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The Student Insider

It's important to keep creating challenges and goals


Written by
Louise Fautley

Recent graduate Derrick (Rick) Cerna talks about his experiences working around the world and explains how the LLM has enhanced his career.

Rick Cerna

Give us some background about yourself and what you did prior to studying with the University.

I was born in Ohio and graduated from New York University. Following college, I embarked upon a somewhat unique career prior to the UoL studies. I spent the first 10 years in Law spending time at several major law firms globally in NYC, Los Angeles, London, Dublin, and Hong Kong. These past 10 years I’ve worked primarily in the Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Compliance areas of banking in London.

In 2020, you completed a Master of Laws with the University via distance learning, specialising in finance and financial management services. Why did you decide to apply for the programme and what was the most rewarding part of your experience studying with the University of London?

My career has developed into a sort of hybrid legal-banking career which is what made the decision to complete an LLM in Financial Management Services the perfect choice for me. The lessons contained a great many case studies, which is something very common for persons with a legal background. Also, much of the regulatory input had a foundation in law. The banking aspects became more pronounced when the lessons began to focus on clients and products. Further, when AML and Compliance areas were the focus you knew you were in a banking arena. For me these studies were covering things that I was dealing with on a regular or periodic basis, and it made the studies very real. Fraud, Bribery and Corruption, AML, Sanctions, Know Your Customer (KYC), and more was covered in this course work. On some occasions I actually made reference to the study materials as part of my work product.

I was quite impressed with how the University quickly adopted to things and made sure to include the students into this new format.

In response to the pandemic, the University was required to rapidly move to online assessments. How did you find the experience of taking examinations online?

At first it was quite intimidating, and I felt a bit unsure as to the ability of the system and its effectiveness. However, there was a testing period prior to the exams which relieved a great deal of my anxiety. This hands-on pre-testing made me feel far more comfortable about what I was going to experience during the exam. I did at least two exams under this scenario, and both went off without any problems. At the end of the day, I was quite impressed with how the University quickly adopted to things and made sure to include the students into this new format.

You are currently Vice-President (Regulatory and Compliance) at Deutsche Bank, based in London. Can you tell us more about your role and the work you are doing?

I work with the Global Risk Assessment Team at Deutsche Bank. My role involves ensuring that controls are effectively operating in order to protect the bank from exposure to internal and external risks. As such, I use questionnaires to interview stakeholders globally, covering areas such as Transaction Monitoring, Transaction Filtering, Name List Screening, Sanctions, AML, Training, Alerts, and other areas of operation in order to confirm they are effective. Additionally, I work closely with those same stakeholders in rating the effectiveness of the systems they oversee and quality checking for any improvements which might be required.

You have lived and worked around the world throughout your career and while you studied for your University of London degree. What sort of perspective and outlook has this given you?

It has made me see that people are much the same all across the globe. It may sound like a cliché, but we are all the same. Culturally, of course there are vast differences in food, clothing, language, and dress, but fundamentally, morally, ethically, spiritually, emotionally we are all trying to enjoy our lives the best way we can and help others when possible. The international flavour of University of London confirms that to be true.

I have enjoyed the way this career path has played out and I have no regrets.

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

Having the ability to relocate to beautiful global spots has been the highlight for me. London, Dublin, Hong Kong, New York City and Los Angeles have all been places I’ve lived because my skill-set was required at a law firm or bank. I didn’t start out planning this to become a world-tour, but it turned into one. I haven’t even mentioned the various exotic places I’ve travelled to for business purposes (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Paris, Vietnam, Singapore, Dusseldorf, and Moscow, for example). I have enjoyed the way this career path has played out and I have no regrets.

What impact has your University of London degree had on you both personally and professionally?

The University of London LLM degree has shown me that even at this stage of my career it’s important to keep creating challenges and goals. No one knows it all, so it’s important to stay sharp and updated on your field. This programme did just that for me. Professionally, it has made me even more confident in the financial services area. Many areas of this field are now far more clear and understandable to me and it’s increased my ability to speak with authority on a variety of financial services topics. Taking this degree challenge was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished both personally and professionally.


Find out more about the University's Postgraduate Laws programme