Get to know Kate Valleau, SVP of Internal Audit
Read about Kate’s ability to take a broad view of risk management controls for her Raymond James stakeholders, and talent for baking masterpiece desserts for her friends and family.
Kate holds a three-tiered cake, covered with handmade edible flowers, which she baked for her grandmother’s 90th birthday.
Kate has almost 20 years of compliance, anti-money laundering and internal audit experience in the financial services industry. Kate worked in New York City for 15 years at various firms, including Lloyd's Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. While at Bank of America, she also worked as a cake decorator at a bakery in New Jersey. In 2017, Kate moved back to her home state of Florida to join Raymond James as a vice president. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and two dogs.
Tell us about your current role.
My team covers internal audits for Compliance, Enterprise Risk Management, Financial Crimes, Human Resources and Legal. We independently evaluate the risk management, controls and governance processes at the enterprise level. For example, as the third line of risk management, we won’t look at how a transaction was processed; instead, we look at metrics around the transaction and how they are monitored and escalated to governance committees. The Raymond James Board of Directors and executive leadership use those metrics to make strategic, risk-tolerance decisions for the firm, so we evaluate the soundness of the monitoring and escalation process and the accuracy of the information.
If you think about the three lines of risk management as a pyramid, the first line is at the base, the second is in the middle and the third is at the top with a high-level view of the firm. What I enjoy most about my job is taking a 50,000-foot view of a process and finding opportunities for efficiency gains not only to satisfy a business need but also to help people develop in their roles. It can be hard for teams to make those observations when they’re doing the controls every day, so I enjoy providing that perspective and advice.
Can you describe the relationship between compliance officers and the Internal Audit team?
In Internal Audit, it is our responsibility to provide an independent perspective when we look at a control designed by Compliance. Our understanding of a process is as good as the explanation given to us by a compliance officer, so think about auditors from a partnership perspective. Our observations can either affirm that the controls are mitigating risks as intended or highlight areas for building a better framework. Additionally, with our broad view of risk management at the firm, we can share insights about how different departments mitigate risks. For example, if we find an inefficiency in a process done in one division, we can provide suggestions based on how it’s done in a different division. The more centralized our process is, the more we can help connect those dots and ensure that the firm is efficient and well controlled.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
Learning how to lead is not something you ever finish doing; it’s something I think about every day. I like to spend time with the people on my team to figure out their priorities and what’s important for them to feel satisfied with their careers. Particularly with recent graduates, I try to create opportunities for them that didn’t exist when I started my career. I also want my team to feel that they are respected and valued. I surround myself with managers who have the same philosophy so that we can create an environment where everyone is heard.
Kate poses for a photo at the nearly 20,000-foot peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kate sculpting a modeling chocolate Cheshire cat for a cake.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Admittedly, I spend a lot of time on culinary endeavors, whether it’s trying out new places to get new ideas for flavor combinations – checking out the competition – or working on projects with a friend. My specialty is celebration cakes (think multitier cakes), loaded with sugar flowers and icing designs, topped with chocolate representations of people, pets or favorite places. I have a friend who is starting a bakery business and I work with her, teaching her new skills and techniques. Occasionally, I'll create a sculpture or sugar flowers to adorn her orders. I also like to golf and ride roller coasters.
What is your favorite thing to bake?
Pastry chefs make what the customers want to eat. The fan favorite to eat is always brownies (I will never divulge my secret ingredient!), but my favorite to bake is pie. I get all sorts of requests for fancy cakes and desserts. People only seem to want pie around Thanksgiving – but pie is really the greatest. Pies highlight what is in season and change all the time. They are simple, but beautiful in their messiness, and they are shareable. Who doesn’t love to see a beautiful pie with its colorful fruits and spices seeping out of the steam vents on its top? Then add the promise of ice cream on the side.
What is the most important risk you took in your career?
I don’t like to take big risks in my life; even my job is around risk mitigation. But sometimes you have to take a (measured) leap. The most impactful risk I took was accepting this job at Raymond James. It meant moving from New York City to Florida, moving from an international retail bank to a domestic broker/dealer, and moving from a career in compliance to internal audit. When I made the decision, I told myself I can always go back to New York City, but after five years at Raymond James, I’m glad I took the risk and made the move.