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RiskScreen CEO and founder Stephen Platt interviews Major Andrew Fox on the latest episode of the AML Talk Show.

In this series of podcasts, our host Stephen Platt will interview key figures in the world of financial crime prevention and examine successes and failures in the global fight against money laundering and related crimes including drug trafficking, bribery and corruption, sanctions evasion, human trafficking and tax evasion.

Episode 24: KYC360 AML Talk Show host Stephen Platt interviews guest speaker Andrew Fox, a former army major and specialist in ethical leadership.

Stephen Platt:

Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another KYC360 AML Talk Show with me, Steven Platt. With the growth of every business comes challenges, of course. As the CEO of RiskScreen, I’m constantly trying to ensure, for example, that we strike the right balance between growth and continual adherence to our values. And that’s one of many reasons why I’m excited about talking to my guest today, Major Andrew Fox. I first met Andrew earlier this year when I asked him to talk to my senior leadership team about ethical leadership, and that session was extremely well received. And I’m delighted now to have the opportunity to talk to him again and to share his story with a much wider audience.

Stephen Platt:

By way of background, Andrew was, until earlier this year, a major in the Parachute Regiment. Following three combat tours of Afghanistan, he has taken up a post on the civilian side at the officer training college at Sandhurst, in which he continues to deliver training. His specialist areas are self-analysis, leadership and ethical leadership. He has a fascinating story to tell about combat and its after effects. Over the past couple of months, Andrew has also been instrumental in securing the departure from Afghanistan of several families who, had they remained, would have been at severe risk of execution.

Stephen Platt:

I realize, of course, that the battlefield may seem like a long way from the boardroom, but there are several reasons why I think what Andrew will talk to us about this afternoon that you will find relevant and compelling. Here are some of my thoughts. The Army are experts at fighting, but they don’t get to decide who or where they fight, or indeed, when. That is always a political decision. What they can control is how they fight. In having the ability to plan their own operations, they have a huge input into how fighting is done, how ethical it is, how likely it is to be effective, how serious its effects will be on third parties and so on. And in that sense, they’re analogous to compliance officers.

Stephen Platt:

Compliance officers don’t get to decide what business conversations a firm has. They get given an opportunity and they’re told to get on with it, but they can have a huge impact on how business is done, i.e. how customers are onboarded, what safeguards are applied, what policies and procedures are required to be followed and so on, and in extremists, whether business should be done at all. Compliance officers also, it seems to me, share with the Army a huge pressure from above from politicians, in the case of financial services, obviously, from business itself to deliver results and to not stand in the way of achieving objectives.

Stephen Platt:

Their strength of character is pivotal to deciding whether an organization follows an ethical trajectory or not, given that there will always be times where politicians, businesses want things which are either unethical, per se, or which are followed to their logical conclusion or produce an unethical outcome. Furthermore, the Army has to exercise this qualification and restraint of political will all the way from the top brass level down to individual squaddies being trained and mentored to act in the right way in extreme circumstances. And so it is also for compliance departments. They have to help set policy for businesses, but also at a micro level to try to get each small operational issue resolved in the correct way.

Stephen Platt:

So there are, I think, many, many parallels, which is why I really am super excited to have Andrew join us on the show. Andrew, welcome. How are you?

Andrew Fox:

Steven, thank you very much for inviting me on. Yes, I’m doing very well and I’m very happy to have the chance to talk with you today.

Stephen Platt:

Well, thank you. Thank you, Andrew, and likewise. I’ve given a brief introduction, which really, I think, probably doesn’t do justice to your background. So please could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how it is in particular that you’ve come to be so interested in and engaged with questions of leadership and ethics?

Andrew Fox:

My first four years in the Army were probably unusually busy. So I deployed straight from training in 2007 to Helmand in Afghanistan where I was dropped in as a platoon commander attached to the Mercian regiment. So I was really doing the sharp business of my job as an infantry leader pretty much from the minute I finished training, and that was quite a shaping experience because I deployed again the very next summer with 16 Air Assault Brigade, and then I deployed again the next winter in 2009 into 2010 attached to the US Army Special Forces. So I spent four years effectively living, in a real way, the job of an Army officer.

Andrew Fox:

There was no in camp training that wasn’t Afghanistan focused. I was literally either in a combat situation or preparing for a combat situation. And so I got to see very early in my career how leadership works in a practical sense, how it can go wrong, how it can go right, and really, that sort of shaped the way I looked the world, I would suggest. It’s motivated my academic study. So I did my masters looking at how generalship worked in Iraq. I’m doing my PhD at the moment looking at how generalship worked in the reconstruction period after the US Civil War. So it became a bit of a passion for me after having experienced it so closely in my first four years as an Army officer.

Stephen Platt:

Fascinating. And you’ve obviously carried that through with the studies, as you say. Now look, Andrew, it’s easy for any organization to have a value or a mission statement, but what really matters is how it acts when the pressure is on, and there’s no greater pressure than on the field of battle. How is it that the Army is able to maintain the disciplined adherence to ethical conduct in such highly stressful situations?

Andrew Fox:

You know, pretty much every organization you come across has a vision, or a set of values or a catchy paragraph that tries to sum up who and what they are as a company. But I think what the Army does differently is, whilst we have our core values and standards, they are relentlessly trained. So there is not a soldier that leaves a training establishment or an officer that leaves Sandhurst that could not recite the British Army’s values off the top of their head. So it’s courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitments, and working to lawful behavior, ethical behavior and professionalism.

Andrew Fox:

So they are absolutely ingrained in the DNA of anyone that leaves a training establishment in uniform. And they’re trained twice a year, so there’s a refresher going on constantly. But what’s really important, I think, is the Army has a mechanism for enforcing them in many ways that civilian agencies don’t have. We have our military discipline system, but actually, I think if you are relying purely on that discipline system to maintain your values and standards, they probably can’t be considered to be properly learned. It’s not something that should be enforced with carrot and stick. It’s something that you have to believe in and subscribe to. And I think by phrasing it in ways like you need to be able to do the right thing on a bad day, or you need to be able do the right thing when no one’s looking, and instilling those kind of moral values is where the Army gets it right.

You can find the full transcript and episode here.

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