Tia Ilori, Visa

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Helping grow a new specialty field — such as data security — can sometimes help one's resume stand out among a crowd.

Early in her career, Tia Ilori knew she liked working in new fraud areas that were still undeveloped, yet could better answer why data breaches occurred, how to better defend against them and their impacts on payment fraud. However, the biggest career challenges of going into a new field is that unless you’re already an expert, it can be difficult to gain traction, and if the field is too narrow it may not have much of a future.

But that’s also where taking a gamble on a burgeoning opportunity can pay off in the long term

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

“I began my payments career working in risk management," said Ilori, senior director of global fraud and breach investigations at Visa. "However, instinctively I wanted to better understand how fraud occurred and why banks constantly adjusted neural networks to combat risk. Due to my curiosity, a senior leader encouraged me to join a new team focused on data security. I was intimidated by the idea of a career change. Despite some hesitation and risk, I decided to pursue the opportunity anyways, and I ultimately became the head of data security responsible for payment compliance programs and client consultations across the globe.”

Ilori mentioned that her most memorable and constructive feedback that she had ever received was to avoid being the Jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none.

“I concentrated on high-profile projects that produced client value and personal growth," she said. "Delivering fewer but higher-caliber work [results] also served to sharpen my leadership skills, and taught me the art of being surgical in seeking initiatives that increased my visibility, regardless of its popularity.”

Tia Ilori, Senior Director of global fraud and breach investigations, Visa
Tia Ilori, Senior Director of global fraud and breach investigations, Visa

In developing a reputation for the quality of her work, Ilori has also gained significant praise in the financial services community for being able to decipher fraud trends for banks and card issuers.

In 2019, Ilori spoke at the Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas about how data breach targets are changing, and what fraudsters are doing to financially benefit from breaches. PaymentsSource met with Ilori at the conference to learn more about how this trend was creating a new industry threat.

“Five years ago, we saw a lot of breaches at merchants," Ilori said. "Now we are starting to see a resurgence of financial institution attacks, and a key method for these bad actors to monetize their work is to use an ATM cash-out theft."

In the future, Ilori sees the biggest changes in payments will be the significant growth in adoption of secure payment tokens and the updated EMV 3-D Secure specifications globally. She feels that enhanced security measures, such as payment tokens, will provide stronger and more dynamic protection compared to traditional passwords. Additionally, Ilori believes that payment tokens will also allow financial institutions and merchants to evolve and secure new ways to pay that are increasingly used as mobile and online shopping increase in volume.

One additional key to Ilori’s success is that she has cultivated a personal group of cheerleaders and motivators to help guide her as she drives her career success. “I also formed a group of trusted advisers comprised of sponsors who served as advocates and mentors who helped me hone my leadership style,” Ilori said.

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Women in Payments