Tom van de Laar was born in Noort-Brabant, studied in Maastricht and started his career at Zuidas law firm CMS. The young lawyer loved sinking his teeth into difficult cases….
Tom van de Laar was born in Noort-Brabant, studied in Maastricht and started his career at Zuidas law firm CMS. The young lawyer loved sinking his teeth into difficult cases. Still, he decided to make a radical career change; he completed a master’s degree in Compliance & Integrity Management at VU Amsterdam and discovered where his passion lies.
When looking at Tom van de Laar’s impressive CV, you’d be inclined to think he is a middle-aged man with many decades of work experience. On the contrary: Tom is only 38 and the proud father of a one-year old girl. He and his partner live in Amsterdam – the most beautiful city on the planet, according to Tom.
“I grew up in the southern town of Helmond and studied law in Maastricht”, he says. “After graduating, CMS Netherlands offered me a job in criminal law. At the time, their office was in a building near the Amstel River so I moved to Amsterdam and found a small apartment on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, just around the corner from Dam Square. And to be honest, from day one I took Amsterdam to my heart.”
Tom stayed at CMS Netherlands for more than seven years and divided his time between their offices in Utrecht and Amsterdam. “I had a great time at CMS and loved sinking my teeth into difficult cases. Initially, in order to gain experience, I mainly worked on civil offence cases. Later on I specialized in financial and economic criminal law, focusing on occupational accidents, money laundering, investment fraud, environmental criminal law, and health & safety incidents. These were generally big, complex and challenging cases, exactly what I wanted.”
“I’ll give you an example of a case: let’s say an accident happened in a chemical plant. If it is a serious accident, it must be reported to the authorities and it will be investigated as a criminal case. You can offer the client legal advice but you could also try to convince the CEO, CFO and CRO to change the company’s policy and improve its safety standards in order to make it compliant. So compliance is all about processes and behaviour aimed at reducing risks. A kind of safety belt, as it were.”
Although Tom loved working on criminal cases, he realized his heart lies with compliance. He wanted to find out how organizations could achieve their core objectives in a responsible manner. “They are facing ever-increasing demands. Moreover, organizations themselves are implementing internal integrity standards in order to minimize risks. This means there is a need for compliance officers.”
“That’s why I decided to enrol for the executive master’s programme in Compliance & Integrity Management at VU Amsterdam. To me, the VU was a logical choice: this is the only university where compliance is taught in all its broad aspects and this programme is highly regarded. For two years, I was attending lectures every other Monday from 15:00 to 21:00 hours.”
“The programme enables you to study compliance in a broad context as it involves much more than just regulation. You also need to look at internal standards, risk management, behaviour, and how to deploy technology in order to comply with the rules and meet expectations from society. Compliance issues are not only about legal matters; ethics and risk assessment play an important role as well.”
Upon completing the two-year master’s programme Tom was granted the title of Certified Executive Compliance & Integrity Manager (ECIM). “I was the only lawyer in my class. Well, the switch I made wasn’t exactly an obvious one. Halfway through my studies I left CMS and made my professional start in the field of compliance at the Japanese Mizuho Bank. Then after another two years I moved to Deloitte, working at their Zuidas headquarters. Sometimes you just have to grab an opportunity when you see one.”
Back to the VU
The alumnus was asked to return to the VU as a lecturer. “That was a no-brainer for me. I was a student here and now I have the privilege to teach a subject I’m passionate about: compliance. Every other Monday I’m teaching and sharing my practical experience with my students. You’ll understand that this was another opportunity I simply couldn’t let go.”
Fast forward a few years and he is now working for Rabobank, where everything has come together in his current role as Global AML & Sanction Officer. “I’m responsible for the bank’s policy on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, and on avoiding sanctions violations. It’s the most interesting job of my life!”
Tom has been a Rabobank employee for two years now, commuting from Amsterdam to their headquarters in Utrecht. At the moment, next to his busy job and his position as a lecturer, Tom conducts PhD research into the integrity and leadership of organizations. He expects to obtain his doctorate, the highest possible academic degree, within four years.
Are you interested in a Compliance Management programme or another executive master’s programme offered by VU Amsterdam? Then come and visit our Open Evening on Thursday 19 November. Please register via our website: https://ee.sbe.vu.nl/nl
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