2019 ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year

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In 2019, the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) Pittsburgh Chapter sought new ways to recognize individuals in their community. This sparked the concept of the Professional of the Year Award. Chapter members were given the opportunity to nominate individuals that performed above and beyond in the anti-money laundering (AML) community. This award is a way to give back to the local community and show appreciation for the hard work these individuals do.

The Nomination Form

The ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter is proud to recognize members who have displayed exceptional achievement in preventing, detecting and investigating money laundering with its annual ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year Award.

The nomination deadline was August 1, 2019. The following questions were used as a guide for nominations:

  • What specific achievements over the past year qualify the nominee for the ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year Award?
  • Please provide a detailed description of the role the nominee has played in the prevention, detection or investigation of money laundering over the past year.
  • Please provide a detailed description of the role the nominee has played in an investigation of money laundering over the past year.
  • Please provide a detailed description of the role the nominee has played in the design and installation of money laundering controls over the past year.
  • In what ways has the nominee made significant contributions to the discipline of money laundering investigation and examination in the past year?
  • List any involvement the nominee has in the ACAMS community, such as chapter participation and ACAMS committee participation.
  • List any other professional accomplishments or honors that support the nomination for the ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year Award.
  • List any publications, presentations or talks authored by the nominee in the past year.
  • Please add any additional comments you believe will assist the committee in the selection process.

The First Ever ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year Award Winner

The nomination process yielded six truly spectacular nominees for the award. Based on the nominations, it was difficult to choose just one candidate as all were truly going above and beyond on a daily basis. As there could only be one, the first ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year Award winner was Denise Cespites from PNC Bank. At the most recent chapter event on November 7, 2019, the Pittsburgh Chapter board presented her with the award.

About Denise

In 2002, Cespites received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and then her Masters in Science in Economic Crime Management from Utica College. She obtained her CAMS certification in March 2013. From 2005 to 2011, Cespites held several positions with financial institutions (FIs) in loans and customer service. In 2011, she began her BSA/AML (Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering) career with Washington Financial Bank. She was a Bank Secrecy Act compliance specialist from 2011 until 2016. In 2016, she joined PNC’s AML operations as a detection and investigation associate.

What Denise’s Peers Said About Her

“Within a short time of joining PNC, Denise was already making a positive impact on the department. This was due to her vast BSA/AML knowledge that she obtained before joining. She was also quick to transition from a smaller to a bigger FI. Denise was quickly identified as a mentor for new employees within the department. Despite being new in the department, she did not back down from this challenge and was able to succeed, training and mentoring a large portion of the department. Due to her work ethic, knowledge of the position and bubbly personality, Denise is one of those individuals that brings the team together. She creates a strong sense of community and an inviting work environment to which others flock. If you have an item that is ‘high priority,’ Denise is the individual that management will trust with handling it, due to her high quality of work and accurate, timely decisions.”

Phil Otlano from PNC

“Denise is one of the most positive individuals with which I have worked. She always found the positives even in a challenging situation or discussion. She is very receptive to feedback and open to continuous learning, while at the same time willing to mentor and develop others!”

Ali Lukungu from PNC

“There are many quotes and stories I can share, but the one I would like everyone to know is how encouraging Denise is. When I started my career in AML, I had no clue what I entered. I just know I wanted to transfer to the same department my friend worked in, not at that point realizing we probably both just found out what we were meant to do! In our time together as colleagues, Denise took me under her wing to show me the ropes. On the tough days, she would take the time away from her own investigations to walk me through whatever I was struggling with as a newcomer in the fraud world. She undoubtedly has helped me become a compliance specialist with great confidence to tackle whatever task is put in front of me.”

Erica Wheeler from Washington Financial Bank

“Thank you Denise for the time you dedicated to the AML department and for being an awesome person with which to work.”

Arelena Jackson from PNC

“I would just like to thank Denise for helping me with cases when I had questions on them as well as being a wonderful person on my team!”

Cassandra Allgire from PNC

The Future ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Professional of the Year

The ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter Board found this initiative to be effective in giving back to all the hardworking individuals within their community. The chapter hopes to continue this tradition in 2020 and cannot wait to receive another set of spectacular nominations.

Starting January 2020, the ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter will open up nominations for the 2020 Pittsburgh Chapter of ACAMS Professional of the Year Award. If readers know an individual that goes above and beyond to help fight money laundering, consider nominating that individual for this prestigious award.

About the Pittsburgh Chapter

The ACAMS Pittsburgh Chapter was founded in September 2017. The chapter’s mission remains consistent with the international ACAMS mission, which is “to advance the professional knowledge, skills and experience of those dedicated to the prevention, detection and reporting of international money laundering.” To achieve this mission, the chapter’s board of directors is comprised of professionals from FIs, public and private sector industry experts, and law enforcement who have years of experience in the AML and counter-terrorist financing fields. The chapter aims to provide its region—encompassing western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and southeastern Ohio—a platform for career development and professional networking. By joining the chapter, members will have access to chapter events aimed to bring the ever-growing community together to discuss the rapidly expanding AML field.

The chapter’s events would not have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of our sponsors PNC Bank, WesBanco, Oxford Solutions Inc, Gannon University and Thomson Reuters. The chapter would like to thank them for their continued support moving forward.

For a more in-depth overview of chapter events and membership details, as well as information about upcoming events, please visit the ACAMS Chapter Page, LinkedIn and Twitter. Questions for the chapter can be sent via email to pghacams@gmail.com.