As we count down the days until American Banker’s 15th annual “The Most Powerful Women in Banking” awards dinner, we also continue to spotlight different #ProtivitiWomenInFSI. This series will feature a variety of women with diverse backgrounds and career perspectives. While their stories are all unique, the one thing they have in common is that they work closely with Protiviti’s financial services clients. Next up in the series is Catherine!

Catherine Graf Picture
Catherine is an Associate Director in our Internal Audit Financial Advisory solution in Atlanta
  • What was your path to Protiviti? “I started my career in public accounting working for KPMG in Buffalo, NY.  My clients were primarily financial institutions in the Western New York area.  After 5 years, I decided to shift gears a bit and join M&T Bank’s internal audit department. As the Internal Audit Manager, I audited accounting policy and corporate reporting, commercial credit risk management, anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance.  After 5 years, my husband and I moved to Houston, TX for his medical residency.  I first learned about Protiviti by speaking to a colleague from the bank.  He had a great experience and recommended it to me, so I joined Protiviti office in 2014.  I can’t believe it has been over three years!”
  • What is one of your most memorable FSI projects? “My most memorable Financial Services Industry project was an external quality assessment (EQA) for a large insurance company. Protiviti had been chosen as the firm to execute this project just prior to the internal audit department getting a new Chief Audit Executive.  Our first kick-off meeting for the project included the new CAE, and he told us that if the decision was up to him, Protiviti wouldn’t have been his first choice. He felt we were stronger in risk management and compliance than internal audit.  I knew from that day on, that we would have to work extra hard to change the CAE’s impression of Protiviti.  We spent a lot of time during the project building and nurturing our relationship with the CAE and his direct reports.  We wanted to make sure the final report we delivered was exactly what they were looking for. In addition to the standard EQA report we issue to assess the company’s compliance with IIA standards, we also issued a 60-page report filled with commentary on internal audit’s current practices in comparison to leading practices of other large financial institutions.  The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, especially from the CAE.  They were surprised at how much we learned about their internal audit shop in just a few short weeks.  The CAE invited us to a dinner with his direct reports shortly thereafter.  At the dinner, the CAE presented each member of our team an award of excellence.  We truly went above and beyond in meeting the client’s needs and it was incredibly rewarding.”
  • What excites you the most about your work in the financial services industry? “What excites me the most is the variety of work we do. While I was at KPMG, I was able to audit different financial institutions, but the financial statement work was generally the same.  Similar situation at M&T.  I was able to do different internal audits across the bank, but the internal audit work was generally the same.  At Protiviti every project is different.  Since joining Protiviti, I led a first year SOX compliance project at a small community bank, designed an internal audit policy and procedure manual for a small community bank, assisted in designing the internal audit risk assessment methodology and documenting related policies, procedures and templates for a large consumer credit financial institution, performed several mortgage default servicing audits for a top 10 U.S. bank, led the execution of several anti-money laundering compliance audits at mid-size and large financial institutions, performed several external quality assessments of several large financial institutions, and the list goes on.  Currently, I am leveraging my project management skills to help manage the portfolio of strategic initiatives for the internal audit professional practices group of a global bank.  I truly enjoy the variety and learn so much on each project that I can use on subsequent projects and also in discussions with new clients.”
  • What has been the biggest challenge you have faced working in the financial services industry? “The biggest challenge I have faced by far is personal, and that is becoming a new mom.  My beautiful baby girl Ellie was born in August 2016.  Like most new moms, it was very difficult for me for the first few months adapting to a life where I had to juggle both a career and motherhood.  Before having Ellie, I was used to traveling quite a bit to the financial services hub cities – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.  Given my husband’s busy residency, my ability to travel is restricted.  Luckily, Protiviti has a very supportive work environment for new moms.  The management team, and the FSI team more broadly, helped me continue to build my network locally in order to get more local work and also put me on projects where I could work on remotely.  Protiviti is truly a great place to work.  Protiviti’s culture is nurturing and one where they want to see everyone succeed in their careers and their life in general.”
Catherine Graf - Pic of Family
Pictured above is Catherine with husband Daniel, and daughter, Ellie

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