should be fully versed in the mechanics of an investigation and the tools available to conduct one, if necessary.

This includes knowing how to make an initial evaluation of a case to determine whether further investigation is required and being familiar with internal and external sources of information available to support such an investigation (as well as the powers required and procedures to follow to obtain that information). They should be fluent in how to perform effective open-source searches to obtain relevant external data, narrow the scope of inquiry, and reduce wasted time and resources.

Further, with the massive increase in data in the digital age, both crimes and the resulting investigations can be increasingly lengthy and complex. Therefore, conducting an effective investigation now requires the ability to organize and manage huge volumes of data.

Practitioners can further distinguish themselves by developing the skills needed to conduct an interview with a witness or suspect; to properly record, analyze, and document all evidence gathered; and to be able to compile internal and external reports on the outputs of any investigation.

In many organizations, such knowledge and skills may be developed entirely on the job, without specific or ongoing training. The shortcomings of this approach are clear in terms of missed opportunities to draw on best practice, keep up to date with the latest developments, or put such skills into practice within a safe classroom environment.

In the workplace, such shortcomings could mean either examples worthy of further investigation fall through the cracks or that significant inefficiencies are introduced where staff lack the skills to properly assess and triage cases to determine those worth actioning.

The International Compliance Association is a sister company to Compliance Week. Both organizations are under the umbrella of Wilmington plc.