Urs Steiner, CFE

Vice president and investigator at Credit Suisse, AG

By Emily Primeaux; Photo by Victor Goodpasture

I'm a CFE

Urs Steiner, CFE, dons a kilt when he plays the Great Highland bagpipe with his band, but then he suits up daily to fight fraud as the vice president and investigator at Credit Suisse, AG in Zurich, Switzerland. Steiner's dream of becoming a police officer led to an extensive career as a criminal investigator and the work he does now at the large Swiss bank.

My advice to anyone entering the fraud-fighting profession is to be passionate and persistent. Find interest in the economics and financial system of your country. Learn how business administration works and how the justice system is organized. Don't become blinded by the politeness or manipulative skills of fraudsters. And don't become discouraged if things won't work the way in which you intended them.

I was born and raised in a small town near Zurich, Switzerland. I was a member of YMCA Switzerland (a sort of Boy Scouts) and in my final years with the organization, I was a team leader. I also played soccer and handball, and my family and I would ski in the winter.

Growing up I always wanted to join law enforcement, but I also imagined myself as the captain of a large vessel or becoming a pilot.

I'm proud that great academic education exists to fight economic crime in Switzerland. I received my masters in economic crime investigation at Hochschule Luzern in Switzerland. As a former accountant, it was very interesting to analyze the bookkeeping of fraudulent enterprises to detect sophisticated manipulation. In addition, I enjoyed drawing conclusions about results that applied to penal code and filing criminal complaints. We studied both the particularities of the crimes as laid out in the penal code and how to understand the discrepancies in the accounting.

I began my career as an accountant after receiving my bachelor's degree in economics and business administration. I worked for several years at a large food manufacturer and was responsible for the general ledger. During this time I learned how easy it can be for an accountant to conceal and steal money or assets to manipulate the figures if the duties are not well separated. I then spent a short time as a bond and portfolio analyst in a Swiss bank. My dream came true following this position when I started my career as a police officer.

I enjoyed an extensive career as a criminal investigator for the organized crime unit of the Zurich City Police. I dealt with the financial aspects of smuggling and the exploitation of women, such as human trafficking. Over time, I became fascinated by how criminals misused the financial system for their needs and by how fraudsters were able to manipulate victims. Sometimes the victims trusted the conmen more than the investigative authorities. These experiences are why I wanted to fight white-collar criminals.

I joined Credit Suisse in 2010. We are a small team that handles internal and external fraud, and our special awareness campaigns and audits are designed and run with the aim to reduce such threats. Credit Suisse deals with a broad range of fraud threats by maintaining an organization of anti-fraud experts like the members of my team.

One of my memorable cases involves a "false CEO" modus operandi. First, fraudsters gather information about their victims — mostly global holdings — using social engineering or cybercrime. Then, they assume the CEO's identity using the harvested information. Lastly, the fraudsters use this false identity in order to persuade financial officers of the holding subsidiaries to execute payment orders to money mule accounts. The spoils are then laundered and will find their way back to the financial system. These schemes are very perfidious, especially for mid-sized enterprises. Losses of a “false CEO” scheme may reach amounts that can threaten the existence of the company.

My first impression of the ACFE was that it was the perfect complement to my master's degree. Furthermore, I wanted to improve my anti-fraud skills in a global manner.

The CFE credential has shown me the vast size of the global anti-fraud community and how differentiated fraud can be. With this knowledge, I'm able to spot a possible fraud more quickly and take the necessary countermeasures. I've become acquainted with many other fraud fighters not only in Switzerland, but also all over the world. This network is very helpful to find better results when fighting fraud.

Over the course of my career, I have learned to:

  • Build and maintain a useful global network.
  • Be on top of technical developments to address future threats.
  • Always make sure I have a proper plan and that I adhere to it.
  • Try to think like a fraudster.

I play the Great Highland bagpipe — a popular bagpipe in Scotland — and I perform regularly with our band, the Zurich Caledonian Pipe Band. I even wear a kilt! In my spare time, I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends, going mountain biking, jogging and snowboarding. It's also been wonderful to see my two kids grow into teenagers, and to teach them independence and how to live their lives in a good and responsible manner.

Emily Primeaux is assistant editor of Fraud Magazine.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners assumes sole copyright of any article published on www.Fraud-Magazine.com or www.ACFE.com. ACFE follows a policy of exclusive publication. Permission of the publisher is required before an article can be copied or reproduced. Requests for reprinting an article in any form must be emailed to FraudMagazine@ACFE.com.