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Ten qualities of a successful BSA Officer

Terri Luttrell, CAMS-Audit, CFCS
December 5, 2023
Read Time: 0 min

Good BSA Officers can be hard to find. 

Here are a few qualities to look for when you are evaluating candidates to be your next BSA Officer.

You might also like this resource: "Building a strong future: Succession planning strategies for you AML program."

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AML Compliance

Ten qualities of a successful BSA officer

Hiring a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Officer for a financial institution involves looking for a unique experience level and skillset that ensures compliance with the BSA and related regulations. BSA professionals are the frontline defenders against money laundering and financial crimes in banking institutions. But what makes an exceptional BSA Officer? Here are the top 10 qualities financial institutions should prioritize when hiring for this vital role.

BSA Officer

Good vs. great

  1. Expertise in BSA/AML regulations: A deep and thorough understanding of the Bank Secrecy Act and other related regulations is non-negotiable. A BSA Officer must be well-versed in these areas to ensure the institution's full compliance and avoid regulatory criticism. BSA training and experience must be extensive to meet regulatory expectations of a BSA Officer being competent and able to execute all duties effectively.
  2. Financial services experience: Practical experience in the banking or financial sector, especially in compliance, risk management, or auditing roles, is invaluable for a BSA Officer. Although not mandatory, operations experience enables a BSA Officer to understand critical aspects of an AML program, thus preparing them with the tools necessary to safeguard the soundness of the compliance program.
  3. 3. Analytical competence and investigative instinct: The ability to scrutinize complex financial transactions and identify suspicious patterns is essential. This skill set is critical in detecting and preventing illicit activities. A BSA leader should also have high confidence and gut instincts to know and act when something in an investigation seems off. If the BSA Officer is a higher level and a “big picture” leader, process managers must naturally be analytical and confident to fill this necessary skill set.
  4. Meticulous attention to detail: Given the complexity of financial transactions, a keen eye for detail is crucial in identifying discrepancies and ensuring regulatory adherence. BSA Officers must be able to identify risks and potential compliance issues to ensure a robust AML compliance program.
  5. Leadership and management: Leading and effectively managing a compliance team is a significant part of the role. This includes training staff on BSA/AML policies and fostering a culture of compliance. With today’s staffing turnover rate among financial institutions, building a solid and loyal team that can grow in their careers is essential. A strong leader makes a solid team and a robust AML program.
  6. Strong Communication Skills: Clear and effective communication, both in writing and verbally, is essential for interacting with internal teams and external regulators. A BSA Officer must connect with people confidently, exhibiting their authority over BSA compliance. Working closely with other departments, such as retail and lending, is critical to ensuring enterprise-wide compliance.
  7. Problem-Solving Skills: The ability to identify compliance issues and devise strategic solutions is critical to the BSA Officer role. Identification of risk and associated mitigation factors are one of the key considerations when developing an AML program. Compliance issues can be complex, and effective problem solvers can analyze data, evaluate risks, and develop practical solutions to address any challenge.
  8. Technological Understanding: Familiarity with the latest financial software and technologies used in monitoring transactions and detecting suspicious activities can significantly enhance efficiency and effectiveness. It is not enough to employ adequate technology in an AML program; a BSA Officer must understand how the AML software works, the data used for input, and what the outputs mean. Speaking with auditors and examiners with explicit knowledge and understanding is critical.
  9. Ethical Integrity: Handling sensitive information requires the highest integrity and ethical standards. A strong culture of compliance is critical to an AML program and necessary to meet regulatory expectations. A BSA Officer who leads with integrity ensures that the financial institution complies with all relevant laws and regulations.
  10. Adaptability and continuous learning: The regulatory landscape is continually changing. A BSA Officer should be adaptable and committed to ongoing education to keep pace with new regulations, trends, and compliance challenges. A financial institution cannot let criminals be one step ahead due to outdated anti-money laundering software or programs.


A complex problem

The role of a BSA Officer is complex and multifaceted. Financial institutions need individuals who understand the legal requirements and can lead, innovate, and adapt in an ever-changing environment. By focusing on these top 10 qualities, institutions can ensure they hire BSA Officers who are competent and ideal in their role.

About the Author

Terri Luttrell, CAMS-Audit, CFCS

Compliance and Engagement Director
Terri Luttrell is a seasoned AML professional and former director and AML/OFAC officer with over 20 years in the banking industry, working both in medium and large community and commercial banks ranging from $2 billion to $330 billion in asset size.

Full Bio

About Abrigo

Abrigo enables U.S. financial institutions to support their communities through technology that fights financial crime, grows loans and deposits, and optimizes risk. Abrigo's platform centralizes the institution's data, creates a digital user experience, ensures compliance, and delivers efficiency for scale and profitable growth.

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