Jenifer Swallow, TransferWise
Jenifer Swallow has been here before, feeling the excitement of being in in an industry that was about to change commerce forever.
“I was working for Yahoo between 2005 and 2010, just as the tech giants were having their big bang moment, and it feels like fintech is on the brink of a similar tipping point,” said Swallow, general counsel of TransferWise and one of PaymentSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments for 2019.
TransferWise’s “borderless account” has given the London-based payment company’s balance sheet a boost, and has provided a tool to compete in the expanding international payments market by luring business away from banks.
For Swallow, it’s another signal that financial technology is opening new horizons, and drawing people away from older methods of executing transactions and delivering financial services.
“Consumers are increasingly putting their trust in the sector, and talented people are moving from banks and more traditional providers to work in fintech because they see a bright, exciting future, which doesn’t have the confinement and constraint of more traditional providers," she said.
Swallow is one of those innovative people. Her background brings a fresh and comprehensive perspective to both business and corporate culture.
Before joining TransferWise, Swallow was general counsel and chief of staff at Mind Candy, the children’s digital entertainment company. She also has experience serving in leadership roles at Yahoo and Zynga. Swallow’s career began as a lawyer in the City, London’s financial center, working on transactional and intellectual property in the technology center. It’s a range of experience that includes very competitive, forward-looking businesses that face pressure to respond quickly — something that informs Swallow’s strategy as a legal team leader.
“For lawyers in a high-growth startup, you want someone with regulatory expertise who can also be deployed as a generalist and crucially fit in with the company culture,” Swallow said, adding finding the right staff to build a team can be like looking for “unicorns.”
“I’m looking for lawyers who are curious, think creatively and can adapt to the environment,” she said.
There is a lot more scope for women to become the top players in fintech, more than traditional banking, Swallow said.
“I encourage women on my team to say what they feel, trust their intuition and speak the truth,” Swallow said. “It’s a newer industry and regardless of gender we’re all figuring it out.”
There are people in the business who are already pushing change. Swallow credits Diana Avila, the global head of banking at TransferWise, who helped expand digital payments in Latin America, as someone she admires. Avila, who joined TransferWise in 2015 after a stint working as a lawyer on financial inclusion in Columbia, faced an Argentinian law that allowed banks to partner only with other banks.
“She flew to Argentina to meet with representatives of the Central Bank, where Diana was the only female in the room,” Swallow said. “She explained to them how sending money in and out of Argentina using fintechs would make it easier and cheaper for everyone there. One month later, the regulation for the whole sector had been changed.”