Seneca College RED 2019 - 24

Taking aim at the bad guys
Money launderers are Yelena Popov's target

THERE'S A LOT OF MONEY OUT THERE, changing hands and
moving around the globe. And not all of the transactions are legitimate.
In the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the illegal act of money laundering, which has been used to
fund terrorism, has gained more attention. So have the
efforts to stop it.
Yelena Popov, Vice-President, Business Controls
Testing at BMO Capital Markets, is one of the people
who are working to shut down money laundering
schemes before they even happen.
"We conduct risk-based reviews of anti-money
laundering (AML) controls within various lines of
businesses in the Capital Markets operating group,"
Popov says. "We are an independent testing team within the first line of defence, which serves as an internal
audit function with the mandate of identifying
improvement opportunities and ensuring that all AML
controls are operating effectively."
A 2009 graduate with High Honours in Accounting
& Finance, Popov took advantage of several opportunities provided by the advanced diploma program.
She was able to spend her co-op at a leading financial
institution (BMO, which would later become her
employer), and she used a Seneca transfer agreement
to enter the Finance - Specialized Honours degree

24

RED

2019

program at York University.
"Seneca's pathways made the transition to university very smooth, and I only had to complete two additional years to get my degree."
During this time, Popov kept in touch with the people she had met at BMO and was happy to be invited
back after graduation. She first worked in Toronto, was
promoted and then offered another promotion that
would move her to Chicago. Because it involved AML,
which Popov is keenly interested in, she jumped at the
opportunity.
"When you think about this money ending up in the
wrong hands, the consequences are much more serious
than just breaking a regulation, which is serious
enough on its own," she says. "That money can finance
criminal and terrorist activities. That's what I think
of when it comes to enhancing AML-related controls."
The move to the United States has not been the
only one Popov has experienced. She came here as an
international student from Israel, never having been
in North America before. Seneca made that first transition easier than expected, she says.
"My main concern was the language. I was nervous
about it before I started my program, but Seneca is
such a diverse school with students speaking so many
different languages and coming from so many different
cultures. I think it's great how welcoming and accepting Seneca is to students from different backgrounds."
Whether it is in Toronto or Chicago, Popov is happy
to be able to put her education to use doing something
she strongly believes in.
"AML is about more than preventing money laundering or terrorism. It is, as dramatic as it sounds, something that can save lives."

PHOTO: JOANNE RATAJCZAK

It is, as dramatic
as it sounds,
something that
can save lives.



Seneca College RED 2019

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