Fascination With Risks and Controls Ignites CFE's Passion For Preventing Fraud

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Gregg Stephens, CFE
Head of Fraud Prevention and Payment Security
Citizens Bank

Gregg Stephens, CFE, Head of Fraud Prevention and Payment Security at Citizens Bank, grew up living in four different states and has worked in retail, health care and technology services. He did all of this before finding his personal home in New Hampshire and his professional home in fraud prevention.

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in central Ohio but then moved around quite a bit as a kid, living in New York, Minnesota and Massachusetts before moving to New Hampshire in 1981, where I have lived ever since.

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
To me there was something fascinating about the prevalence of the risks of fraud and the corresponding control opportunities available to prevent or curtail it. In an organization such as ours, with many competing priorities, it is invigorating to me to raise the specter of fraud when our business partners move to introduce new products or services. This enables us to partner with them and share our expertise to better understand the risks and implement controls before we provide the product or service to our customers.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
While I think the risk of fraud to our business is always there, we have to be careful how we implement controls so that the customer experience is not negatively impacted. Unnecessary or burdensome controls make products or services more complex, which could lead to fewer customers choosing them and that’s not the way we want to reduce our fraud risk.

What steps led you to your current position?
I was working in retail and then health care, which is where I started in technology services, mainly in mid-range systems operations back in the early 1990s. When I started out in banking in 1995, I stayed in technology to learn the ropes in the distributed systems world (client/server systems, networks). This led me to eventually have responsibility for large teams that implemented these types of systems. From there, I helped support development of a Lean Six Sigma program designed to improve processes across the technology and operations area of the bank which eventually led to creation of a position in operations designed to bring efficiencies to debit card fraud management and card reissuance. This was a tremendous opportunity for growth and development for me and resulted in my being certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Master Black Belt via the internal program we developed. In 2007, I was recruited into the security organization to use my experience to identify fraud and payment security risks at a more granular level and come up with controls solutions to mitigate them. I’ve been in the security division ever since.

What is your current role and what does it entail?
I am the Head of Fraud Prevention and Payment Security, and my team is responsible for ensuring that controls deployed throughout the bank are adequate and effective for detecting and preventing fraud and operational error. We do this by working with our business and risk partners to ensure risks are proactively identified and related policies and regulations are adhered to.

How did you continue to propel your career forward while working at Citizens Bank? What contributed to your success in moving up?
I think it’s been about hard work and good fortune, both of which have benefited me throughout my career. I’ve also been so blessed to have a truly supportive family. One thing I’m grateful for is the tuition assistance program the bank offers. This enabled me to get my MBA by going to graduate school part-time at night; the bank also provided the means through which I was certified as a CFE. Obtaining both involved personal and professional sacrifices but were game changers for me career-wise. Getting these opportunities was tremendous — from there it was a matter of having goals, working hard and being willing to make sacrifices along the way.

Read Gregg's full profile in the Career Center on ACFE.com.