The Impact of Online Migration on ManchesterCF’s Unique Financial Crime Prevention Courses


Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on May 24, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version.

ManchesterCF provides financial intelligence training to help multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions combat money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation financing, corruption and financial fraud. These timely topics are the focus of the organization’s training programs, which are now available online.

Based in Ontario, Canada, ManchesterCF has been providing financial intelligence training to organizations in North America, Europe and Asia over the past 12 years. Their courses traditionally relied on face-to-face seminars and printed textbooks, but two years ago, the company decided to migrate all programs to the online environment.

According to Tariq*, head of e-learning at ManchesterCF, while the company was highly regarded by international financial institutions as a training provider, rethinking their training approach was necessary, as they realized the business potential in training underserved financial intelligence professionals.

“The number of trainees has grown exponentially over the past decade and cannot be adequately served through face-to-face seminars anymore. Additionally, the body of knowledge is constantly evolving, and staff need constant access to the most current information,” notes Tariq.

Understanding Financial Crime Risk Management

Since the beginning of the 21st century, banks around the world have been hit by fines and penalties for facilitating money laundering and terrorist financing, according to Tariq. For some institutions, these penalties may have reached hundreds of millions of dollars. For others, even billions.

“One of the challenges in this area is that the financial crime industry is global. There are unique cultural and economic situations in each market that the financial services organizations are operating in. That means they need to have a great deal of knowledge about the economy, the culture and the politics, and they must use this knowledge appropriately to make their decisions and operate successfully,” says Tariq.

As an example, he notes that certain regions in the world are politically unstable, while others are more open to corruption. “When a bank begins to operate in a region like that, it becomes exposed to those risks, and it has to understand what they are—otherwise, it will be vulnerable to financial crime,” Tariq explains. “The number one challenge is banks having information and being aware, so they can guard themselves against these risks, mitigate them and manage them accordingly.”

Training Programs Strategy

Financial crime risk management is a growing field for financial institutions that’s been getting more attention over the last two decades. Very few educational institutions currently offer training on the subject.

According to Tariq, the area is slowly developing—as regulators, lawmakers and bank employees become aware of how much money laundering and terrorist financing is actually happening through traditional channels, like banks.

Many of the professionals who work as financial investigators learned what they know on the job. However, the body of knowledge is growing, the number of students is growing and ManchesterCF is providing quality training for these professionals.

“What we do is really immersive. We are taking an academic approach because our plan is to fill that gap that currently exists, but isn’t being filled,” says Tariq.

According to Tariq, having an adequately trained risk management staff is one of the major challenges for financial institutions. “To mitigate the risk of compliance failures, banks employ small armies of financial crime analysts to review and monitor transactions,” he says.

Front-line staff within a financial institution must also be trained on the patterns of financial crime. ManchesterCF’s Front-Office Training series is designed for the sales function and senior management. Both the front and back office can be trained to spot similar patterns of potential money laundering or terrorist financing activity.

In order to train these professionals effectively, ManchesterCF’s strategy is to deliver courses that are well-packaged with a good understanding of what their audience needs. The courses are focused on explaining fundamental principles, as well as best practices to be adopted, always with a global perspective.

ManchesterCF also acts as a curator of financial intelligence knowledge. In order to do this, the instructors constantly research the latest newspaper and journal articles, regulatory findings and publications produced by agencies such as the United Nations, the Financial Action Task Force and banking regulators.

Tariq says it’s unrealistic to expect that the anti-money laundering staff has the time to research and read all of this information, so the instructors ‘translate’ these materials for them.

Challenges in the Online Migration

Two years ago, when the company first started migrating from face-to-face education to online courses, they were faced with a challenge. They realized that banks, being very conservative organizations, have strict technology policies in terms of information security and privacy.

“When we were going through the digital learning environment selection process, Blackboard Learn was one of the top contenders. But it did better than any of the others because Blackboard really has dispelled the fears of the banks in terms of information security and privacy,” notes Tariq. “We simply showed our clients a list of all the banks and other organizations —such as the U.S. Department of Defense—that were using Blackboard.” Tariq then worked actively with Blackboard to make sure that all of the security requirements were being met.

The second challenge was creating online courses that maintained the engaging and dynamic style of the face-to-face-seminars. Due to technology constraints at financial institutions, ManchesterCF couldn’t rely on video, since many students wouldn’t be able to access video in their workplaces. “It was challenging to take that approach and still keep it interesting and interactive, while making sure it was current and accurate. But Blackboard Learn has enabled us to present our seminar training content as fluid online learning,”says Tariq.

He notes that the course development process is very lean and fluid. “We start with a clear definition of requirements which helps us shape objectives and identify subject matter experts (SMEs) from academia and practitioners. Our research analyst and production editor work actively with the SMEs to develop the content. Then, they fill in the gaps by using sources in the public domain. Graphic, media and instructional designers work in parallel to identify opportunities for creating engaging, interactive rendition of the course material. We believe that active participation from all members of the team helps us create richer content.”

In all courses, students are encouraged to learn through group discussions, wikis and blogs, and share their learning with colleagues. “We like to leverage the social learning aspects, and, with these resources, we make sure that the users are actively engaged in the process of learning and that they are talking to each other,” says Tariq.

Tariq adds that Blackboard has enabled ManchesterCF to offer testing and reporting capabilities for student testing purposes. “Enabling our clients to extract meaningful metrics is a key component of our value proposition,” he said. “We distinguish ourselves by providing a more rigorous approach in this domain. Providing a diversity of testing options, as well as analytics for gauging performance, helps our clients measure progress and gauge performance.”

Some ManchesterCF Courses at a Glance

  • Trade-Based Money Laundering
    One of the first courses developed by the company and also the most popular. Trade-Based Money Laundering offers knowledge on trade finance and how individuals and organizations are exploiting it to commit financial crime.
  • Critical Thinking for Financial Investigations
    This unique course is mainly for financial analysts. It teaches them how to evaluate information and situations critically, which is a crucial skill for financial investigators.
  • Human Trafficking
    ManchesterCF consulted with a human trafficking survivor who is a subject matter expert to develop this course. It deals with an emerging topic: how financial institutions can play a more active role in identifying human trafficking channels.

The Positive Impact of Online Learning

1. ManchesterCF’s first online client signed up in January 2017. Today, 15 months late ManchesterCF is in the process of signing thousands of participants from financial institutions, law enforcement, banking regulators and government agencies.
2. ManchesterCF has published 27 modules so far, going up to 33 over 2018.
3. They have experienced dramatic growth in revenue, and the company’s team has doubled in size.
4. The next challenge is expanding to the Asia-Pacific region, which will be possible through their online learning courses and diverse language capabilities.

*Due to the company’s sensitive area of operation, the interviewee asked to be identified by his first name only.