Debbie Hitzeroth, CAMS-FCI, is an anti-money laundering (AML) compliance professional with more than 15 years of experience. In her current position as the Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) compliance officer for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), she is responsible for all aspects of BSA/AML compliance for the USPS' 32,000 retail locations including establishing, implementing and maintaining BSA/AML compliance policies and procedures and managing suspicious activity detection and reporting.
Prior to assuming her current position, Hitzeroth was responsible for the development and implementation of BSA/AML training for 100,000 employees at the USPS' 32,000 retail locations.
Hitzeroth holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola University in Maryland. She currently serves as the chair of the ACAMS Today Editorial Committee and is a member of the CAMS Exam Task Force. In addition, Hitzeroth was a member of the U.S. Treasury National U.S. Risk Assessment Team.
ACAMS Today: How will you be celebrating March 8, International Women’s Day?
Debbie Hitzeroth: I will be hosting a virtual coffee break for the women in my department to talk about our careers, share advice and celebrate the day. Since my group is scattered around the country, we are coming together through a virtual meeting.
AT: You have been working in AML for over 15 years now. How has the field changed for women since you first started?
DH: In my experience working in the field, one of the most notable changes I’ve seen is the number of women attaining senior-level positions. I have also been impressed in the growing number of women at the podium at conferences.
AT: In your current role, you are responsible for all aspects of BSA/AML compliance for USPS. What obstacles have you faced when implementing a successful BSA/AML program and what have you done to overcome these obstacles?
DH: One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for compliance professionals is convincing people outside of the department how important compliance is. I recommend that women build a strong network with peers in the revenue generating branches of the organization. Get out of your office and have face-to-face conversations with those who will be responsible for implementing or following your policies and procedures.
AT: What are some of the most impactful lessons you have learned from important women in your life?
DH: A colleague taught me that you should do the things you most don’t want to do first. Schedule that difficult meeting first thing in the morning and get it over with. If you put it off until the afternoon, it will take up space in your mind all day and distract you from other things you need to focus on.
My two great aunts taught me how important it is to have a personal life outside of work. Being in compliance is stressful. If you don’t find time to laugh, relax and enjoy your life, you will burn out.
AT: Based on your own professional experience, what advice for success would you give to women entering the AML field?
DH: It is important that women project the expertise and knowledge they possess and ensure that they have a voice in meetings and in decision-making processes. Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion. Also, never apologize for contributing to the conversation. Never use the phrase “I’m sorry, but” or “I may be wrong, but” when adding your ideas to the discussion. Those phrases minimize what you are saying.
AT: How can women in AML #PressforProgress?
DH: Encourage women to make gender parity part of their daily routine. Increase the visibility of the women you work with, work for or manage by ensuring they receive the credit and acknowledgement for the work they perform. Give them the opportunity to shine and be recognized.