By @SimonCocking. Deliughted to bring you this interview with major FinTech and data security thought leader Neira Jones. Chairman| NED| Advisor| Speaker| Blogger| Payments| Digital Innovation| Fintech| Cyber Risk & Security| Fraud. See more about her here.

What is your background briefly?

More than 20 years in financial services and technology made me believe in change through innovation & partnerships. I am regularly invited to advise organisations of all sizes on payments, cybercrime, information security, fraud and digital innovation where I always strive to demystify the hype surrounding current issues. I like engaging on social media and regularly address global audiences on these topics as a keynote speaker or chair person.
I am a Non-Executive Director for cyber security firm Cognosec and payments innovator Pay: Way. I also chair the Advisory Board for mobile innovator Ensygnia and am a partner for the international Global Cyber Alliance.

I am an Advisor and Ambassador for the Emerging Payments Association and am on the City AM FinTech Most Influential Power List, the City AM Powerful Women in the City List and the Innotribe Femtech Leaders List. Tripwire nominated me ‘Top Influencer in Security To Follow on Twitter’ in January 2015, CEOWorld Magazine nominated me Top Chief Security Officer to Follow on Twitter in April 2014, I am also the Merchant Payments Ecosystem Acquiring Personality of the Year 2013, the SC Magazine Information Security Person of the Year 2012, an InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame alumni since 2011 and was voted to the Top 10 Most Influential People in Information Security by SC Magazine & ISC2 in 2010. I have previously served on the PCI SSC Board of Advisors for four years, am a Fellow of the British Computer Society and worked for Barclaycard, Santander, Abbey National, Oracle Corp. and Unisys.

My clients include financial services institutions, FinTech companies, consulting organisations as well as information security and technology providers. I’m always looking to challenge the status quo. See more about me here Twitter and  LinkedIn:

How did you end up doing what you do now?

That was a complete accident. Following my Masters degree in Computing Applied to Business Management, I naturally (because my Mum approved) joined a bank as an analyst programmer, full of theory and bright ideas and the belief that I could change things for the better very easily. Of course (I can hear you snigger) it turned out that the real world is very different from the academic one and I was slammed back to earth by that great terminator of student dreams: operational constraints and its evil twin, budgets. Great learning early on and I had great fun, but I still wanted to make things better.

So, having had first-hand experience with the challenges of being a customer of many technology suppliers, I decided to go and join one (Unisys) where I became a technical sales support specialist for mainframes and wide area networks. Yes, I thought Personal Computers were for sissies at the time, and, after all, the IBM PC was just a decorative item in the early 80s. That was pretty much the theme of my early career, where I alternatively spent a few years with suppliers (Oracle) – always focusing on the Finserv vertical – and then with financial services institutions, primarily in retail banking.

Then it dawned on me in the mid-2000s that there was so much more to financial services than retail banking, and that payments was an obscurely fascinating area. Because work/life balance is as important to me as interesting work, I decided that I wanted to work for Barclaycard (great brand, innovative, and not far from home). I approached them directly (via LinkedIn) regarding any change management job they might have underway. They didn’t at the time, but kindly offered to keep my CV on file. A month later they contact me with a job description carrying the message “it might not be what you’re looking for, but see what you think.” The job title was “PCI DSS Programme Director.” I had to look it up. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (gasp!). I knew nothing about the payments industry, and even less about security. But Richard Branson famously said “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn to do it later.”

So I went for the interview and got the job, built a fantastic team, had an amazing few years and learned to love PCI DSS (amazingly) and information security in general. In my second year at Barclaycard, after making a lot of noise on the importance of payments security and PCI DSS, Infosecurity Europe nominated me to their Hall of Fame. Wow! To be recognised by my peers in such a way was very humbling and I was deeply honoured. I was invited to the induction ceremony and selected the appropriate attire for such an occasion, which in my case means an elegantly tailored pink dress with matching pink stilettos (I probably also had matching pink nail polish). The venue might have been Earls Court or Olympia and after making my way through the maze of stands, I finally arrived at the huge conference room. The organisers asked me to wait for my two fellow inductees, Rik Ferguson and Graham Cluley.

Now, these two are serious cyber security rock stars whom I had followed online for a long time and now, not only do I get to meet them, but I get to share the stage with them – yay! And whilst I was pondering my incredible luck, two tall men walked towards me – both wearing black T-shirts, black jeans, black boots and one of them with arms covered in tattoos. When they introduced themselves, all feelings of inadequacy (I should have worn black leather) evaporated. We’ve been friends ever since and I have made many more fantastic friends in the cyber security space over the last few years. So mine is not so much a journey from banking to information security but more a merger of the two worlds – with a good sprinkling of digital innovation.

I’m still learning.

What advice would you give to companies and individuals in terms of managing their data securely?

Well, oldies but goodies… I am of course talking about two things:
1) that permanently Wobbly Three Legged Stool, our beloved triad: CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability). We’ve been pretty good at the “C” and the “A”, but the “I” has somewhat traditionally been left behind…

2) that other constantly Wobbly Three Legged Stool, our even more beloved PPT (People, Process Technology). We’ve been pretty good at the “T”, but the two “Ps” are always neglected. With the increasingly complex regulatory landscape (e.g. GDPR, NIS Directive and PSD2), the two “Ps” are now getting more focus, which is a good thing.

Is the UK a great place for Tech? What’s your plan for your strategies post Brexit?

The UK is and will remain a great place for Tech! I have to say that my plans haven’t altered one bit J

Who do you follow for your inspiration and insights?

The list will be too long for this article, but many people have shaped what I do now and many more will join the list still. For those who have time, you can find most of them here 

We can be online 24/7, how do you manage your work life balance?

I am fortunate enough to work for myself and be able to choose who I work with and when I work. So whilst I don’t keep corporate hours and may work at unusual hours, I do thoroughly enjoy what I do and can spread the time to allow me to see friends and family and indulge in hobbies more than I have ever been able to do before. And of course, I use lots of digital automation and buffering tools, so they work even when I don’t J

Anything else we should have asked you / you’d like to add?

My fave two quotes are: “Businesses will do business with businesses. But people will engage and socialise with people.” and “If you can’t change the people, change the people. Sometimes it’s yourself.”

Also, in case you’re wondering, I love cars and shoes J


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