Jeanette LeVie, CFE, vice president and chief operating officer, celebrates 25 years at the ACFE

When Jeanette LeVie, CFE, applied for — but didn’t get — the assistant to the Chairman position at the ACFE 25 years ago, she interviewed for another job at another association, and she received a good offer. On the day she prepared to accept the position, the ACFE called her back to come in and interview a second time. “I almost declined because I had an acceptable offer on the table,” says LeVie. “But something in the back of my mind said ‘what’s it going to hurt?’ ”

When LeVie returned, she spent some time talking with Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, founder and Chairman of the ACFE. “They’d hired someone else as his assistant, and it had only been a couple weeks, but she didn’t work out,” says LeVie. “I told Dr. Wells that I’d been offered a position at an engineering association. Joe told me, ‘you’ll be so bored there. Come work with us. I want someone like you to come in and learn this business from the bottom to the top.’ ”

LeVie accepted Dr. Wells’ proposal and started as the ACFE’s video librarian, in charge of maintaining the training tape inventory and fulfilling customer orders. She then quickly became course coordinator. LeVie was in charge of editing materials and assisting with administration of the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) exam — only offered in writing back then — which included securing CFEs as proctors in several locations around the U.S. And one of the LeVie’s earliest projects was helping Dr. Wells edit and prepare the ACFE’s Fraud Examiners Manual.

“I’ve known Jeanette now a quarter of a century,” says Dr. Wells. “She is a testament to what hard work can achieve; Jeanette started in the shipping department and is now the chief operating officer.”

Along that path to COO, LeVie has been Dr. Wells’ assistant, a position she held for a number of years, followed by the ACFE’s vice president – administration. “Joe has mentored and challenged me,” says LeVie. “He never worried whether I had the right degree or experience for the task at hand. It’s allowed me to grow and develop.”

The ACFE family

In the early years of the ACFE, when the staff consisted of a handful of employees, LeVie explains that everybody had to wear many hats. One of her fondest memories is when all 12 employees, no matter their position or title, hunkered down in the mailroom one afternoon to lick envelopes for mailers.

“We still have this very family-oriented organization,” says LeVie. “When I started, there were only about a dozen employees and we’ve maintained that family atmosphere. Everything we do touches another department.”

And LeVie’s colleagues echo her sentiment. During the course of 25 years, she’s cultivated not only great working relationships, but friendships, as well.

“I’ve worked with Jeanette 21 of her 25 years, and she’s a great friend as well as a great co-worker,” says John D. Gill, J.D., CFE, vice president – education, at the ACFE. “I’ve always been grateful for her sense of humor. No matter what kind of a day I’m having, she can always make me laugh. She taught me so much about the ACFE when I first started. And although she’s mainly been behind the scenes, she’s been an integral part in making the ACFE the first-class organization it is today.”

Looking to the future

When the ACFE first started, it was called the National Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and it didn’t operate globally. In LeVie’s 25 years, she’s seen substantive growth domestically and abroad.

“I see — I think we all see — this tremendous growth globally,” she says. “I think it’s exciting and challenging. I really feel like we’re on the cusp of exploding internationally.”

However, she insists that Dr. Wells’ mantra of “always putting the member first” still rings true.

“Joe has always said, ‘we don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best,’ ” says LeVie. “We still do. That’s why we insist on maintaining that personal contact with our members.”

As the ACFE grows and tackles challenges, LeVie says she’s excited to see how far the company has come. And she’s not done yet. Her recent promotion to COO only proves that these many years of experience give her the insight to help take the company to the next level.

“Jeanette is the beating heart of the ACFE,” says John Warren, J.D., CFE, vice president and general counsel, at the ACFE. “For the last 25 years she’s been an integral part of everything we’ve done and every important decision we’ve made. The ACFE wouldn’t be where it is today without her.”