Tuesday, November 7, 2023



We note that an article in the Sunday New York Times discussed how some colleges are moving away from liberal arts degrees, towards more vocational majors, arguing that students must have the tools to find real jobs after graduation. While that is a fact of life in the business world, I would argue that, at least in the compliance field that I live in, an undergraduate degree is not only preferable as preparation for a compliance career, it is mandatory, if you really want to be effective in ferreting out money launderers, financial criminals and terrorist financiers.

Compliance officers MUST be culturally literate. They must posses a broad-based undergraduate education, paired with AML/CFT training of course, in order to understand the complex legitimate world in which financial transactions operate. A good knowledge of history, geography ( especially political geography), commercial law, and a number of other important subjects can only be acquired through a university education that allows one to participate in the wide range of subjects that result in Cultural Literacy, which has been defined thus:

Cultural literacy is a term coined by American educator and literary critic E. D. Hirsch, referring to the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture. Cultural literacy is an analogy to literacy proper (the ability to read and write letters). A literate reader knows the object-language's alphabet, grammar, and a sufficient set of vocabulary; a culturally literate person knows a given culture's signs and symbols, including its language, particular dialectic, stories,[1] entertainment, idioms, idiosyncrasies, and so on. The culturally literate person is able to talk to and understand others of that culture with fluency. (Wikpedia)

Yes, of course to be effective there must be extensive AML/CFT training at some point. It is especially important that such training include instruction in Money Laundering Tradecraft, the advanced techniques that are in constant use, and which I have been attempting to convey to our readers here in articles for decades, but a basic grounding in a number of important subjects, which can only occur through a liberal arts education, is a must to understand the complex world in which educated money launderers themselves successfully and consistently operate. I can literally teach anyone Money Laundering Tradecraft in two intensive days, but cultural literacy requires four years of a broad-based liberal arts education in advance of such practical training.

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