January 2021 has been proclaimed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual observation of National Freedom Day on February 1. This is a call to all Americans to recognize our vital roles in ending all forms of modern slavery/human trafficking.
During the month of January, advocates, organizations and individuals will unite to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking, an issue that remains hidden. Putting an end to human trafficking starts with acknowledging its existence and working together for effective monitoring and reporting.
Associated Bank Chief Risk Officer Nicole Kitowski, Security and Investigations Officer Sarah Gasiorowski, and BSA Officer Bob Schuldes will be among the featured speakers at the Anti Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative (ATII) virtual summit, Follow Money Fight Slavery, on January 28, to highlight how Associated is working on and continuing to evolve its fight against human trafficking.
“Now, more than ever, it’s time for financial institutions to take action against human trafficking,” said Kitowski. “It exists right here, close to home, where there are hundreds of allegations each year, making it a statewide issue.”
In 2020, Associated Bank entered into a partnership with the ATII to combat global human trafficking by promoting corporate social responsibility through increasing awareness, facilitating intelligence integration and technology advancement, and encouraging strategic data collaboration.
Associated has a multi-faceted financial intelligence/anti-financial crimes approach.
“Our Corporate Risk teams work closely with our front-line colleagues to provide information on industry trends and red flags so those closest to our customers can refer activity,” Kitowski said. “We also work with law enforcement to ensure adequate information and follow-up on egregious activity.”
The Department of Defense states that an estimated 21 million people worldwide are involved in forced labor, and more than 4.5 million are involved in sexual exploitation. They estimate that more than $99 billion is made from sex trafficking each year.
“I’m confident our partnership with the ATII will enable us to make a difference and keep working with like-minded organizations looking to create awareness and work toward putting a stop to human trafficking,” said Kitowski.
Additionally, Associated Bank is helping take a lead in bringing together financial intuitions and other industries for collaboration in training and communication related to this important topic.
Several organizations provide tools and information to help the fight: