AML RightSource, which helps banks and other companies spot illicit financial transactions, has expanded to Buffalo, with plans to create more than 100 jobs in five years.
Cleveland-based AML RightSource has 31 employees at its offices in Larkinville and expects to increase that to about 45 to 50 employees by June.
"We are all systems go here in Buffalo," said Frank Ewing, the CEO. The company's local operations started a couple of weeks ago.
Ewing, 38, has strong ties to upstate New York. The Utica native previously worked for HSBC Bank USA in Buffalo and graduated from the University at Buffalo Law School in 2012. He splits his time between Cleveland and Buffalo.
When AML RightSource was looking to expand, a consultant prepared a list of possible locations using criteria identified by the company. Buffalo ranked fifth on the list of 20 cities. Ewing said the difference among the top five wasn't significant. And he was already familiar with the Buffalo area and its workforce, something that was a point in Buffalo's favor.
"You can't have a spreadsheet that shows you that the folks here are gritty, and that the folks here work really hard, and that they're committed," Ewing said. "Those are things in business that you have to have a feel for."
Invest Buffalo Niagara, which attracts companies to the region, and Empire State Development helped seal the deal within a matter of weeks, said Alan Rosenhoch, director of business development for Invest Buffalo Niagara.
AML RightSource is subleasing space in the Larkin Center of Commerce. And Empire State Development is providing $1.2 million in Excelsior Job Program tax credits, which the company will receive once it meets its hiring commitments.
AML RightSource is in one of the industries — advanced business services — that Invest Buffalo Niagara targets for recruitment, Rosenhoch said.
"It's a great success story that we plan on leveraging beyond today and going forward to tell other decision makers at advanced business services companies." Western New York has about 60,000 employees in the advanced business services sector.
AML RightSource was founded in 2004 and now has offices in Cleveland, Hudson, Ohio and Phoenix, as well as Buffalo. Companywide, it has about 620 employees. AML RightSource does not disclose its annual revenues.
Ewing was hired as AML RightSource's first employee in 2004, and worked there for a couple of years. He rejoined the company as an owner in 2014. Three years later, private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners invested in the company. Ewing was named CEO. He and president Paul Linehan retained ownership stakes.
Banks and other institutions have come under closer scrutiny from the federal government to identify and report illicit financial transactions. M&T Bank a few years ago was forced to upgrade its anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act systems to fix shortcomings that regulators identified.
Ewing declined to name his company's clients. But he said they range from community banks with $1 billion in assets to global financial institutions with over $1 trillion in assets. The clients also include fintechs, money services businesses and cryptocurrency companies.
"It really is the full gamut," he said.
Clients will sometimes outsource work to AML RightSource, or, in other cases, partner with AML RightSource. The company also has a financial crimes advisory practice, to help companies handle compliance challenges.
Ewing said tracking illicit financial activity can uncover potential human trafficking and illegal drug shipments. He noted his company was working for a financial institution in the South and discovered a case of elder abuse. Each week, $13,000 was being transferred out of a senior citizen's account and moved into a landscaping company, steadily draining her retirement fund. An AML RightSource investigator's work helped bring that to a halt, Ewing said.
Of the 31 people AML RightSource has hired locally so far, 15 went to a college or university in the region, Ewing said. And about half of the 31 employees have an advanced degree.
"What we're really looking for is smart people," he said. "Our motto and mantra has been, if you have a smart person, you can teach them virtually anything, including financial crime analysis and investigation."
One of the company's top-performing investigators was a women's studies major, "but we also have people who have a CPA and a law degree," he said.