Tina Lusk, CFE

Area Controller, Northern Europe & Africa, OTIS, La Defense, France

By Interview by Cora Bullock; photo by Yves Forestier
cora-bullock-80x80   I'm a CFE

Lusk is responsible for financial compliance and internal controls in North Europe and Africa for Otis — the world’s leading manufacturer of elevators, escalators and moving walkways — a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation. She also assists the group controller, the business practice officer and the legal director in compliance and ethics-related audits and investigations, and she’s a member of the company’s compliance council. “My job is to maintain a cost-effective environment of controls throughout the region,” she says. “The tone at the top is firm; the buzz at the bottom is loud. Employees are aware; they’re talking about compliance, ethics and controls.” 

MayJune-tina-luskI grew up on a farm in a small rural community called Skymont, located on the western edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, helping my family run a business that supplied mass quantities of produce to large grocery and restaurant chains.

Growing up in a family of hard-working people taught me the value of hard-earned, honest money early on. I am naturally curious and a bit skeptical, so I find the investigations interesting. I take pride in helping my organization achieve its objectives the right way.

I changed my major several times. I started out in political science, then fashion merchandising, finally ended up with a bachelor’s degree in accounting because a friend was studying accounting. I focused my MBA on international business and marketing.

After college I worked mostly in accounting-related jobs. While working on my MBA, I was selected for United Technologies’ high potential international management program. In this program I performed my first internal audits, investigations and cross-functional projects in a variety of different countries.

It is a challenge to leverage my experience of processes and systems to anticipate and deter frauds. I enjoy the sharing of knowledge, learning from others, and, above all, the necessary teamwork to maintain a clean sheet.

I’ve learned these investigative skills: Listen, look and don’t jump to conclusions. Let the data and facts guide your conclusions. I am very cautious never to sever relationships with those I interview. Save for the occasional bad apple, people are honest, and I strive to maintain a sound working relationship with them. Investigations can hurt their dedication to the company so you need to be very careful. The presumption is everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. 

Whether they are high- or low-profile investigations, high or low stakes, cultural differences make up for the most resilient souvenirs of previous investigations. I look back at my first fraud investigation, in Japan, with a lot of emotions. The setting, the jet lag, the smoky room, my complete lack of experience: If only I had known of the ACFE back then. 

Currently, our focus is on electronic fraud and ebanking. One example comes to mind: An employee was able to use a test environment to create a fraudulent payment file and upload it directly with the ebanking software. We quickly detected this fraud because of the account reconciliation process. This event helped us to enhance our ebanking and disbursement audit program. The controls team (IT and finance) have developed a robust system of vetting the ebanking software and disbursement processes.

I’ve learned that I must do as much preparatory work as possible — study the cultural differences and behaviors, the organization, etc. 

If you don’t speak the language, make sure the translator has appropriate background and expertise. He or she is an essential part of the team.  

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