The early 1980s were a confusing time; much like today, the U.S. was working through a difficult transition from one decade to another. However, U.S. citizens understood the importance of honoring the past while looking to the future. Thus in February 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women's History Week. He stated, “From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first America Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed.”
Today, the weeklong celebration of women has grown into a monthlong festivity “in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.”1 In honor of Women’s History Month, ACAMS Today’s Community Banking Corner column is profiling women in the world of community banking.
Rebecca “Becky” Schauer Robertson is executive vice president-director of anti-money laundering (AML) compliance for South State Bank, a subsidiary of South State Corporation, the largest publicly traded bank holding company in South Carolina with branches across the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. After joining the company in 2002, Robertson was named the bank’s Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer in 2004. Robertson is responsible for ensuring the bank’s compliance with all facets of the BSA, USA PATRIOT Act and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations. In addition, Robertson oversees the bank’s fraud department.
She holds the advanced designation of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist-Audit (CAMS-Audit), and designations of Certified AML and Fraud Professional (CAFP) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She frequently participates as a panelist and expert speaker at conferences and forums on anti-financial crime issues. Robertson is the current chair of the American Bankers Association’s CAFP Advisory Board and is a past board member of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) Carolinas Chapter, past president of both the South Carolina InfraGard and FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association, and past treasurer of the Crimestoppers of the Midlands South Carolina board.
ACAMS Today: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Rebecca “Becky” Schauer Robertson: I wanted to be a teacher. I was driven (and still am) by a passion for helping others understand concepts and how those concepts apply to each person’s world. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I help another person reach or exceed his or her goals. While I did not become a teacher, I have become a mentor, which is very important to me personally. One thing I love about community banking that has helped foster this passion is the amount of opportunities it offers to pursue goals, such as the ability to obtain certifications. Community banking also grants the ability to develop and make contributions to the organization through independent thought processes while learning to work with others and understand what is important to them. I can develop and grow myself and help others do the same by being influential not only to direct reports, but to others throughout the organization as well.
AT: How did your career in BSA get started?
RSR: Right out of college, I accepted a position in finance. I was consumed with the “why” of things—wanting to understand why things had to be done and why they had to be done a certain way—so I was naturally drawn to regulatory responsibilities. I started with overall regulatory compliance and had the chance to step into BSA and OFAC compliance specifically. In 2004, I was given the opportunity to design robust BSA and OFAC compliance programs from the ground up and was excited to accept the challenge. The continual development of both programs as regulatory expectations evolve is very important to me. I have watched my department grow from just one person (myself) in 2004 to a group of 29 as of today.
AT: What inspires you about community banking?
RSR: I love the relationship aspect of community banking, not just within the organization, but also the connection to the community. Community-focused banks pride themselves on being a large and stable part of the communities they serve. As banks grow, sometimes those community ties and the core values of being a community bank might get lost. Thus, fostering relationships within the community and the ability to customize operations create a special place to work. At a community bank it feels easier to interact with customers and listen to their stories, so community bank employees can truly say, “I really do know my customer.” However, the convergence of strong community banks allows for their presence to expand into more communities and provides an even greater opportunity to be deeply involved in more communities as footprints increase. The ability for a community bank to continue its culture through growth is key and has been very successful.
AT: What kind of opportunities do community banks provide women versus other types of financial institutions?
RSR: This question relates not only to a community bank’s ability to offer its female employees opportunities, but also a bank’s ability to offer more opportunities to women in the greater community. Community banks take pride in having deep roots in the communities where they operate and strive to develop unique solutions to meet the needs within communities being served. Women have many opportunities to get involved in these communities through volunteering, board seats and community events to name a few ways.
AT: What do you think the future holds for women in community banks and for community banks in general?
RSR: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual. The future is very bright for all women, but I think the future of what was previously known as the “community bank” is unknown. I do know as community banks ban together and become stronger allies by joining forces, more opportunities become available for women in all levels of banking. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
AT: What can the anti-financial crime industry do to provide equal opportunities for women?
RSR: I see women stepping into roles at all levels and new roles being created to showcase women’s ingenuities. Women throughout history have had to think outside the box. With all the changes within the industry, women currently have a great opportunity to tackle any position, especially those that showcase adaptability in the new age of advanced technology to make the future even brighter. Today both men and women can have a seat at the table. Combined forces make for stronger teams to achieve the common goal of knowing our customers as well as preventing and detecting financial crimes in all banks of all sizes.
- “Women’s History Month,” Women’s History Month, https://womenshistorymonth.gov/