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Member Spotlight: Creativity, curiosity, flexibility vital to FIU team success, says Andrea Valentin

Friday, March 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brian Monroe
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By Brian Monroe
March 8, 2019

What do you do when you have the natural talents of an accountant, the soul of an investigator and an innate drive and intensity to push boundaries in learning, technology and new ways of thinking to unravel puzzles and make a difference in the world – but you are working at a bank in customer service?

If you are St. Augustine resident Andrea Valentin, you boldly go to your boss and do something someone excelling in a position rarely does, something that would typically shock upper management – tell them that their job is too easy.

“So, what do I do with the other six hours in my day?” Valentin asked her superior.

Fortunately for the New York native, she had a boss that, rather than chastising her, decided to challenge her, unknowingly, resulting in her honest query to see how she could do more to help her institution and make use of her unique talents opening the door to a new compliance career.  

His response: take a look at some of these subpoenas, later asking her to look at a broader series of bank transactions to look for irregularities – a foreshadowing of the selfsame duties of the anti-money laundering (AML) compliance officer.

Valentin has more than 20 years experience in financial services, and over the last decade has been in top compliance roles at FSV Payment Systems/US Bank and is currently the Vice President, Prepaid Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Director for the institution.

FSV Payment Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, is one of the nation's largest prepaid card providers. 

In that time, she has learned to be creative, curious, flexible and push herself to be relentless in learning new technology, challenging her team as she was challenged to engage in new ways of thinking to tackle historical and emerging financial crime and compliance hurdles.

Such a unique skillset is something that would also be an asset for compliance jobseekers.

 “A focus on analytical ability, a zeal for solving puzzles, and the ability to build relationships are key basic skills,” Valentin told ACFCS.

Critical to success, however, is to be a humble student of compliance, be willing to admit when you are wrong, but have the courage to try new things, in essence, having a “growth versus a fixed mindset,” she told ACFCS.

In fact, one of the things Valentin is most proud is seeing the faith she has in her staff rewarded with their excitement in finding new solutions to vexing problems – a dynamic that leads to a great sense of satisfaction for all, leading to a sense of purpose feeding a passion to uncover connections to potential fraudsters and financial crime.

Valentin has for many years now embraced the need for innovation – something regulators have exhorted institutions to do in late 2018 – engaging in a convergent mindset as she also had deep experience in countering fraud.

“Hands down seeing the most rewarding part of my job right now is watching my team grow in their roles and getting excited about innovative ways to complete tasks and engage their teams. It is fun to watch cultures change and engagement improve,” she told ACFCS. 

 Here are some of her thoughts in our latest ACFCS Member Spotlight:     

What do you do in your current role?

In my role as the Prepaid FIU Director for FSV/US Bank, my team is responsible for several operational areas including fraud prevention, sanctions, KYC/CIP, complaint response, escalations for irregular activity, quality control, and support for our Gateway processors and other key operational relationships.

I spend my days building relationships, supporting team members, my peers and leaders both internal and external to my organization, identifying process and efficiency improvement opportunities, and evaluating new technologies to stay ahead of the bad guys.

What does your career trajectory in financial crime look like?

Who knows what the future may hold for me! Financial crime is ever evolving and there is great growth opportunity in this field. 

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t sweat the small stuff and try not to take everything so seriously. This started with my mom during some nice long talks in my early 20s and since that didn’t work immediately…has been repeated advice I continue to receive over the years by many others I respect. 

Being a type A personality, this is something I consistently have to work on to ensure that I focus on the bigger picture, value relationships (enough to not sweat the small stuff) and take time to take care of myself and those that I care about. 

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received?

It’s best to move around from company to company or position to position to gain experience to move your career forward. I’ve done very well by staying in my organization over the last 11 years and look forward to many more.

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

Resiliency and learn to listen effectively. To be resilient you must be willing to fail fast, admit mistakes and listen to advice (growth vs. fixed mind-set). I’m still learning to listen effectively and not multi-task.

If something is worth doing, be all in and give 100 %.  By applying yourself fully you will be able to connect dots that you never would have noticed without listening and being fully engaged.

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

In some respects, fraud (outside of technology), compliance, and investigations has remained relatively unchanged over the years however the importance and focus on these topics is increasing for many industries. 

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

Rapid growth of technology, ever changing regulatory environments and a lack of depth of knowledge due to challenges created by the information age/information overload make it a very attractive industry in which to participate. 

You have to accept the fact that you will need to constantly learn, share information, and try new things to stay ahead of nefarious activity to be successful. The goal shouldn’t be to get ahead of the bad guys but instead have solid processes to react if your defenses are ineffective in an expeditious manner and try to stay one or two steps behind, never be the weakest link!

What motivated you to become a financial crime professional?

I had spent years obtaining a bachelor’s degree – took the long route and a couple of breaks – and ended up majoring in Accounting, but it held no spark for me.

When I discovered financial crime careers, I decided to pursue it further and started getting my Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation and pursuing an MBA in Economic Crime & Fraud Management. 

By the time I was done with those two things I had almost a year with my current employer and I haven’t looked back since. Financial crime is definitely not a career that will leave you wanting for more to do.

Is there anything that surprised you about your current role?

Not really much surprises me anymore, which is a bit surprising in and of itself. But seriously, the thing that I think is a bit unexpected is the tremendous personal growth I’ve experienced. 

For example, I can be a bit intense and I find myself responding vs. reacting more and more these days which I think is a very good sign. I’m certainly not perfect and there are days when all of my buttons get pushed, however those days are fewer and further between.

Why did you join ACFCS and become CFCS certified?

I stumbled upon the ACFCS while talking with a peer about four years ago about his advice for setting up a financial intelligence unit. I knew to be successful, part of the plan needed to include a path for those on the team who wanted to grow in their careers to learn and obtain certifications in financial crime. 

As I researched the CFCS designation, I found it covered almost everything my new team would be responsible for at the time such as CIP, KYC, OFAC/Sanctions, Fraud Prevention, transaction monitoring, etc.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Hands down seeing the most rewarding part of my job right now is watching my team grow in their roles and getting excited about innovative ways to complete tasks and engage their teams. It is fun to watch cultures change and engagement improve.

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

I kind of fell into a role in compliance in investigations years ago. I was working in a customer service/support type roll and I had it down to a science and was looking for something to do with the other six hours left in my day. 

After talking with my boss at the time about what I could do to help take some things off his plate or others in the organization, he gave me some subpoenas to investigate.

Once we had all of the court orders and subpoenas current and were looking for some more to do, he taught me basic queries and I began monitoring for irregular activity.

Shortly after that, I graduated with my accounting degree and he changed my title to Compliance & Investigations specialist and I began doing that work full time.

What skillsets or backgrounds do you feel are the most in-demand or attractive for financial institutions and recruiters currently and why?

The skillsets and backgrounds that should indicate success in most careers likely won’t work when recruiting for financial crime professionals. A focus on analytical ability, a zeal for solving puzzles, and the ability to build relationships are key basic skills. 

Knowledge of basic structures of risk management is helpful in the financial industry, lines of defenses, control environments, etc., and with the right basic skills specialized knowledge can be developed if you can’t find the exact expertise you are looking for in a candidate.

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

My advice is to get experience doing whatever you can get your hands on that even closely aligns with financial crime and build upon that experience.

Ensure you have a growth mindset and be flexible, curious and willing to learn and attend as many conferences and network. 

Volunteer to gain experience you may not otherwise get in your day job. Also try to read whitepapers, articles, listen to podcasts, etc. If you don’t have a certification like the ACFCS offers get one or more.  

 Member profile 

Andrea Lee Valentin, CFE, CAMS, CFCS has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry and is currently the Prepaid Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) at US Bank/FSV Payment Systems, Inc. in Jacksonville.

In that position, she oversees the divisions' fraud management, bank relations/program management, complaint response team, Issuer support, and operational compliance quality assurance, and various other operational teams.

She has a BA in accounting from the University of Central Florida and a MBA in Economic Crime and Fraud Management from Utica College. Andrea’s case, Small Town Boys, appears in Joseph Wells’ “Internet Fraud Casebook: The World Wide Web of Deceit.”  

Andrea is the current Secretary for the Payments Risk & Fraud Consortium and is an advisory board member to the Jacksonville Chapter of the ACFE.

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