Melissa Smart, an Ohio native but Texan at heart, has been the president of the ACFE Central Ohio Chapter in Columbus, Ohio, since June of this year. Smart has served in many roles during her 16-year tenure at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and is now the manager of the Midwest Electronic Crimes Investigation team. When not at work or tending to chapter business, Smart enjoys spending time with her husband and their six children, cooking and cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born, raised and returned to Columbus after spending my teen years in Houston, Texas. I live in the wonderful Upper Arlington suburb where I grew up as a child, but I still miss the warmth, hospitality and sensibilities of the South. I will always consider a piece of me to be a Texan.
Why did you decide to enter the anti-fraud field?
I have a passion for the process of unwinding mysteries and the thought processes that are involved. I also have a strong internal drive to research and problem solve, which fits well with this line of work. I am curious by nature, and this profession is constantly presenting opportunities to dig for information about people, events and processes.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Personally: My greatest personal achievement has been securing education. I completed my bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University when I was 26 while my two oldest kids were toddlers. Since then I have secured designations as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and a Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI). I have no doubt that the ability to gain education and knowledge, both inside and outside of the workplace, is what has kept the fraud industry so interesting to me. I am now preparing to start work on an executive master’s degree in Economic Crime Management at Utica College, and I am looking forward to once again pursuing education that will make me a better investigator and manager.
Professionally: Through my role as a fraud professional, I’ve been involved in many issues over the years that have resulted in successful criminal prosecution. Many of those cases have also provided opportunities to identify changes in systems and processes that may have contribute to occurrences of fraud, as well as how we respond to them. The feeling that I am making a difference gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
What are your favorite activities and hobbies outside of work?
My husband Phil and I have a blended family of six kids ages 13-22, and we absolutely love having the opportunity to get them all in one spot to feed them (this is akin to herding cats). Phil and I often muse that we’d rather do nothing together than anything with anyone else, which elicits eye rolls from the kids. We like to spend time together cooking, shooting, discussing politics and the world, watching college football (Go Buckeyes!) and generally enjoying all the wonderful things that life has to offer. There are very few times that you will see one of us without the other.
What goals would you like to help the chapter accomplish?
Our board of directors and chapter have done a fantastic job over the years of offering meaningful and impactful training opportunities for our members, including starting the annual Emerging Trends in Fraud Investigations Conference 15 years ago. It has evolved into the premiere fraud training in the state through a strong partnership with the offices of the Auditor of State and the Attorney General, and in 2015 we anticipate drawing in 700 fraud professionals for the two-day event. I hope to continue that legacy, but I also want to leverage technology to increase the relationships and networks from which our chapter members can draw benefit and to provide benefit to our communities through fraud-awareness education.
Do you have any advice for other chapter leaders?
Make continuity a top priority — this helps to make transitions into and between board positions seamless, and it allows leaders to keep their eyes and energy focused on what they want to accomplish.
What is your personal motto? Does it have any special meaning?
“Your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
This is the best fortune cookie fortune I’ve ever had! For me, it’s a daily reminder that I am responsible for ensuring success and happiness in all aspects of my life.