Anti-Financial Crime & Financial Crime Compliance
Leadership | Insight | Network

Compliance, North America, Opinion

INSIGHT: What’s going on at ACAMS? Company silent on speculation of changes at the top as rivals circle

CEO: ACAMS chief executive Scott Liles is quitting the company, the firm finally confirmed today.

By Laura Lynott

Senior Correspondent, AML Intelligence

INTEREST continues to grow regarding rumoured changes taking place at training company ACAMS – with claims that executives have left or are departing the company.

As rumblings emanate within the AML community around a change of direction at ACAMS, AML Intelligence has asked the U.S based company for clarification on what’s next. Attempts have also been made to gain information on the firm’s potential new direction from its French private equity owner, Wendel, based in Paris.

Wendel spent more than €300 million to control the firm in 2022 and is now the key influence at the Miami HQ.

Much speculation in anti-financial crime (AFC) circles is on a change of direction at the company worth $500M as it faces newer and more disruptive rivals in different territories.

While ACAMS traditional training and conferencing business model remains similar to its offering down the decades it is now facing more intense competition from the likes of rivals such as ACFCS, ManchesterCF and ICA. AML Intelligence Ltd – publishers of this site – is also said to be about to introduce its own training packages.

“Yes it’s true. We are scoping the training and education space. We hope to be coming to market soon with a bespoke offering for international banks, financial services and fintechs. You appreciate that’s all I can say for now,” said AML Intelligence MD James Treacy when asked to comment today (Friday).

Kim Manchester, from ManchesterCF Financial Intelligence Training, based in Toronto, Canada, claimed “institutional clients” were now favoring competitor companies like his over ACAMS, due to what he said was a more expansive offering of subjects for a “less expensive” price.

This is, he claims, despite the huge cash purchase price made by Wendel and the impressive track record ACAMS has amassed.

Mr Manchester, managing director and founder of Manchester CF, also claimed some key people had left ACAMS.

And he alleged that while ACAMS had been “sold for over millions to Wendel,” the company had become “an 800 lb gorilla” with “an antique business model.” Former ACAMS CEO John Byrne serves on the Manchester CF advisory board.

AML Intelligence has also tried to contact ACAMS CEO Scott Liles and Wendel CEO Laurent Mignon. There was no response to our request for a comment.

Mr Manchester stated: “AML training is a serious industry, dealing with AML and terrorism threats and the real-world consequences.

“We aren’t talking about training for sales techniques.” He added that all training bodies needed to “realize the gravity of the subject and act accordingly.”

Another senior AFC leader told AMLi that there was a culture clash between the French private equity owners and its new U.S acquisition. “It’s not a huge clash but it’s there. Everyone can feel it but a company like Wendel has experience of getting its way and all eyes now are on what exactly that is.

“The current business model is to charge sky-high prices for training modules because ACAMS is effectively a monopoly in many territories and then once you’re in they charge you annual fees to keep your qualifications. It’s a very lucrative virtuous circle for ACAMS and you interfere with that at your peril,” the source said.

On its website ACAMS offers a host of training. The site states that its certificates “Help you fight financial crime in the 21st Century.”

Among certifications on offer are ACAMS Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and CCCAS Certified Cryptoasset Anti-Financial Crime Specialist qualification, as well as Advanced CAMS Financial Crimes Investigations certification.

On Wendel’s website, the company states ACAMS is the “world’s largest membership organization dedicated to fighting financial crime.”

A statement adds that: “98pc of the company’s capital is held by Wendel and $338m was invested by Wendel” in 2022, the year of acquisition.

Wendel also notes that 55,000 professionals have been certified across 180 jurisdictions from a company that employs 303 people.

“On March 10, 2022, Wendel completed the acquisition of ACAMS (Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists) from Adtalem Global Education,” a Wendel statement reads.

“This transaction valued ACAMS’ enterprise value at approximately $500m. Wendel invested approximately $338m in equity and holds approximately 98pc of the company’s share capital alongside the company’s management and a minority shareholder.”

AML Intelligence
We hope you enjoyed reading this article

If you would like unlimited access to AML Intelligence premium articles, newsletter delivered twice a week, access to our Global Bank Fines and Penalties database, free access to Boardroom Series events and much more, select one of our subscription options and become a subscriber!