Like everyone else in the United States right now, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on business. Most everything seems trivial compared to what happened less than two miles down the street from my office on September 11.
It would be delusional to deny that we are living in a new world-a place that if not strange, has definitely had its priorities shifted. Ask people just a couple of months ago what were the weightiest issues facing the industry going forward and I doubt more than a handful would have said risk planning or disaster recovery. Indeed, who would have thought anti-money laundering products and services would suddenly become a matter of life or death-the difference between uncovering a potential terrorist attack or suffering its devastating consequences?
All these issues are top of mind in the financial industry now, as evidenced by the people willing to speak to us about some of the harsh lessons learned from the World Trade Center attack. We've taken these comments and crafted them into a series of articles that start on page 8.
I promise you that we will revisit many of these issues throughout the year. Only by examining what did and did not go right in the days and weeks following the attacks can we firmly establish the devices and procedures that will allow us to go securely forward no matter what the crisis.
But there's another reason as well. At a time when we all feel powerless, unable to control the political and economic repercussions taking place around us, some of these technologies give us the means to fight back. No terrorist act can occur without substantial outlays of money, experts say. Banks are intimately involved in money transactions, whether it be a wire transfer of large sums or the obtaining of $20 from an ATM machine. An industry that has developed analytical CRM can surely come up with the tools, software and network needed to discover and track suspect transactions anywhere in the world.
Many of the technologies needed to make such an international detection system possible (anti-money laundering devices, global messaging systems, etc.) already exist. A number of reasons kept it from becoming reality-not the least of which was the feeling that such an invasive and expensive system was unnecessary.
I doubt anyone feels that way now.