Eduardo Güell, CFE, is just 31 years old, but he has already advanced far in his career. As a newly qualified Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), he leads a global team of five people in Citigroup’s third-party risk assessment department proactively managing financial, regulatory and operational risks.
Güell has held positions in a number of financial institutions in his native Costa Rica, where he analyzed companies across North and South America, as well as Europe. He has also become an expert in various anti-fraud regulations, including the U.S. FCPA and the U.K.’s Bribery Act, helping Citigroup avoid reputational risks associated with money laundering and fraud. Güell participated in the ACFE Conference Internship Program in 2019.
How did you enter the anti-fraud field?
After the 2008 global financial crisis, Bank of America set up a department in Costa Rica focused on fraud prevention and I was hired as a fraud analyst there in 2010. It was a pretty simple job of checking credit card transactions to see if there were red flags of fraud. We tracked and monitored fund activity to identify suspicious or high-risk transactions. After a year working there, I was hired by Western Union as an online service specialist. Whenever a transaction was not paid, we were called in to investigate what happened. For example, back then, payments to Google for advertising clicks on a particular website were made through Western Union. Sometimes those payments didn’t come through. That was usually because someone had taken the money and there was some internal fraud at the company that owned the website. That was the most common type of fraud we saw at Western Union.
What led you to your current role?
Back then my sister was working at Citi in Costa Rica. I saw how happy she was there so I applied for jobs at the bank. I didn’t make it the first time I applied, but on the second try I was called by the money laundering department for three interviews and finally got the job. That was over nine years ago.
At Citi, I worked with company accounts that were being opened at the bank. We needed to make sure they complied with know-your-customer (KYC) rules and regulations related to money laundering. During that time, I got certified in everything related to anti-money laundering and other corrupt practices. I was there almost three years, first as an analyst and then leading a team of 20.
I then applied for a job in Citi’s financial evaluation oversight department. That was a bit of a change as that involved working with suppliers rather than customer accounts and ensuring we complied with regulations related to third-party suppliers. That involved making sure the supplier was financially sound and not on the verge bankruptcy and that there were no shady dealings.
I did that kind of analysis for almost two years, but the department director came to Costa Rica in 2018 and said he would like me to learn more about finances so I could eventually lead the team. While I liked the job, I wanted to try something different. He asked if I was interested in third-party risk assessment, and I said yes, but only if I can apply for a position that was open in Budapest (Hungary). He told me the job was mine if I wanted it, but recommended I get to know the country first. That conversation happened in August 2018 and by September, I was travelling to Budapest.
I already had friends there and the idea was to move there, but I needed eight approvals from senior management. I started the process, but when I had seven approvals, there was a global hiring freeze at Citi. It was very disappointing, but everything happens for a reason, and a couple of months later, the person who was the manager of third-party risk assessment in Costa Rica left the company, and I was given his job. So, everything turned out well in the end.
What were some of the challenges in earning your CFE during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I attended the 30th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in 2019 as part of the ACFE Conference Internship Program. I had a blast networking with CFEs at the conference and my idea was to immediately get certified after the conference. But a ton of things were going on and I didn’t have a chance to study that year — then COVID hit. So in December last year, I said to myself that it doesn’t matter what happens, I am going to get certified. It took me three months of long days and nights to pass the CFE Exam. I am now waiting for COVID to end so I can go to the conference again in person — this time as a CFE.
What ultimately draws you to investigating fraud?
It’s hard to visualize myself doing something different. I am passionate about my career, love investigative work and enjoy data analysis. Maybe my favorite part is that there is still a lot to learn and plenty of career opportunities in different fields; I’ll probably never get bored. And even though our day-to-day as fraud fighters might be challenging, I think we add a lot of value and that makes it a rewarding career.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to earn their CFE?
My advice is pretty simple: Just get it done. We all have our hurdles, but you have to get it done, regardless of the circumstances.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners