Sepideh Rowland: Financial Crime-fighter

With 22 years of experience in financial crimes compliance, Sepideh Rowland, ’98, is confident enough to admit that she found her way into the industry partially by accident.

A post-law school banking position led her to work closely with the FBI on a money-laundering investigation, an experience that redirected her career into financial crime investigations. She got a taste for the work – and she’s never looked back.

“Before 9-11, a lot of us just fell into this field of compliance,” Rowland observed. But that field has changed over the past two decades, and today’s financial services industry is looking for college (and law school) graduates with increasingly specialized and specific career trajectories.

“There’s an interest in this industry – there’s a need in this industry – to develop a more purposeful path into the field,” said Rowland. 

She actively facilitates such pathmaking to bring new talent into financial services, leveraging her expertise and connections on behalf of the students that she hopes will one day become her colleagues. In addition to developing a mentorship program, she’s coordinated problem-based “sprints” for newer practitioners through her efforts with the American Bankers Association to enhance their trade craft and learn from each other and industry experts. Attendees of the workshop work side-by-side with banking professionals and law enforcement to solve cases. This intensive group activity teaches them firsthand the importance of public and private sector partnerships and just how engaging careers in financial crimes compliance can be.

Rowland is impressed by the ingenuity and innovation demonstrated by the workshop participants – and so are participating bankers and law enforcement. In addition to inspiring participants to continue the journey of their financial crimes careers, the sprints also help participants to make valuable networking connections in what Rowland describes as “a very small world.”

That world might be small, but Rowland’s career demonstrates the impressive range of opportunities that exists within the field. Her professional journey has taken her from collections and commercial workouts at a community bank in Michigan to senior compliance counsel at the American Bankers Association to serving in chief compliance officer roles at some of the financial industry’s most respected institutions.

Today, she is managing director in the Financial Crimes Risk Management practice at K2 Integrity, a prestigious risk, compliance, investigation, and monitoring firm, where she serves as their head of managed services. She also co-chairs the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference, co-chairs the U.S. Capital Chapter for the Association for Certified Anti-money Laundering Specialists, and is a founding member of Chief DC, a networking program focused on cultivating and supporting women in their executive leadership roles. She also played an integral role in the creation of the American Bankers Association’s Certified AML Fraud Professional certification program.

As technology continually reshapes the financial industry, Rowland sees her work as part of a larger mission: working alongside institutions, regulators, policymakers, and law enforcement to move the financial industry forward through innovation and re-imagining compliance in a digital world. This is particularly critical for institutions that do not have the robust, dynamic infrastructure to react to these changes, which is where Rowland spends most of her time as head of K2 Integrity’s managed services. And after over twenty years, she’s still energized by protecting financial institutions – and consumers – from criminal activity.

“You could say that I’m very passionate about fighting financial crime… and partnering with law enforcement to put away the bad guys,” she said.