Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
LaToya Lacey, CFE, CPA
Global Audit & Risk Director
LaToya Lacey, CFE, CPA, Global Audit & Risk Director at Diageo has climbed her way to a position that leverages all of her learned and innate skills: delivering internal audits, communication, leadership and the training and education received from earning and maintaining the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential. "I was working in finance training at Kraft Foods when I obtained my CFE," Lacey said. "At the time, a position in investigations was not available, so I stayed close to the industry and proudly displayed my CFE plaque at my desk. Over a year later, this very large plaque gained the attention of Kraft's CFO who wanted to know why I was in training instead of investigations. A few months later, I moved into a role within investigations. I believe this experience speaks to the value of this credential and being prepared to take advantage of potential opportunities."
How have you seen your roles and duties change as your career progressed?
Over the years, my responsibilities have increased, and I have developed a broader knowledge of business outside of the U.S. However, there are two very important things I look for in every position: I must be challenged in a way that positively contributes to my personal and professional development, and I must be empowered to challenge "business as usual" to increase efficiency and productivity and strengthen the control environment. Those have been the consistent factors that have ensured my continuous career progression.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
Years ago, I discovered what appeared to be fraudulent activity during an internal audit that I turned over to our investigations department. The investigation led to two individuals leaving the business. This is what sparked my interest. I became passionate about fighting fraud when I realized how often fraud occurs and how business is impacted. I spent a year working in investigations, and although I'm not currently in a position where I investigate fraud, the knowledge I gained from that experience has changed the way I conduct audits and how I think about controls.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on?
The most memorable case was a kickback scheme we became aware of due to an anonymous call. Initially, we thought this was an isolated incident, but as we dug deeper into electronically stored information and conducted interviews, we determined the issue was more widespread and involved various levels within the company, including management.
What is your personal motto?
I'm a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA) and currently hold the position of Immediate Past President of the Chicago Chapter. NABA has the motto of: "Lifting As We Climb" and I have adopted this as my personal motto. With this in mind, I have helped many college students obtain academic scholarships through my role in NABA and have served as a mentor to many young professionals. As I have benefited from others sharing their knowledge with me, I will continue to give back by doing the same.
What career advice do you have for those just starting out in the fraud-fighting field?
Obtain the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential, and make sure people know you have it. If you obtain your CFE before you have the opportunity to work in the anti-fraud field, stay close to the industry by taking related courses, attending the conferences and taking advantage of networking opportunities with your local chapter. This will allow you to be prepared when an opportunity arises.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Since my job involves a lot of international travel, I try to take full advantage of the opportunity to explore each country and learn something new about the culture. Some of my favorite activities have been visiting Monserrate in Colombia, the Andes Mountains in Chile and the Source of the Nile in Uganda. Also, I love shopping and I like to buy items that are unique. My most prized possession is a Chinese dress I had made for me in Shanghai. I'm quite tall and not as slim as the Chinese ladies, so it took persistence to find someone who could make my dress.
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