Tanya Montoya: ACAMS’ Fight Against Human Trafficking

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ACAMS Today  sat down with Tanya Montoya, senior product development manager at ACAMS, to discuss ACAMS’ most recent initiatives and upcoming anti-human trafficking events in 2019.

As senior product development manager for ACAMS, Montoya is responsible for the management and strategic oversight of ACAMS Risk Assessment®, the association’s first risk assessment software designed to offer financial institutions worldwide a standardized means of measuring, understanding and explaining their money laundering risks.

During her five-year tenure with the organization, Montoya has taken the product from inception to a full launch and forged strategic relationships and partnerships with key industry members in both the public and private sectors, comprised of anti-money laundering (AML) thought leaders from global financial institutions and banking regulatory authorities. In this capacity, Montoya is also responsible for the full governance and audit of this critical software tool as it relates to global AML best practices, guidance, regulation and cybersecurity. Through these endeavors, Montoya is able to extend her expertise and knowledge in the space to ACAMS Risk Assessment users that seek guidance in the application and implementation of the tool against their institution’s own risk assessment obligations.

In addition to her principal responsibilities, Montoya chairs the ACAMS Fight Against Human Trafficking (FAHT) Committee, a cause she holds dear to her heart, which develops employee volunteer programs and collaborates with organizations worldwide to assist in the fight against this heinous crime.

Prior to joining ACAMS, Montoya held over 15 years in strategic management for a wide range of corporations, industries and governmental organizations. Montoya holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Florida International University.

ACAMS Today: How did ACAMS and the ACAMS FAHT Committee become involved with Kristi House?

Tanya Montoya: Our relationship with Kristi House was a result of ACAMS’ 2014 decision to support a charitable cause that would be close to our entire AML/financial crimes prevention and detection community: the fight against human trafficking (HT). This resulted in the creation of our employee-based anti-human trafficking volunteer committee, FAHT. The volunteer committee was launched in 2015 and is open to all ACAMS’ colleagues. FAHT’s mission is to support both local and global organizations in the eradication of modern slavery, and to execute three main objectives: awareness, community engagement and strategic collaboration in order to make a global impact.

As we researched the different organizations with whom we could partner, our first priority was committing to a Miami-based group, in order to offer our staff at ACAMS headquarters the opportunity to participate as well. During our search, we found Kristi House—more specifically, Kristi House’s Project GOLD. Kristi House’s Project GOLD is the leading and locally based outreach program that provides services to children exploited in sex trafficking. Kristi House accomplishes its goal by using a strengths-based, survivor-advised approach to assist young girls in seeing a better future for themselves and restoring their lives. Their program, as well as the endorsement and support of the U.S. Department of Justice and our local law enforcement community, made our choice very easy. It was then that we embarked on a rewarding partnership with Kristi House.

AT: What activities do you have planned with Kristi House?

TM: In planning for the future, we first took a step back and made an assessment of our strengths in order to field the best opportunities as it relates to being able to make a true and direct impact on the girls’ lives. We will continue to support their annual Breaking the Silence Luncheon held in the spring, but more importantly we are looking to develop activities that support the girls during this trying time in order to empower them for the future. As a result of a successful Career Day held at the ACAMS Miami headquarters last year and as suggested by the girls themselves, we have decided to host a similar event later this year with the following theme: “Women in Technology.”

AT: Why do you believe it is important for organizations to team up with nonprofits that tackle anti-human trafficking efforts, like Kristi House and Polaris?

TM: Collaboration is key in fighting all financial crimes but even more so as it pertains to HT. As our efforts have evolved, so have our partnerships with other firms that also work with Polaris, enabling us to develop more robust and strategic initiatives with one mutual end-goal in mind: to disrupt and to put an end to this crime. Since our 2015 launch, we have added Enigma Technologies, Inc. to our list of strategic member partnerships alongside Polaris and will soon be announcing a joint effort with both of these incredible organizations—Standing Together Against Trafficking (STAT). Stay tuned for more in the next coming months!

AT: What other activities will the ACAMS FAHT Committee be planning for this year?

TM: The launch of STAT will certainly be keeping us busy in 2019, and we will continue to keep our commitment to partner with Polaris as it relates to information sharing and awareness campaigns, similar to what we did in 2018 with the release of their latest typology report to our members. At a more localized level, we will continue to host staff lunch-and-learn educational sessions, and support Kristi House throughout the year as opportunities arise.

AT: Miami is a multicultural city, how is Kristi House reaching these integrated communities to bring awareness for HT prevention?

TM: Kristi House has been a champion for this cause since 2007, leading the Miami-Dade community through collaboration, prevention and treatment. Back to my earlier point on collaboration, Kristi House is a key community partner. Kristi House served as the lead agency organizing the first Miami coalition of 27 organizations that comprised the Miami-Dade commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) working group. Included in the coalition is Miami-Dade Police; Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services; Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc.; the Florida Department of Children and Families; the State Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force; University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Division of Adolescent Medicine; Shared Hope International Restorative Work Group; and Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS), among many others.

The Kristi House CSEC program was renamed Project GOLD in 2009—“Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams”—and through Project GOLD, the organization is able to empower and raise awareness among at-risk girls, and is able to identify and assist those who are in need of services to escape exploitation. While at the same time encouraging their healing and paving the way for their future success through their various programs and partnerships.

AT: In what ways can ACAMS Today  use its platform to raise awareness about the reality of HT?

TM: With over 60,000 ACAMS members, ACAMS Today  has been a powerful force for this cause and an amazing partner to the FAHT Committee. Continue to expand on what you already do via timely social media posts that impact and engage large global audiences, and via educational articles to support financial institutions and law enforcement in combating this crime. Both of these have become priceless tools appreciated by us all.

As mentioned in past interviews and articles, all of us as financial crime prevention and detection professionals can make a difference, and I encourage everyone to join us in this global fight. No matter how small a contribution may seem, forge ahead and move the pendulum toward the eradication of this crime!

Interviewed by: Stephanie Trejos, editorial assistant, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA, strejos@acams.org

Stella M. Miranda, editorial assistant, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA, smiranda@acams.org