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AML compliance training: How gamification in online training can help drive behavioral change

Anti-money laundering (AML) regulations require financial institutions to verify the identity of onboarded customers, screen transactions on an ongoing basis, and file suspicious activity reports to financial authorities. Cryptocurrencies and other emerging technologies in the FinTech space, along with legislative changes, complicate compliance obligations.

As part of a comprehensive program for mitigating the risk of financial crimes, regulators require AML training for employees. Financial Action Task Force AML recommendations advise banks and financial institutions to train employees to recognize and prevent the illicit practices used to disguise the true origin and ownership of illegal cash. Organizations must also implement ongoing AML training programs to keep up with new legislation and emerging technologies. Beyond ensuring regulatory compliance, these training programs help institutions safeguard their reputation and protect their bottom line.

But in a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape where organizations are training employees in multiple jurisdictions, industries, and roles, offering effective AML compliance training has become more challenging than ever. Online learning courses can meet the challenge of training staff across jurisdictions – and new approaches, including gamification and enriched media, has helped strengthen learning outcomes.

The role of e-learning in AML compliance training

As the focus in training has shifted from traditional classrooms to the digital space, online learning has emerged as an efficient and cost-effective way to implement governance, risk, and compliance training. The expansion of remote work necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of access to online training.

Effective online learning programs allow organizations to:

  • Roll out training courses to hundreds or even thousands of learners via a company or provider learning management system.
  • Track the progress of individual learners to identify skills and knowledge gaps and proactively implement interventions.
  • Train learners to identify deep-rooted behaviors that drive their decision-making and diminish productivity. 
  • Quickly align individual employee performance with corporate strategy and compliance requirements to build a culture of compliance and a serious competitive advantage. 
  • Maintain efficient reporting and annual audits for regulators.
  • Meet the needs of individual learners and provide courses that align with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG).  

The LMS should be a flexible, easy-to-use platform that allows for course enhancements and learner reminders to strengthen completion rates. Over time, the training should allow individuals to learn new behaviors that both improve productivity and help them meet compliance obligations.

The speed at which a course can be developed, assigned, and taken has also made online learning systems critical tools for addressing compliance requirements within financial institutions.

The challenge of engaging learners and boosting knowledge retention

Financial regulatory compliance courses often include a high volume of content presented in confusing legal language. Many financial institutions rely on content-heavy compliance training slideshows and assessments. But lengthy e-learning courses and screens that include too much content result in cognitive overload for learners; they fail to engage and increase the risk of non-compliance within the organization. 

Regulations often require regular training to maintain staff awareness levels and ensure compliance, but an ineffective approach to course design makes the training fall short.

E-learning best practices that help drive behavioral change

Compliance training programs often aren’t as engaging as ones that help employees learn new skills, advance their careers, or boost earnings. Effective online courses frequently draw on experiential learning and feature elements of storytelling, games, or specific scenarios — approaches supported by years of research into online education. 

Experiential learning asks learners to actively apply their knowledge in real-world situations. Many e-learning courses simply talk about desired practices and acceptable behavior and do not give learners the opportunity to put their newly learned theories into practice. By allowing learners to practice in safe environments without any real consequences, online courses that incorporate experiential learning provide an engaging and an effective way to drive behavioral change. Successfully implementing a culture of compliance is only possible when employees put the information they have acquired into practice. 

Immersive scenarios that resemble day-to-day experiences give employee trainees a clear role and allow them to apply their skills and learn from the decisions they make.

Storytelling connects with employees on an emotional level. In online courses featuring scenarios and storytelling, learners cast themselves into the narrative and respond to situations that affect the characters. The experience is immediate and captures both the heart and mind, which can lead to behavior change.

Gamification — the use of game elements such as avatars, challenges, rewards, badges, and leaderboards – can also engage learners and reinforce the subject matter. Striving to overcome challenges, and earning rewards in the process, motivates learners. 

A points system helps learners measure their achievements. Points are a simple, effective way to reward learners. After learners accumulate a certain number of points, in many courses, they earn a badge or trophy, further acknowledging their success. By recognizing learners for performing well, leaderboards can also be a huge motivator. Rising to the top of the leaderboard can increase a learner’s interest and participation.

Building effective AML compliance training courses

Regulatory compliance and online training experts with Thomson Reuters have long offered online training to regional and global businesses. WCAG-compliant and available in multiple languages, the e-learning modules feature practical examples and interactions. However, after analyzing training data and reviewing emerging trends across the compliance training industry, the team saw opportunities to further strengthen learning outcomes.

Focusing on its well-received package of AML compliance training courses, Compliance Learning team members conducted extensive competitive and industry research and reviewed customer surveys. Survey feedback revealed that learners want courses featuring experiential learning, immersive scenarios, stories with relatable characters, gamification, multimedia and video content, and responsive design. 

Integrating higher levels of interactivity and gamification in the courses to draw learners in became a goal. Regulatory compliance content experts defined what skills learners needed to master, and course designers developed supplementary materials to allow learners to take control of their own learning journeys.

In the instructional designers’ view, the new courses would aim to boost outcomes by challenging learners and rewarding desired behavior. They’d improve the overall learning experience with scenarios and video storylines. Allowing learners to work out real-life situations in a safe environment would help drive engagement and lead to increased knowledge retention. Participating in a story would appeal to learners’ emotional memory. A course on money laundering and the steps to detect it would also lend itself to narrative-driven courses.

As an instructional design strategy, gamification creates an ongoing drive to pursue goals. It encourages a sense of self-improvement, of mastering something that used to be challenging. The human brain thrives off solving problems, seeing results, and getting instant feedback. Users immediately know what they’ve learned and can identify topics they still need to master.

Launching new AML compliance online training courses

The updated Thomson Reuters Compliance Learning AML courses provide a global and industry-agnostic overview of the key concepts related to AML, with optional supplementary modules tailored to specific industries and regions. By using multimedia and gamification to present real-life examples of money laundering, the AML training encourages learners to recognize how these illegal activities may manifest themselves in their everyday work. 

The goal is to help learners gain an understanding of the practical application of AML concepts, rather than just an ability to recite laws and regulations. Courses also emphasize the need for learners to flag and report suspicious activity. A key message of the training: If in doubt, report.

Based on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations, the core module, AML Fundamentals, covers the key elements of AML practices. These elements are applicable at a global level, with many jurisdictions now incorporating FATF recommendations into local legislation. By focusing on the core aspects of AML, the streamlined course is applicable to all learners and allows organizations to add smaller, more-focused modules as needed.

The AML Fundamentals course features a follow-the-money theme in which word has spread about a global money-laundering operation that is in the offing. An AML agency needs the learner’s help to stop as much “dirty” money as possible from being laundered. The learner will be the AML agency’s eyes on the ground and must follow the money around the world as it is split up and sent to different countries. Along the way, through the exploration of interactive templates, gamelets, knowledge checks, and inline quizzes and with the help of a mentor who helps keep learners out of trouble, trainees explore all aspects of money laundering. 

Engaging learners with multimedia and gamification

The online AML course employs photo-style videos to present the material and deliver challenge scenarios about learning to identify how money is laundered. Audio and video set the tone. Lead-in audio reinforces the purpose of each page, complementing the content, and eerie music creates suspense as the story builds.

Emotive imagery throughout the course transforms AML from an abstract concept to a serious issue that affects all aspects and members of society. The decisions learners make have real-world consequences.

In taking up the follow-the-money task, learners are challenged to prevent money laundering. A cumulative money pot provides a clear way for learners to track their progress and reinforces course themes. Learners feel compelled to fill the pot and improve their score.

Simulation-style knowledge checks give learners a safe space to test their mastery of the subject, with each correct answer adding to the money pot.

Supplementary modules tailor training to region and learner

The new AML training courses includes a range of optional supplementary modules, each containing in-depth content tailored to specific industries, technologies, regions, and roles. Clients can mix and match modules depending on the locations, roles, and business areas of learners. Individual learning modules feature more detailed reporting and assessments and accommodate work commitments by allowing learners to start and stop.

The Bank Secrecy Act module is tailored for clients in the United States, while the Asia-Pacific module is for clients in the Asia-Pacific region. To account for specific jurisdictional regulations, a Country Guides module contains dedicated regulatory information for 76 jurisdictions. Thomson Reuters regulatory compliance professionals review each guide for accuracy on an annual basis (or more often) and make revisions when required.

The Directors module emphasizes the role leaders play in managing money laundering risks and the importance of setting an appropriate tone from the top, while other modules cover specific types of business and other key themes and topics.

Courses also incorporate important FinTech industry developments and explore the emergence of new payment channels and digital technologies, along with the risks they pose. The modules also ask learners to consider how digital developments can supplement existing AML processes.

Find AML compliance training for regulatory compliance professionals

To learn more about the AML Fundamentals course and other regulatory compliance training modules, visit Thomson Reuters Compliance Learning. Courses feature full audit trail capabilities and are tailored to support your business at a country, regional, and global level. The customized online training is designed to provide employees with the skills they need to build a culture of compliance.

The new Thomson Reuters Anti-Money Laundering (AML) courses are scheduled for release at the end of September  2021. The AML Fundamentals course features add-on modules, combined with multimedia and gamification, to engage learners more effectively and familiarize them with the process of money laundering and the laws that make it a crime.

As part of an ongoing commitment to move toward a fully inclusive culture, Thomson Reuters eLearning courses are supported in multiple languages and many are fully responsive (mobile ready) plus WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. Our courses are complimented by the  flexible Thomson Reuters Compliance Learning Manager(CLMS) that features an enhanced user interface designed to strengthen completion rates.


E-learning courses supporting risk and regulatory compliance training