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What role does training actually play in an employee’s development?

Danielle Lopez on training in employee development

When you’re in a training role, a lot of your solutions to performance problems probably revolve around training. After all, that’s what people with the “training” or “learning” in their title are paid to do.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down and talk with my long-time friend and fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Danielle Lopez, who has been working as an anti-money laundering and fraud investigator for about 4 years. Prior to working for her current employer, she knew nothing about the financial services industry, let alone fraud detection.

So how did she learn to grow and be successful in her role? Was it training? Elearning? If your job has anything to do with strategies to improve employee performance, you may want to take notes on today’s podcast. Danielle offers some very interesting insights as to how exactly she was able to not only learn her job, but excel at it.


Brian Washburn: Welcome everyone to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m your host, Brian Washburn. I’m also the Co-founder of a little instructional design company called Endurance Learning. Today I am joined by my good friend – we’ve known each other for 25 years – and she is an Anti-Money Laundering Fraud Investigator with the Lincoln Financial Network – Danielle Lopez. And she’s going to talk to us today about how she learned how to do and excel at her job. So if you’re involved in learning strategy at your company, definitely listen up. You’ll find that formal training, like classroom training or eLearning, has played a very small role over the past several years as Danielle has learned how to navigate and excel in her role.

Before we get to any of that, I do need to let you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for about 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing live, instructor-led training. So you basically go in, you tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people are going to attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then Soapbox will instantly generate a lesson plan for you to do your training with clusters of training activities that are designed to help you accomplish all of your hopes and dreams, all of your learning outcomes. If you wanna try it out for free for two weeks, you can go ahead and visit

All right, Danielle, I’ve gotten through all the formalities. How are you?

Danielle Lopez: I’m doing well, Brian. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to talk to you today.

Brian Washburn: I’m very excited as well. So, you are an Anti-Money Laundering and Fraud Investigator, which sounds very important and official. If you had to sum up your role in six words, how would you do that?

Six-word Biography

Danielle Lopez: Oh, well, six words. I would say–

Brian Washburn: Exactly. Exactly six words!

Danielle Lopez: LAUGHS Exactly six words! Money laundering, transaction monitoring, suspicious activity reporting. That was seven words. I’m sorry.

As a learning and development professional, we oftentimes just default to creating training or eLearning or some sort of learning experience that is going to solve a problem for somebody. And your journey hasn't necessarily involved a lot of formal training.

Brian Washburn: CHUCKLING Sounds like a word cloud. All right. Why don’t we take a step back? And I’m really excited for this conversation because as a learning and development professional, which I am, and most of the people who are listening to this are, we oftentimes just default to creating training or eLearning or some sort of learning experience that is going to solve a problem for somebody. And your journey hasn’t necessarily involved a lot of formal training. We’re gonna get into that, but before we get into that, can you just explain or describe a little bit more about what your role involves?

About the Role of a Fraud Investigator

Danielle Lopez: Sure. Absolutely. So a lot of our team and procedures are regulated by the financial industry. And so a lot of the stuff that I learn and the procedures that we built come from the top down from the federal government, or again, in my industry, the regulating authorities for the federal government. So what we have to do is we build out programs that can read through all of our transaction activity and then spit out anything that might look suspicious based in the anti-money laundering world with regard to transactions. And so, you know, on a day-to-day basis, we would sift through that to see if anything meets our suspicious criteria.

But on another front, we have thousands of employees, not to mention financial professionals, that are out in the field all over the country that service our clients on a daily basis. And so we also get reports from them, from their clients, that their clients are telling them that they see something suspicious or if they feel you know that their client might be a victim, elder financial exploitation, then we would get those reports from individuals, and then we would go through and kind of review that information, investigate a little bit to determine next steps – recommendations for them or next steps for us.

Brian Washburn: So your role is really important. I mean, like if you are not doing it well, it sounds like either the company can lose a lot of money through fraud, or individuals, people who are trusting you and depending on you could lose their savings as a result of nefarious acts that maybe you didn’t catch. How much of this did you know how to do before you stepped into this role? Like I mentioned at the start, we’ve known each other for 25 years. We were Peace Corps volunteers. And while we may have worked for– you worked for a financial cooperative, I believe.

Danielle Lopez: I did.

Brian Washburn: But this wasn’t stuff that we learned in the Peace Corps. How much of this did you know before you stepped into this role?

Danielle Lopez: Absolutely zero.

Brian Washburn: CHUCKLES

Danielle Lopez: I’ll tell you, in high school, I wrote an English paper on the Secret Service, and I originally wanted to be in the Secret Service to do counterfeiting because that– you know, back in the nineties, counterfeiting was the biggest fraud scam. And, you know, entered the Peace Corps, didn’t follow through with that. So from my 1990s Secret Service paper on counterfeiting was about the most information I had about fraud when I kind of stepped into a role that brought me closer to the team I currently work for.

Brian Washburn: Okay. So you didn’t know anything coming in. How many years have you been doing this?

Danielle Lopez: So, I have been on the anti-money laundering investigations team for four years. However, I previously served on another team and was adjacent to the anti-money laundering team with investigating reports of suspicious activity.

Brian Washburn: So you’ve been doing this for–

Danielle Lopez: Maybe eight or nine years.

Brian Washburn: Okay. So eight or nine years. How did you learn how to do your essential job functions? Was it like training? Was it eLearning? Was it, you know, one of those superpowers that we develop? Was it somebody showed you how to do something? Did you have to Google things? YouTube things? Did you learn by just making mistakes, sink or swim? Did you do something else? I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you learned how to do what you do today.

Ways to Develop Your Skills on the Job

That was all mentorship, and it was all just intuitive. It was to work smarter, not harder for myself. How can I answer all of their questions before they send me 53 emails needing this piece or this piece or this piece?

Danielle Lopez: Right. So luckily in my previous role with Lincoln, I had the opportunity to receive all the suspicious activity reporting and pull up all the pertinent information that was then forwarded to the anti-money learning investigation team. And so through them and doing the research, little by little they would say, “Oh, we really need this,” or “We need it like this,” or “This is what we’re looking for.” So over a three- or four-year period, I really honed in that reporting – gathering of the data and reporting it to the anti-money laundering team. So– and that was all mentorship, and it was all just intuitive. It was to work smarter, not harder for myself. How can I answer all of their questions before they send me 53 emails needing this piece or this piece or this piece?

And so working with them and knowing how they wanted the information and what information they wanted, you know, got me into a really good habit for investigating through our systems and what I really needed to look for in the accounts. Then when I transitioned to the anti-money laundering team, that was– so, it’s kind of the same but different. 

We are constantly collaborating because no fraud or no suspicious activity is the same. And so, you know, we do have procedures that are set in place that follow the regulatory requirements, but every day is a new day.

So now I’m the receiver of that information from other departments, and so I take that and now I’m more accountable to the reporting of the suspicious activity or fraud and accountable to the federal regulators. And so I– again, our team is more mentorship and you’re partnered with somebody, and we have all of these, you know– we are constantly collaborating because no fraud or no suspicious activity is the same. And so, you know, we do have procedures that are set in place that follow the regulatory requirements, but every day is a new day. Every case is a different case and we collaborate often to come up with the best next steps or the best way not only to protect Lincoln, protect our clients, but to try to reduce and look for risk management and how we can change some other business unit processing to maybe catch this risk before it happens again. So, there’s a lot there. It sounds exciting, but it’s only exciting when you do get the big case.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, it’s a little bit like CSI, right? But for finances. So you’ve been doing this for a number of years, and it sounds like a lot of how you’ve learned how to do what you do came through intuition, came through taking on gradually a little bit more responsibility, came through kind of mentoring and somebody giving you feedback. It sounds like in order to get some of the certifications that you need, you had to take some sort of preparation classes as well. But if you could look back on this and think, “Man, this would’ve been a little bit easier if it had this structure.” What would be the ideal mix of, you know, kind of learning things on your own, learning from colleagues, learning from a mentor? Do you wish you had gotten more training? Do you wish that you had just been able to play around a little bit more and make mistakes? Like what would be– what would’ve been the ideal path looking back now and thinking, “This would’ve probably made my path a little bit easier”?

Better Ways to Learn Job Skills

Danielle Lopez: So to touch a little bit on the certifications, I work for a broker-dealer, and so I have some series license that I have to have that give me knowledge about the financial industry. It’s very high level and you know unless you’re doing that work again, it’s not something that you’re going to remember how to do. But it gave me a nice basis, which I thought was appropriate for my role, and learning that knowledge. Then I did take the initiative to become a Certified Fraud Examiner, which again, it’s not required for my job, but it gives me that– another just level of information about how to conduct investigations.

But as far as the team goes, and what would be ideal? I think with the array of businesses that we offer, our biggest hurdle is system knowledge. So we have, you know– we service maybe nine different business lines, and in order to investigate those, they all– some of them have systems that talk to each other, and some of them, you know, we have– but there is a lot of system information that I didn’t know how to use, and there was not a formal training for even how to navigate our systems.

Brian Washburn: And when you talk about systems, are you talking about computer systems?

Danielle Lopez: Yes.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Okay.

Crash Course systems training

Danielle Lopez: Yeah. So our financial systems that we use, all of our transactions, all of our client files, all of our store data, all of our– where we would go into to research what’s happening and try to determine what’s happening. And so in an ideal world, there would have been a crash course system training, rather than training on systems as a mentorship. You know, it all worked out fine because, in my previous role, I was pretty familiar. But I do wish we had had some type of system training. But other than that, the mentorship, I mean, everything is so different. You really can’t necessarily have an AML training because it’s a case-by-case – no case is the same. So, you know, I don’t think we could build a training about AML, even if we wanted.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, it’s more about like critical thinking and decision-making and things like that. Yeah.

Well, Danielle, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your experience and your journey in terms of how you got where you are. Like I said, I think this is a really important conversation that we training designers need to listen to because it may not necessarily be training you on how to do it, but it may be training people on how to mentor better, how to give better feedback, how to do things like that so that in instances like yours where training really isn’t the right solution, at least people are really, really well-prepared to help mentor, help coach somebody along, help give people the feedback.

So thank you again for sharing your information, and thank you to everyone else for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen. If you know somebody who might find today’s topic on how an organization has supported someone to learn how to do their job to be important, go ahead and pass a long link to this podcast. If you wanna make sure that you are notified of a new podcast when it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe at Apple or Spotify or wherever you get your podcast. And of course, if you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of learning and development strategies beyond just training, you can pick up a copy of What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Training, which includes 51 different elements in the periodic table of training strategies at

Until next time, happy training everyone.

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