ACFCS Member Spotlight: A strong sense of justice, passion to inspire leads to career fighting crime as prosecutor, journalist, compliance thought leader for Gina Jurva

The Skinny:

  • In this ACFCS Member Spotlight, Gina Jurva, an attorney and Manager for Market Intelligence & Enterprise Content-Corporates & Governments for the Thomson Reuters Institute (TRI), gives a glimpse into her journey from playing prosecutor in her home to crafting cases in real life and becoming a thought leader in the field of financial crimes compliance.
  • Part of what propelled her on this journey over the past roughly 15 years – that would include becoming a journalist, public speaker and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance champion – was a simple but profound question as child: why weren’t there more powerful female role models on legal dramas going after the bad guys?
  • Jurva sought to fill that void through her own force of will and determination, eventually becoming a prosecutor and defense attorney.
  • Critical to her success, however, is never settling for the status quo: a continuous push for improvement in both the professional and personal spaces, a dynamic to ensure you can excel in any position, learn, grow and become “indispensable” to your organization.

By Brian Monroe
bmonroe@acfcs.org
September 28, 2020 

For Gina Jurva, the journey over the past nearly 15 years to become an attorney, journalist, public speaker and fincrime compliance thought leader started with an unlikely beginning – a courtroom of her own creation fueled by her imagination.

Along the way she would find herself, her inspiration, her voice, her calling – and even love.

As a child growing up in the neon-soaked decade of the 1980s, the California resident always had an “ingrained sense of justice and the rule of law,” even though she didn’t see many woman attorneys holding court on television.

That absence sparked curiosity, the question of why?

Finding the answer would be Jurva’s first steps on a quest in her life to champion more diversity in courtrooms, boardrooms and classrooms – the foundation of learning and representation for the next generation, culminating in Jurva landing her “dream job” at Thomson Reuters, a multi-billion dollar media company.

So without a powerful, independent female figure in the courtroom to turn to on television, Jurva created her own fuzzy, stuffed version of “Law and Order.” Before her age was even in double digits, Jurva acted out the roles of prosecutors and judges with her family and toys as the accused.

“My grandmother was regularly found not guilty, but my stuffed animals usually received ‘life in prison,’” Jurva said, joking that, “Hey, as an only child you must be creative!”

Little did she realize that later in life, she would replace prosecution, defense strategies and closing arguments for family members for members of illicit criminal groups.

“I knew from a very young age I wanted to be a criminal prosecutor, tackling some of the worst crimes both against persons but also financial crimes,” Jurva said.  

She has been immersed in the crime-fighting world since earning her bar license in 2006 and becoming a deputy district attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jurva eventually opened her own law practice defending clients in criminal matters at both the trial and appellate level.

After several years as a litigator, she decided to “flip the script,” and transition out of her Perry Masonesque existence, forging a new path into the land of journalism and writing.

She held positions as editor-in- chief of a San Francisco-based print magazine, managing editor of a SF-based newspaper, and as a freelancer for the Bay Area’s NPR-affiliate, KQED.

Since joining Thomson Reuters more than seven years ago, she has served as Senior Legal Writer and Editor and currently serves as Manager, Market Intelligence & Enterprise Content-Corporates & Governments for the Thomson Reuters Institute (TRI).

In that role, Jurva leads content and multi-media activities to highlight solutions to some of the world’s most pressing risk, regulatory compliance and public and private sector challenges including anti-money laundering (AML) and e-commerce fraud.

She also frequently writes, speaks and contributes as a co-host to a Thomson Reuters-branded podcast, talking about the latest fraud and financial crime trends.

More recently, she graduated from the Campaign School at Yale University and is looking to further service the public trust by potentially running for office in the future.

It was her desire to help others less fortunate and devote herself to a higher cause that also led to love – and some very sore quads.

Jurva has participated in a seven day, 545-mile charity bike ride for HIV/AIDS awareness twice as a cyclist and once as a roadie.

“The bike ride is from San Francisco to Los Angeles (the AIDS/LifeCycle), requiring each cyclist to raise a minimum of $3,000,” she said. “As I was training for the ride, I met and fell in love with my (now) wife.”

The lessons of sharing, caring, kindness and giving your all to a singular purpose is an apt comparison to the knowledge, focus and continuous learning needed to be successful in the field of financial crime and compliance.

One of the best pieces of advice was given to her by a former supervisor who said: “Make yourself indispensable to your organization. Be the best at what you do. Know your craft well and excel in it.”

Part and parcel of excellence as a professional is growth as a person – and a ruthless commitment to do what is right and just.

“Reputation is everything,” Jurva said. “If you damage it, it can take a lifetime to regain. But if you always act with integrity and fairness, no matter whom you are dealing with, you will succeed and thrive.”

Jurva was kind enough to share some of her insight in our latest ACFCS Member Spotlight. Here is an edited version of that conversation. 

Who inspires you?

There are three women come to mind immediately: Kamala Harris (especially as a prosecutor, AG, US Senator and now VP candidate), Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former First Lady Michelle Obama. All attorneys and all women who have had to fight their ways to the top.

I am particularly inspired by Michelle Obama’s message about taking chances.

A quote from Mrs. Obama has always stuck with me: “This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the “my, isn’t that impressive” path — and keep you there for a long time,” she explained in an interview. “Maybe it stops you from considering a swerve, because what you risk losing in terms of other people’s high regard can feel too costly.”

Each woman has also shown the power of resilience and of empowering other women on their journeys. 

What is one thing - industry-related or not - that you learned in the past month?

Camping really isn’t so bad… 

What is something about you that not many people know?

I’ve participated in a seven day, 545-mile charity bike ride for HIV/AIDS awareness twice as a cyclist and once as a roadie.

The bike ride is from San Francisco to Los Angeles (the AIDS/LifeCycle), requiring each cyclist to raise a minimum of $3,000. As I was training for the ride, I met and fell in love with my (now) wife. 

What do you do in your current role

On behalf of the Thomson Reuters Institute (TRI), I lead content and multi-media activities to highlight solutions to some of the world’s most pressing risk, regulatory compliance and public and private sector challenges including anti-money laundering (AML) and e-commerce fraud.

As a thought leader, I frequently write, speak and contribute as a co-host to a Thomson Reuters-branded podcast, talking about the latest fraud and financial crime trends. 

What does your career trajectory in financial crime look like?

I will continue to learn and grow, likely moving towards a formal financial crime certification and hopefully into more work in the public sphere such as more robust appearances on Reuters TV appearances and other outlets.  

What is the best advice you have ever received?

A former supervisor once told me, make yourself indispensable to your organization.

Be the best at what you do. Know your craft well and excel in it. Reputation is everything. If you damage it, it can take a lifetime to regain. But if you always act with integrity and fairness, no matter whom you are dealing with, you will succeed and thrive. 

What would you say are the most important attributes for someone in your position to succeed?

First, you must enjoy keeping up with the news. I am a news junkie and love staying abreast of current events which helps to better inform my work.

Another key attribute in my role is the ability to convey complex ideas into simple concepts. That isn’t always easy because I am challenged with explaining intricate financial crime schemes. But the challenge is fun and rewarding.

Because I am in such a public-facing role for Thomson Reuters, the ability to speak well on camera and at live events is also crucial.

As I mentioned, I started my career as a prosecutor in a courtroom, having to convince 12 (sometimes) angry people, that my case was worth listening to and that I wasn’t wasting their time. That requires countless hours of training and performance skills.

Later, I learned more about podcasts and what it means to have a “radio” speaking voice while at NPR. Everything I have done has prepared me for my role as one of the faces of Thomson Reuters Thought Leadership.  

How has (compliance, investigations, etc.) changed and evolved during your career?

A lot has changed since I became an attorney in 2006. Technology has rapidly evolved for monitoring and detecting financial crimes including things like risk scoring and automating Know Your Customer (KYC) processes.

Also, courtroom technology has changed to much more advanced technology-based evidence presentations.  

What do you see as the key financial crime challenges in your role or in the sector overall?

The biggest challenges are identifying and stopping international criminal groups, particularly related to cyberattacks and data security breaches.

We saw the recent unemployment fraud scam, reported to have been committed by a Nigerian criminal ring using data stolen during one of the many large corporate breaches. Those types of actors and actions keep me up at night. 

What motivated you to become a financial crime compliance professional?

As a child, I always had an ingrained sense of justice and the rule of law.

When I was about seven or eight years old, I would make my family sit on the couch and pretend to play “courtroom” with me. My grandmother was regularly found not guilty, but my stuffed animals usually received “life in prison.” (Hey, as an only child you must be creative!)

I knew from a very young age I wanted to be a criminal prosecutor, tackling some of the worst crimes both against persons but also financial crimes.

As a child growing up in the 1980’s, I didn’t see many attorneys that looked like me and I wanted to know why. It is incredibly important that we have diverse voices in courtrooms, in boardrooms and in classrooms. 

Later, when I joined Thomson Reuters, I landed my dream job, following and reporting on financial crimes trends, and now as a co-host to our branded Thomson Reuters Market Insights podcast series.  

Is there anything that surprised you about your current role?

Yes, I was really shocked to dig in and learn how prevalent money laundering and financial crimes are in many of the cases we hear about on television or on the news.

Money laundering seems to make the criminal world go around. From Roy Cohn to Bernie Madoff to Jeffrey Epstein, financial crimes are a cornerstone of most purely non-violent crimes (and many violent crimes). 

How did you get your first job in the field and what advice would you give other job seekers to help land their first position?

It started in law school. I always knew I wanted to be a prosecutor and did everything I could to gear all my training and experience to best position myself to become a litigator.

Upon graduation from law school, I received dual certificates in litigation and criminal law.

My first job out of college was at the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor. After my time in criminal law, I went into journalism and further honed my speaking and writing skills to which led me to Thomson Reuters.  

My advice to other job seekers is that whatever career path you seek, learn as much as you can about it before going in.

Speak to people in the field, find out what their days look like. Do they spend most of their time at a desk or traveling?

Do they need to live near a major city, or can they conduct their jobs remotely?

Do the persons who have the jobs you are interested have a certain degree or field experience?

Can you join an association (like ACFCS) and network to meet others in financial crimes investigations? 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to do what I love every day: read, research, and help educate legal, corporate and financial crimes professionals about the latest crime trends.

I’ve made some close friendships as a result of fostering relationships and networking, other people who are passionate about fighting financial crime and working for the common good. 

For professionals with 5-10 years of experience, what advice would you give to help them rise in their careers to the next level?

My advice to professionals with 5-10 years’ experience is think about where you want to go in your career.

If there is a specific job title or role you are interested in, start doing your research and find out the background of people who hold those roles. Then begin the process of networking and getting to know them.

I absolutely love networking and talking to others about their training and experience.

If you are passionate about combatting financial crime and fraud, these are great ways to start conversations. Maybe you heard someone speak on a webinar and want to follow up. Great conversation starters.

Also, if you have the opportunity to write a blog post for a well-read outlet, that is another way of getting your name and brand out into the ecosystem.