For Women’s History Month, ACAMS Today spoke with Nichole Blankenbiller, CAMS, on addressing the fundamental causes of gender disparity in the workplace.
A distinguished leader in the compliance field, Blankenbiller has an established career with 10 years of experience in Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), anti-money laundering (AML), sanctions compliance and operations. As a senior AML compliance officer, she provides guidance and oversight on compliance solutions to Citi-branded cards and retail services operations at Citigroup. Prior to her current role at Citi, Blankenbiller assumed leadership roles in risk management, executed program-level initiatives to meet consent order requirements, and developed comprehensive policies and documentation to support proper governance of the organization’s risk framework. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of South Florida and received her Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) designation in 2018. She currently lives in the Tampa Bay area with her husband, two kids and three dogs, and enjoys spending time with them outdoors and volunteering in her community.
ACAMS Today: What led you to a career in anti-financial crime (AFC)?
Nichole Blankenbiller: After graduating from college, I wanted to leverage my background, education and skills in a role where I could add value while developing a rewarding career. I accepted a position as a business analyst within an AML/sanctions screening unit and as I began to learn more about the field, it fascinated me. I like to be challenged and since the AFC field is ever-evolving with new complexities this seemed like the perfect fit. Every day is unique in this field and we must constantly think one step ahead to mitigate potential risks.
AT: The International Women’s Day theme this year was “choose to challenge.” How do you choose to challenge inequality in the workplace?
NB: There are so many different avenues that we can leverage to challenge inequality and one such avenue that I have personally been drawn to is mentoring. Last year, I participated in a mentoring program through Citi, where I mentored a recently promoted employee. I helped her as she navigated through her new role and served as a sounding board for questions and advice along the way to reflect on her professional goals and development.
In addition, I mentor a local high school student through the Take Stock in Children Program, where I provide guidance and encouragement to my mentee while passing on my knowledge and experience. Through mentoring, I am able to invest in empowering and uplifting women in the workplace as well as those in the next generation.
AT: What can the AFC industry do to provide equal opportunities for women?
NB: Over the past few years, there has been an increasing focus on ensuring female representation in the workplace, specifically in traditionally male-dominated fields and senior leadership roles. However, instead of focusing solely on increasing female representation, I feel that there is an opportunity to address the fundamental causes of these disparities by breaking down stereotypes and turning off our unconscious biases in the workplace.
Fostering a culture that values individual differences, creating an inclusive work environment where women are supported and promoted, providing equal opportunity and compensation and supporting working parents through flexible work arrangements are all critical to levelling the playing field. I am proud to work for a company that recently made history appointing Jane Fraser as CEO. This monumental achievement has shattered the previously impenetrable glass ceiling, proving that no dream is too big.
AT: Is there another woman in the AML industry that has inspired you or helped you get to where you are today?
NB: There have been several women who have inspired me throughout my career, however, my previous manager is truly one of the best. I developed a working relationship with her in my prior role and always admired her ability to lead with precision and clarity and skillfully execute her responsibilities. When an opportunity came to join her team, I did not think twice before accepting the role. I enjoyed working with her for four years before she accepted another role and during this time I honed my communication skills, strengthened my leadership skills and developed a strong rapport with key stakeholders across various functions. She was my manager, mentor and friend and I am incredibly grateful for the time she took to help me grow both personally and professionally.
AT: Tell us about a memorable moment in your career?
NB: In a prior position, I managed one of three teams of AML name screening analysts who performed due diligence reviews of customers against AML watchlists. The two other managers in my organization had both coincidentally accepted new roles starting within weeks of each other. As a result, I assumed leadership of their teams and went from managing 14 employees to nearly 70, which was overwhelming to say the least!
To manage more effectively, I worked with my senior analysts and developed a plan to delegate some of my existing roles and responsibilities to them, as well as other members of the team. Not only did this help me balance my workload, but it also gave those employees stretch assignments and exposure to different aspects of managerial work, which helped them develop new skills while strengthening the performance of the team. I continued successfully managing the entire group for another six months until I accepted an offer for a position within the AML compliance team.
AT: Do you have a favorite quote or words of wisdom to share with our readership?
I’ll close with one of my favorite anonymous quotes. “Work for a cause, not applause. Live life to express, not impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”
Interviewed by: ACAMS Today staff, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org