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Women in Business Q&A: Ellen Zimiles, Head of Risk & Compliance, Navigant Consulting

19/11/2015 16:51 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Ellen Zimiles is Head of Navigant's Financial Risk and Compliance business segment and its Global Investigations & Compliance practice. She has more than 30 years of litigation and investigation experience, including 10 years as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. Before coming to Navigant, Ellen co-founded Daylight Forensic & Advisory, an international consulting firm which was funded by private equity. Ellen grew the firm to 100 employees with four offices, including London, and then sold Daylight to Navigant. Prior to Daylight, Ellen was a principal at a "Big Four" accounting firm, where she coordinated the forensic practice across all industry segments and was practice leader for the financial services industry. She is a leading authority on anti-money laundering programs, foreign and domestic public corruption matters, corporate governance, regulatory and corporate compliance, and fraud control. Ellen has worked with a multitude of financial institutions preparing for regulatory exams. She also has extensive experience in developing remediation programs, serving as a regulatory liaison and independent monitor, as well as advising organizations that are the subject of a monitorship.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I have been fortunate to view life as a lawyer, prosecutor, business owner, spouse, and parent. I have been surrounded by intelligent people with sound judgment and been wise enough to learn from all of them.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Navigant?

As a former Assistant U.S. District Attorney with both civil and criminal experience, I have gained an understanding of the government's perspective. Then, as a consultant and the CEO of my own firm, I learned how to balance the government's perspective against the realities of an ongoing business. This is essential to the consulting work we do at Navigant where we provide guidance to organizations on a variety of legal, risk and regulatory matters.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Navigant?

One major challenge was to create a brand in the anti-money laundering space where the firm previously did not have a significant presence. Over the past few years, we have successfully achieved that recognition by building a team that has "the brains and the brawn" to provide exceptional service in this area.

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking for a career in finance and consulting?

Most importantly, maintain your priorities and keep life in perspective.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I have kept my priorities straight. I may not always be able to attend every client event or school function, but I make sure I select the most important ones and make them sacrosanct.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

The greatest issue, not just for women but for anyone on whom another party (regardless of whether it is a child, parent, or other loved one) relies, is the ability to support those around you while not forgetting about yourself.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

A mentor provides you with the feeling that someone whom you respect believes in you and takes the time to consider your future. This is powerful and provides the confidence to try new things. Regardless of whether you follow the advice given, the mere fact that there is someone out there to whom you can turn is, in and of itself, a meaningful support. I have benefited by both having a mentor and greatly enjoy being one.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I served as the Unit Chief in the U.S. Attorney's Office under Mary Jo White. I have always admired her fearlessness and calm in the face of adversity. Her perspective and sense of humor allowed her to withstand very complex and difficult situations and remain a significant and dynamic leader in the government and legal arenas.

What do you want Navigant to accomplish in the next year?

In my new role as leader of Navigant's Financial Risk and Compliance segment, I look forward to collaborating with the other leaders in the division to grow our business. One goal is to provide a breadth of services to clients and have them understand that when they have an issue, we are the advisor who can help them through to the end.