Skip to Main Content
Chico State

In the Midst of a Successful Career of Catching Bad Guys, Military Vet Pursues Online MBA

Rio Miner poses for the camera with a colleague in a corporate conference room.

During his long career investigating money laundering and fraud in the financial services industry, Urriolagoitia (Rio) Miner has looked into suspicious bank transactions of professional athletes, porn site operators, and famous socialites.

Building on his nine-year military career, first in the infantry, then intelligence, the Redding resident spent 13 years working at Wells Fargo. There he led a variety of teams involved in everything from investigations to designing and analyzing risk and compliance programs that monitor financial transactions using algorithms to look for irregularities. While not all irregularity alerts indicate illegal activity, Miner admits he did enjoy building a profile based on the available data, and “sticking it to the bad guys.” 

“During my military intelligence career, I enjoyed the strategy of trying to stay two or three steps ahead of the enemy and figure out how they would react to different military tactics,” said Miner. “Transitioning into financial services and analyzing the bad guys was a natural fit on some levels, but I also realized the business world is vastly different from the military.”

Miner has moved on from Wells Fargo and now works as the head of intelligence for Refine Intelligence, a start-up in the anti-money laundering (AML) space that attempts to shift the industry by identifying the good guys instead of catching the bad guys. The company’s software maps the life stories behind financial transactions, creating a baseline model of good behavior. Knowing what good behavior looks like means that bad actors stand out.

The desire to fill in “gaps” in his business acumen and his determination to spend leftover GI Bill money led him to enroll in Chico State’s online MBA program.

Though working at a startup full-time while simultaneously working toward an MBA is a hefty time commitment, Miner has enjoyed the experience and appreciated everything that he has learned to this point. 

“The group projects and the chance to form bonds with professionals from different industries and different regions have been extremely rewarding,” he said. 

He’s putting what he learned in the online MBA to practice at Refine Intelligence with marketing and other go-to business strategies. He even played a hand in helping name the company.

Rio Miner holds a chalkboard on the first day of his graduate school with fun elementary school prompts, including First Day of School, Date, Teacher, Favorite Book, and When I Grow Up

In addition to an appetite for continuous learning, Miner is also a natural teacher. He ended his military career as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) professor at both UCLA and Cal State Northridge where he taught students that were preparing to enter the military as commissioned officers. He regularly conducts webinars and speaks at professional networking events about building, scaling, and explaining complex Bank Secrecy Act and AML regulatory compliance programs. And perhaps most importantly, he draws on his own experience to act as informal mentor to veterans transitioning into careers in the private sector.

“The military is a culture in itself and there was so much I didn’t know when I left the military and started working in financial services,” said Miner. “I view anything I can do to make that transition a little easier for others as part of my continued service.”

Finally, Miner, along with his wife Michelle, sit on the board of directors for Pennies on Purpose, a Redding-based non-profit that teaches basic financial literacy to middle and high school students. 

As he prepares to graduate, Miner, a father of four, is thankful for the support of his family and appreciation of his 18-month journey through the program.

“There were times where it was overwhelming and I wish I could have focused on the subject matter a little more,” he admits. “But, enrolling in the online MBA program at the same time I was helping start a company ended up being an invaluable decision. I now know I have more real-world business knowledge, have expanded my network of contacts, and am confident I’m ready for the rest of my professional career.”

Though it can be intense at times, the online MBA program is designed for students like Miner, according to College of Business professor Kenneth Chapman.

“We find that most of our students, especially our working professionals, seem to thrive on the speed and rich engagement with current business and organizational challenges,” said Chapman. “When Rio first applied to the program it was clear to me he was outstanding. He projects a balanced persona of a seriously hardworking, smart, high-energy student that will leverage his MBA to do some great things.”