For Jesus Ornelas, a 2011 management graduate from Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, a financial industry career has brought him to the heart of financial power in New York City’s Central Manhattan, where he is a director in the Financial Institution Governance and Regulation group with FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm.
“FTI Consulting is an independent global business advisory firm, dedicated to helping organizations manage change, mitigate risk and resolve disputes, whether financial, legal, operational, political, regulatory, reputational or transactional,” says Ornelas. “Individually, each practice is a leader in its specific field, staffed with experts recognized for the depth of their knowledge and a track record of making an impact. Collectively, FTI Consulting offers a comprehensive suite of services designed to assist clients across the business cycle – from proactive risk management to rapid response to unexpected events and dynamic environments.”
Working with corporate clients across many industries, Ornelas is on the front line helping the business community anticipate and respond to potential challenges.
“In my role, I consult with clients on evaluating the risks of money laundering, terrorist financing, and economic and trade sanctions,” he says. “I also help clients assess compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA Patriot Act. I have worked on a wide range of engagements with large international banks, money service businesses and other financial service companies.”
Consulting a large international bank as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators following a forensic transaction review and advising one of the largest multinational technology companies in the world on its compliance program have been among the memorable moments of Ornelas’ career thus far.
“For some engagements, I meet with clients and review the effectiveness of internal controls and the effectiveness of compliance training programs,” he says. “I also project-manage and lead teams of FTI Consulting professionals in offices across the U.S.”
From Mihaylo College to Central Manhattan: The Evolution of a Financial Services Career
While finishing his undergraduate degree at Mihaylo College, where he rose to presidential leadership in the CSUF Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and was a counselor and staff member at Camp Titan for underprivileged youth, Ornelas was a relationship banker with JP Morgan Chase, his entry into the financial sector, a role he continued for three years after graduating.
“The biggest and most immediate impact on my career was taking the work ethic I learned in college and applying it to my job. I worked very hard, continued to learn and constantly expanded my skills,” he says.
In 2014, Ornelas transitioned to JP Morgan’s Global Compliance Operations group, giving him the opportunity to apply the skills gained in consumer banking to an operations-focused role.
“I gained professional leadership skills at JP Morgan Chase, where I led and managed a team of analysts in the Global Compliance Operations group,” he recalls. “My team was responsible for supporting and leading initiatives under the bank’s Anti-Money Laundering program. This included leading remediation efforts for the group, managing quality control and conducting suspicious activity reporting.”
Ornelas joined FTI Consulting in 2016, where he has leveraged his prior experience while expanding his knowledge base in the world of financial consulting.
“Consulting is a challenging but rewarding environment, and I find myself constantly drawing on my experience from my early career days while advising my clients or collaborating with colleagues,” he says. “One of the most important aspects of my work involves protecting the integrity of the financial services industry. I am helping companies consider their operations, making sure they are asking the right questions. Are your company’s risks properly mitigated? Do you have the proper controls in place to protect your financial institution?”
Continuing education is also central for Ornelas, who has earned a certified anti-money laundering specialist (CAMS) certification, an internationally recognized honor. He is currently working toward a certified fraud examiner (CFE) designation, which is bestowed on professionals trained to identify the warning signs of fraud and fraud risk.
“I always aim to deliver excellent service and products to our current clients and adding to the growing client base,” says Ornelas. “Vitally important is anticipating what will impact clients in the years to come. How do we prepare for the constantly evolving regulatory landscape? What are the new challenges that financial institutions will be facing in the years ahead? I will continue being a trusted advisor that rises to the occasion and helps clients with their growing needs.”
Getting Your Start in the Financial Industry
Think a career in the financial sector is for you? Ornelas encourages entrants in the field to be versatile – and to seek good mentors.
“Come at it with an open mind,” he says. “You need to be ready to learn and work hard – it’s essential to understand the company you are working for or one that you wish to be a part of. The secret to my success has always been to work very hard and remain inquisitive. In addition, you need to continue learning and mastering your craft. You need to be able to get out of your comfort zone because by doing so your career can benefit exponentially. You should also find a good mentor. Learning from someone who is more experienced can be invaluable. Mentors can also provide great insight into ideas or challenges, and they can also provide helpful guidance throughout your career.”
When Ornelas first sought a financial sector career, he researched a wide range of companies, discovering their industries, missions, goals, cultures and outlooks. He advises young financial professionals to understand their employers and how they can help them succeed.
“You need to think about what you can bring to the company and how you can help them thrive,” he says. “It should consist of a value statement for yourself that can be conveyed to a company and materialize into a healthy partnership for you and them.”
Ornelas was drawn to JP Morgan Chase and FTI Consulting knowing that the work would be challenging but that it provided a fertile environment for growth.
“Some of my best growth opportunities have come from the high pressure, complex and challenging projects, where I have greatly expanded my skills,” he says. “Coming from a blue-collar family, hard work is something I learned from my parents, who constantly instilled this principle from a young age. I also think you need to understand yourself, your limits, capabilities and how to push beyond what you think you can do. Always be open-minded, collaborative and continue learning.”
For More on Finance
From personal financial planning to investment careers, Mihaylo College’s Department of Finance prepares students – at both the undergraduate and graduate levels – with the tools they need to thrive in today’s diverse and highly technical financial industry.