Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Anne DeTraglia, CFE, CIA
Senior Director of Fraud Risk Management
Before her current position leading the Fraud Risk Management department at a major global marketer of sports apparel and footwear, Anne DeTraglia, CFE, CIA, began her career as an internal auditor at Home Depot. In that early role, she was drawn to the anti-fraud profession because of a desire to “make something right.” Since then, she has channeled her experience and energy into building fraud risk management programs through effective communication.
“People have a harder time acting on your advice if they don't understand what you're doing,” DeTraglia said. “A colleague recently quipped to me, ‘It's hard to give them answers when they don't yet know the question.’ We have to be able to show them what the questions are — where we should be as an organization.”
Where were you born and raised?
I was born on the southwest side of Chicago — a land of Irish Catholics who adore the Chicago White Sox. Our family was an outlier — Swedish and Dutch protestants who love the Chicago Cubs. You can imagine why I had to move away.
When did you know that this career path was right for you?
For the most part, I’ve always worked as an internal auditor, focusing on “how do we use our position in the organization to help?“ vs. trying to point blame and say ”gotcha!” Over the course of my audit career, every time that I worked in an area that touched on fraud, either directly or indirectly, I felt like I was trying to make something right. I have observed over the years that anti-fraud practitioners tend to be that way. They ask, “How can I help make this right?”
What steps led you to your current position and what does that role entail?
The path to my current role as the leader of the fraud risk management function at my organization was a natural outcome of working in the internal audit profession and closely partnering with the ethics and compliance departments in my prior two companies. My work performing fraud risk assessments, as part of the COSO/ACFE framework, led me to spend more time recently in the fraud risk management realm. It was a no-brainer to take on the establishment of an anti-fraud program.
What are the most important skills you have learned throughout your career?
Communication. The work we do is emergent in nature and as such, is often somewhat novel to others in the organization. Let's face it, everyone sort of understands what an internal auditor is. I find that the fraud risk management work can seem scary. Effectively communicating that our role is not to point out the risk, but to help mitigate it is important. Anti-fraud professionals must communicate that well.
In addition to effectively communicating the work, I would say a related skill is learning how to be personable. Maya Angelou noted that people always remember how you made them feel. That's crucial in this field. We are frequently dealing with people and situations that are not ideal. Our business partners will be much more likely to act on our advice if they feel good about us and the work we do.
How do you think your CFE credential has helped you in your role?
The CFE credential is crucial to establishing your seriousness about the work. It shows a dedication to the profession and a sincere interest in learning and staying relevant. I cannot overstate the importance of this credential for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the anti-fraud world.
What advice do you have for women working in the anti-fraud profession and looking to move up and grow?
My advice for anyone, whether man or woman, is to embrace lateral moves within the profession. Take any opportunity to learn. Specifically, for women, ask for the promotion, ask for the new opportunity, ask for the raise, ask to go to the conference. I have observed that women frequently expect their manager to “just know.” Your manager does not always know, and you should take the initiative to ask. I recently had a situation where I was asking for something and I felt kind of guilty asking for the opportunity. I had several female mentors remind me that I should not feel guilty. I should ask. (And it worked out well for me, by the way.)
What challenges do you see in the coming year for larger corporations looking to build out their fraud risk management programs?
Fraud risk management will be different in every organization, but a consistent theme is that success is predicated on senior leadership buy-in. If you don't have a senior, executive-level support structure around the program, it's not going to achieve much. Too often, and I’ve seen this in many different companies, senior leaders have been limited to fraud solely in terms of Sarbanes Oxley and internal controls over financial reporting (i.e., the notion of materiality and Enron-esque events). We must help them to see the bigger picture — that fraud can happen anywhere and is still crucial even without financial materiality. We have to help them see what life is like in the trenches — the day-to-day operating rhythm of the organization or ‘mood in the middle’ and ‘buzz at the bottom’.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on — one that made you feel especially proud?
I have worked on many fraud cases over the course of my career. Despite it happening multiple times, I am always shocked when a small, somewhat minor fraud turns out to be a much larger, explosive issue. Many years back, I was involved in a case where an employee who ran out of time and couldn't finish their work every day also didn't ask for help (under extreme pressure) and elected to falsify their reporting. They rationalized it away as ‘not really being very important’. Regrettably, it was important due to the nature of the reporting and it turned into a board-level investigation with far-reaching consequences. Another reason it's important for employees to feel like they can speak up.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
I love the sport of triathlon. I've competed in four Ironman-distance events (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) and a variety of half-iron races as well as smaller races. Any day racing is a good one.
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