If you've been working in the AML profession for more than a day, there's little doubt that you've seen the common sight of a team of 20, 50, or even hundreds of analysts working on transaction screening, KYC maintenance, or an AML lookback project in a cubicle farm tucked away in a back office. Often, the hordes of people scouring customer files and transaction sets are "encouraged" to work well in excess of 50-60 hours per week to meet a deadline or to simply maximize some consulting firm's opportunity to bill a client.
But how effective, and as importantly, efficient, is this common industry practice in meeting the intent of compliance and regulatory functions? The research in the accompanying article indicates that the capacity for a professional to stare at a computer screen for weeks and months on end performing repetitive work is closer to the standard 40-hour week than 60. There are certainly more opportunities for mistakes when an analyst's brain turns off after reviewing a few hundred case files day after day.
So, how do we combat these inefficiencies for projects with large staffing requirements?
- Dedicating enough planning time at the beginning of a project to reduce redundant work
- Dedicating proportionate resources to he the actual root cause of the issue that the project is aimed at resolving
- Set output and production-based goals per day, week, or month rather than an expectation of time sitting at a desk
- Rotating staff through various project functions over time
- Leveraging technology where appropriate in order to limit the amount of daily rote work that can be addressed otherwise
- Conduct by-hour analysis of productivity and accuracy of work, then adjust staff hours as needed
Throwing a bunch of people at a problem set is sometimes a symptom of poor planning or lack of appropriate technology implementation on the front end of the project.
There’s a large body of research that suggests that regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork does not help us. For starters, it doesn’t seem to result in more output. In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. While managers did penalize employees who were transparent about working less, Reid was not able to find any evidence that those employees actually accomplished less, or any sign that the overworking employees accomplished more.