In search of the financial phenomena that change everything

Sjak Vennix – Manager Thematic Investigations Global Intelligence & Response

By far the majority of the 9 million customers are honest. But to keep money on the right track, you have to track down the few customers who are not. It is often a needle in a haystack, but that doesn't stop Sjak Vennix at all. He and his team take a close look at modern phenomena such as cryptocurrencies and new fintech companies. With his years of experience at the bank, his enthusiasm seems to keep growing. One day he will write a book about it, but for now he shares his experiences here.

KYC: a comprehensive profession

KYC has fascinated Sjak for a long time. “I have always had to deal with it. In 2010, I started at a local Rabobank, when KYC was an A4 sheet with a list to tick off. I checked that process. It is incredible how the field has developed in the past 10 years. The last few years in particular have been a growth spurt. What’s great about KYC is that it is always changing and it affects the whole bank. We are involved in all chains because customers use all products. One day I will write a book about it, as complex as it is.”

“The profession reaches far beyond the bank. We have a legal obligation to be the gatekeeper of the financial system. To detect financial flows that are illegal or connected to criminal activities and pass them on to the investigating authorities. Besides our legal obligation and social function, it is also in the interest of our customers to know who we have on our books. We can then protect and serve them better.”

My team examines clients for whom there is no policy yet. That is a creative process, we are really exploring.
Sjak Vennix – Manager Thematic Investigations Global Intelligence & Response

Exploring new worlds

“By far the majority of our customers are honest, but it’s the excesses that matter. You want to get them out of your customer base. My team investigates clients for whom there is no policy yet. That is a creative process, we are really exploring. Based on sources, conversations inside and outside the bank, we come up with ideas. We find out the new ways of handling money from people with different intentions. Then we determine how we have to adjust processes and policies in such a way that we mitigate the risks associated with these new developments.”

“For KYC, you really have to be able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes,” Sjak continues. “I am curious by nature and interested in people. As a manager, those qualities also come in handy. I manage a team of 20 analysts who deal with modern phenomena in the financial world. Phenomena about which little is yet known, but which potentially have a great deal of influence on our financial system.”

Concealing cryptocurrencies and fintechs

Sjak mentions a number of themes he is working on: “Cryptocurrencies, for example, are quite concealing. As a bank, we are involved at the start and end point: someone transfers money to or receives money from a crypto provider. We do not see what happens in between in the wallets. The function we traditionally had in the chain is changing. Crypto currencies make it more difficult to determine the origin of assets. And the huge highs and lows in crypto prices affect what is still ‘normal’. We must continue to ask ourselves: what is still logical and plausible? When is something suspicious?”

“Ultimately it is about the extent to which money flows are concealing. Do we understand how customers deal with money? Do we find it appropriate for the activities they carry out? As a bank, we are a link, but we need to understand the whole chain. We are also working a lot on new fintech companies. They operate in the same market as a bank and use bank products for their services. It makes the payment chain less transparent for us and that poses new challenges. How do we want to and can we deal with this, how do we map out the right risks?”

The function we traditionally had in the chain is changing.
Sjak Vennix – Manager Thematic Investigations Global Intelligence & Response

Journey of discovery

When asked what a person needs to be like to do this work, Sjak is very clear. “You have to have empathy, to really want to understand someone. You need to want to know why he or she does things; enthusiasm for research is a must. And don’t settle for the first answer you get, always keep asking questions. But a sense of justice is also important. An analytical nature, the drive to do better and also to have a lot of fun, that’s what it comes down to.”

Sjak definitely does not lack any of this. “I’m far from finished, I’m only at the first few chapters of the book!” He says with a big smile. “KYC is a journey of discovery: the destination is still unknown, but the journey towards it is exciting enough.” And it gives me immense satisfaction to help people on that journey.”

Sjak works within KYC Change & Support