She's no caped crusader, but she still plays a vital role in fighting financial villains at home and abroad.
Forget Breaking Bad or Goodfellas—if you want the real scoop on money laundering schemes, talk to Alixe Campbell. She can tell you how an innocent-looking ATM can be repurposed to scrub dirty cash, and how international cartels get their ill-gotten earnings in and out of banks. How? Because she spends her days working against those things.
Campbell, 29, has been with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)’s Toronto location for the past year. Originally from Edmonton, Campbell attended school in Santiago, Chile; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Ontario’s Queen’s University in Kingston, earning degrees in commerce and international business. In the past, her talent for the international scene has earned her a place on Canada’s delegation to G20 Ministers’ meetings. Now she focuses on ensuring the big players in finance—think banks and insurance companies—play by the rules.
Our interview with Campbell—where she admits to a friend-mandated moratorium on job talk—is below.
Torontoist: First of all, for those of us who get our financial crimes information from HBO: what is money laundering, and how do you fight it?
Alixe Campbell: Money laundering is the “cleansing” of dirty, or criminal, money so that it is available for criminals to use freely. Criminal money could be proceeds from any variety of crimes—drug crime, human trafficking, fraud, tax evasion, corruption—anything that makes criminals money. It has three stages—placement, layering and integration. Placement is the introduction of the dirty money into the financial system, layering is the process by which the money trail is obfuscated, and integration is the reintroduction of the money into the formal economy. Canada has an anti-money laundering regime designed to detect and deter money launderers, so that crime doesn’t pay. An important part of that regime is the work undertaken by financial institutions to protect the Canadian financial sector from being used by criminals, which is my current area of focus.
Part of your job involves reviewing large banks and insurance companies for anti-terrorist and anti-money laundering protocols. How does Canada work against money laundering on an national and international scale?
Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act is the basis for Canada’s anti-money laundering regime. The government agency FINTRAC regulates compliance with the Act, and OSFI, where I work, examines money laundering controls through a prudential risk-management lens at banks and insurance companies. Internationally, Canada is a founding member of the Financial Action Task Force, which works to coordinate global anti-money laundering laws. We participate in peer assessments of other countries against global standards and are also assessed ourselves!
How did you decide to start working in money-laundering policy? What drew you to the area?
I initially began my career working for the federal Department of Finance in Ottawa, working on international anti-money laundering policy issues. I applied to one of the general competitions and was hired into the anti-money laundering team, so I got my start in this area pretty much by chance. I’m eternally grateful to my first boss for selecting me to join her team.
You’ve been involved in G20 and G7/G8 summits. How do those meetings differ from your normal workday? How did you contribute to those events?
Most of the work that I’ve done on the Summits has focused on the long preparatory process. A lot more effort goes into drafting the communiqués and documents that are published after the meetings than people may realize.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into anti-money laundering work?
There are a lot of opportunities in the anti-money laundering world, in particular in the private sector entities that act as the real bulwark against criminal money entering the financial system. An eye for detail and an interest in the subject matter definitely helps.
Have you had a moment that made you realize, “I’m in exactly the right line of work”?
My best friend had to ask me to stop talking about my job while were on vacation, which was a pretty good indicator. I really enjoy the specificity and technical aspects of my work, as well as the experience of working with Canada’s financial institutions to improve the system in its entirety.