By Jill Cacic, Senior Public Relations Specialist, Banker’s Toolbox 

CAMS Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to our five inaugural CAMS scholarship winners! 

We had an overwhelming response to our inaugural Certified Anti-Money Laundering (CAMS) scholarship. We received numerous qualified applications, giving our scholarship committee a tough task of picking just five winners.

The five scholarship recipients come from all over the United States with varying backgrounds and stories of how they got into the BSA role. They each discussed how achieving their CAMS certification will help them in their careers. Click below to read each of their stories. 

Fernando Lopez, BSA Analyst II Foreign Accounts, Independent Bank

Fernando Lopez started in the financial industry as a teller at a money services business and was in charge of compliance at all of their locations. He was traveling across the state and with a young family that didn’t provide him much time at home with them. He was ready for a change and found his calling as a BSA analyst at Independent Bank.

In his current role, Fernando deals with a lot of foreign customers and having AML knowledge specifically around overseas transactions will help him tremendously in his day-to-day. He is excited to get his CAMS certification and have a stronger knowledge of what to look for and how to better distinguish suspicious transactions.

“Having a certification doesn’t make or break your career, but it does make you more knowledgeable,” Fernando said. “I hope getting my CAMS certification makes my kids proud of me for continuing my education. I want to show them that you never know everything. You’re supposed to keep learning and try and better yourself.”

Fernando’s favorite thing about working in BSA/AML is helping to prevent customers from getting scammed or stopping them before they send money somewhere questionable. He also enjoys that every day is a little different for him with different customers, different cases and different problems to solve.

Kristy Distel, Senior BSA Compliance Specialist, Monroe Bank and Trust

Kristy Distel has held nearly every position in banking before becoming the senior BSA compliance specialist at Monroe Bank and Trust. Her bank is currently going through a merger, a growing theme in the financial industry, so her plans of obtaining her CAMS certification through work were abruptly cut short until she saw the Banker’s Toolbox scholarship.

Kristy is excited to pursue her CAMS certification because it not only makes her more marketable as an employee, but it increases her knowledge and understanding of a constantly changing industry

“Obtaining my CAMS certification will allow me to better understand global trends and the impacts of financial crimes, therefore making me a better and more well-rounded investigator,” Distel said.

A detail-oriented individual, Kristy loves gathering information and making something palpable out of it in her BSA role. She feels validated when something she has taken action on or escalated, has a definitive outcome. Her work makes a difference at those times. She is looking forward to strengthening her knowledge of the AML industry and helping to better protect people from financial crime.

Leah McCarver, Vice President, Commerical State Bank

For the past 23 years, Leah McCarver has worked in the banking industry, starting as a Teller, moving into Operations, then Credit administration, and ultimately working her way up to her current position as Vice President & BSA/AML Officer. Two years ago, she was approached by the bank president to gauge her interest in filling the soon-to-be-vacant BSA Officer position. As the wife of a law enforcement officer, Leah sees first-hand the criminal element in day-to-day life and knew with her life experiences she was right for the position.

“In order to fight this ‘war’ on drugs, human trafficking, money laundering and other financial crimes, it is going to take a commitment from the banking community,” Leah said. “I am excited to get my CAMS certification so I can gain more knowledge on how to prevent these activities and pass that information on to my staff.”

Leah works in a West Texas community that has experienced an economic boom as of late, resulting in a lot of cash transactions so it’s imperative their BSA department stays on top of recent trends in financial crime.  With this certification Leah will be able to serve as a greater resource to her staff, sharing her in-depth knowledge with future bankers.

Having access to the ACAMS network will not only help Leah grow as a professional but also give her more insight into the industry and how other institutions handle unique situations.

Rebecca Dolney, BSA Analyst, Great Western Bank

Rebecca Dolney started her banking career at Great Western Bank as a teller, with very little initial interest in the BSA role. After looking into it a little deeper, she was intrigued and started her path towards becoming a BSA Analyst.  She is excited to pursue her CAMS certification because she wants to increase her industry knowledge, especially with financial crime threats constantly changing. With the addition of the ACAMS membership, she will have a community to rely on for deeper insight into issues that arise. Additionally, the networking within that community and the expertise they provide is invaluable.

“Achieving the CAMS certification would mean a lot to me,” Rebecca said. “It proves that all the hard work I do isn’t just recognized here at the bank, but also across the industry. It’s a rather prestigious certification to have to show my dedication to BSA/AML.”

Rebecca has come full-circle in her feelings toward the BSA position. (She actually wishes she knew everything she knows now when she was a teller!) She loves digging deeper in transactions or accounts to stop financial crime and protect her bank and customers. When she successfully stops illicit activities, it makes the whole job worth it.

Stacy Albers, BSA Oversight Officer, Fishback Financial Corporation

Stacy Albers from First Bank & Trust worked as a crime scene investigator before transitioning into a financial crime investigator. After having kids, she moved back home to South Dakota and started looking for jobs that were more conducive to family life but gave her the same investigative thrill that CSI work did. Thus, her introduction to the world of BSA and anti-money laundering. Her previous work as a CSI helped her tremendously in her work as a BSA Oversight Officer, especially when dealing with law enforcement. She’s able to easily play a liaison role and make sure law enforcement has all of the necessary information to pursue a case. She is excited to get her CAMS certification because she feels it carries a lot of prestige with it.

“It is recognized worldwide across the industry,” she said. “The certification and membership to ACAMS gives me so many additional resources to better myself in my role. The level of industry updates they provide helps keep me abreast of everything going on in the industry, including all of the regulatory changes.”

Stacy is looking forward to helping her entire BSA team with her new certification. She will be able to better provide them with additional knowledge, resources and training to strengthen the entire department and better protect their customers from financial crime.

The transition from CSI to BSA has been an enjoyable one for Stacy. She gets to do the investigations that she loves and fight crime. She is most proud of her ability to protect not only the bank’s customers but the entire financial system from financial criminals. Adding a CAMS certification will only enhance her ability to better protect the bank and its customers.

Congratulations to all of our deserving scholarship recipients! We’re excited to follow your path to CAMS certification.

We will announce our next scholarship in early 2019 so stay tuned for updates!