Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Gregg Stephens, CFE
Head of Fraud Prevention and Payment Security
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.
What unique challenges do you think the banking sector faces when dealing with fraud?
Banking is extremely competitive these days and that type of environment means having to make difficult choices when it comes to investments. Maximizing value on any preventative investment, whether it’s technology or process-related, is absolutely crucial. Along with this, you have to have the ability to influence decisions at all levels of the organization in order to advance any security-related objectives and obtain needed funding.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?
Since the majority of my work is on the preventative side, I don’t deal directly with case investigations so most of my success has come on the project side. One of the most tangible successes I’ve had was developing and implementing a process to simplify customer emergency debit card replacement orders (which happened mainly as a result of fraud) when I was working in operations. We collected and analyzed card re-order data, surveyed our own customers, collected competitive data on peer processes, and put in a streamlined process that made things much clearer, simpler and faster for our customers. This enabled the operation to capture revenue that offset costs for production and expedited shipment of the cards. It was a win-win all around.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a huge outdoors and sports fan. I play golf, hike, run, bike, camp and ski — whatever the environment and weather allows for at any given time! I also think giving back to the community is not just good to do; it’s a responsibility for those with means, so I take pride in volunteering with nonprofit organizations and serving on their boards of directors in my community.
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