Elephant in The Room at CRCA Conference

Cheryl Bazard and Kesna Pinder
Cheryl Bazard and Kesna Pinder from BACO

With the constant changes in financial regulations, one might wonder how compliance professionals are able to keep up with the sweeping regulatory changes.

BahamasB2B found an answer while inquiring about the upcoming conference being held by the Caribbean Regional Compliance Association (CRCA) scheduled for March, in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

To get more information on the conference, and the compliance industry in general, we sat down for a wide ranging interview with two very informed members of the Bahamas compliance community: Kesna Pinder from RBC Royal Bank of Canada, the current President of BACO; and Cheryl Bazard, the organization’s founding President and an attorney at Bazard & Company.

The Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) is a founding member of the Caribbean Regional Compliance Association (CRCA), a not for profit regional forum represented by member associations from the Caribbean and Central American regions.

BACO was founded in 1999 on the heels of the compendium of legislation that came out in the Bahamas directed at the anti-money laundering regime, and the need to have compliance officers in every financial institution.

As financial compliance was a relatively new profession, BACO founders recognized the need for compliance education and training.

Acting proactively, founding president Cheryl Bazard worked dilligently with other interested parties to get the organization off the ground.

The process was not without its difficulties. Seen by other established organizations as the “new kids on block”, there was some concern as to whether the new organization could carry out the functions of the compliance agenda to financial insitutions and the financial services industry.

Some people thought that the new group should be under the umbrella of other already existing organizations.  Realizing that the compliance function needed to be independant, Ms Bazard and her group met with the Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas – at the time Julian Francis – who agreed to back the independence of the new organization.

Mr Francis, who shared the founder’s vision, was very helpful in pushing the concept forward with the rest of the community, allowing the organization to help The Bahamas step up to the plate and address the new legislation which came into effect in January, 2000.

BACO was one of first organizations of its type in the Caribbean and quickly became what many recognized as the leading association. Because of this, BACO was instrumental in providing the bylaws and documentation neccesary to assist in the formation of other associations in the Caribbean. Out of that shared cooperation came the regional association, the Caribbean Compliance Association, which was actually formed in the Bahamas as a result of a meeting of regional compliance officers held by BACO.

While BACO itself does not have the authority to deal with infractions, individual members are governed by the Bahamas Security Commission. So, if a compliance officer is found to be complicit or just didn’t do their job, they would answer to the the disciplinary committee of the Security Commission. Further regulation is provided by the Central Bank of the Bahamas.

As pressure continues to build suggesting that The Bahamas is a “tax haven”, Ms Bazard, who has assisted in writing legislation for 16 other countries in the Caribbean, is confident that the Bahamas is set to respond to any threats of money laundering or financial crimes.

Compliance regulation casts a wide net. At the beginning, it dealt almost exclusively with anti-money laundering, but it now encompasses all forms of risk and compliance, including accountabilty, credit risk, fraud and reputational risk.

BACO offers an 18-month course sanctioned through the University of Manchester resulting in a diploma in anti-money laundering and compliance from the International Compliance Association (ICA) in London, making the graduate an internationally certified compliance professional.

Since the start of the course in 2003, BACO has educated about 300 persons, not incuding this year.

BACO was the first organization outside of Europe to offer such courses, which Ms Bazard points to as evidence that The Bahamas is a well regulated jurisdiction, serious about money laundering and fraud. Not just, “talking the talk, but also walking the walk,” she says.

“The Bahamas doesn’t want the bad business, we want to keep our reputation as a well regulated white-collar jurisdiction where we offer all services that are offered anywhere in the world, and in one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she added.

BACO President, Ms Pinder, says the organization, with over 200 financial members and many more associates, is busy all year long. One of the highlights of the year is the Gala Awards banquet which recognizes the latest graduates of the compliance programme and the Compliance Professional of the Year.

The latest and most pretigious award is the Cheryl Bazard Founding President Award, honouring those persons who have been most helpful in assisting BACO to achieve the organization’s goals in education and training. This year, the award is slated to go to to Ms. Wendy Warren, former CEO and Executive Director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board. Special recognition will also be given to Mr. William Howarth, President of the International Compliance Association, who is expected to officially introduce the BSc. Degree in Compliance now being offered as a top-up degree to the ICA Diplomas in Anti-Money Laundering and Compliance.

BACO also holds an annual High School competition which awards cash and computer prizes to promising young people.

Another event, the Money Laundering Reporting Officers Day, is an entire day dedicated to training compliance officers in many of the topics that are covered in the formal courses.

There are also events planned specifically for Grand Bahama and the Northern Bahamas.

CRCA Conference

Caribbean Regional Compliance Association ConferenceBoth Ms Bazard and Ms Pinder, along with their members, look forward to the CRCA Conference coming up on March 1 & 2, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, located ocean front in Port of Spain, in the dynamic new Waterfront Centre.

The theme of the 2-day conference is the “The Elephant of Compliance”, referring to the important but sometimes uncomfortable topic of compliance regulation.

elephant in the roomThe focus of the CRCA Conference is to offer best practices for managing an organization’s overall anti-money laundering programme and to address emerging compliance threats in the region. Participants will look at regulatory changes in a variety of Caribbean jurisdictions and focus on a wide range of topics as they relate to outsourcing, risk assessment, corruption and corporate social responsibility.

Viewed as an exceptional networking opportunity for professionals in the compliance, regulatory, and anti-money laundering sectors of the financial services industry, delegates from across the globe will meet, discuss, share and grow as leaders in their profession.

The programme was developed by a steering committee consisting of representatives from compliance associations of Trinidad and Tobago, Netherlands Antilles, Barbados, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British West Indies (BVI), along with local compliance representatives from Jamaica and Anguilla.

World class speakers will address topics such as; global compliance, the cost of counterfeiting, an overview of regulatory financial services development, content management systems, corporate governance, presentation skills, working with loan documents in Microsoft Word, internal roles of audit and compliance and nearly all facets of the day-to-day role of compliance officers.

The conference is geared to Operations and Risk Managers, Money Laundering Reporting Officers and Compliance Professionals at financial institutions, which under today’s strict transaction laws includes attorneys, real estate agents, car dealerships and other professionals dealing with client funds.

Don’t let the beautiful ocean front environment of the conference fool you, compliance is serious business and the CRCA is serious about professional development.

“In The Bahamas and the Caribbean, we are serious about anti-money laundering and all of the other ills and the frauds that spin-off from these things,” Ms Bazard said passionately.

Register for the CRCA Conference.