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Getting to know our new General Counsel, Gizelle Barany

General Councel Gizelle Barany

It's been an awesome start to the year so far, and we've already welcomed 65 new faces to the Alloy team since January 1! One of the most exciting new roles that we added is our General Counsel. Gizelle Barany joins us with over 15 years of experience in financial services to lead our legal and compliance team. To get to know her a little better, I sat down with her to talk about her experience, why she joined Alloy and what regulatory trends she has her eyes on right now.

Hi, Gizelle! Welcome to the team. We're all really excited that you've joined Alloy. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I live in Oakland, California. I've been in the financial services space for more than 15 years and practicing law for over 30 years. I didn't grow up thinking I would be a financial services attorney, but I sort of fell into this space like many people.

I started out in financial services as outside counsel to Blackhawk Network (one of the largest distributors of prepaid cards), and after a few years, I became in-house counsel there. I handled contracts for their heavy-regulated products, which were the cards with Visa, Mastercard, Discover or American Express on them. I also handled all bank-related contracts. Through that, I really had to understand all the rules and regulations that applied to prepaid products. I ended up leading Blackhawk's government relations efforts, working with the trade association and lobbyists. This experience really launched me into that world to educate regulators and legislatures to help shape policy.

I left Blackhawk Network and became the first General Counsel of Marqeta, and I was at Marqeta for five years when they went from being valued at somewhere around $125M to almost $2B. Both at Marqeta and Blackhawk, I faced the challenge of having to help the companies design products in the midst of “grey areas” of rules and regulations — because rules and regulations never keep up with the pace of technology and innovation. So, my team had a significant influence on Marqeta's product development.

I left Marqeta and became the Chief Legal Officer of LendUp. I joined to lead their legal team, manage a number of regulatory matters, and co-lead the establishment of a digital bank. So when you put together my experience from Blackhawk, Marqeta and LendUp, I've managed the development of products and supported a business for a wide range of financial products, including prepaid, debit, credit and loans.

Why did you decide to join Alloy?

I met Alloy early in my time at Marqeta, actually. Since then, Alloy has obviously grown a lot; it gained the confidence of banks and is becoming the standard for fintech companies. I understand and have lived through the pain that Alloy helps solve for its customers. So, I was really excited about the opportunity for a number of reasons.

I was looking for a company that has established a healthy culture. For me, it was very much culture first. Through all the conversations that I was having with people prior to joining, it was clear that Alloy had a set of values that were actually being realized day-to-day, as opposed to just sitting on the website waiting to be pulled out for presentations or recruitment calls. One part of Alloy's mission is to help make financial services more accessible. By joining the team, I can help keep fraud out of financial services, while increasing access to those previously shut out from the financial services system.

I was also excited that Alloy has recently expanded its offerings beyond Onboarding to include Transaction Monitoring and Credit Underwriting. These initiatives made it an exciting time for me to join Alloy because I knew I could help the company grow.

What will you be doing at Alloy as General Counsel?

I joined as a General Counsel to lead Alloy's legal and compliance efforts and to also bring my understandings and learnings of the regulatory landscape of Alloy and our customers to the business.

Alloy does not have a direct regulator, unlike many of our customers. However, we are a critical service provider to those institutions. Our job is to enable them to meet their regulatory requirements while also helping them optimize their business opportunities. It is, for example, our job to maintain the integrity of our systems with the data that we house and maintain the privacy of that data in a compliant manner. Ultimately, I came here to help Alloy be recognized as the critical service provider that makes regulators happy when financial institutions partner with us for these services.

I also came to Alloy to further position us as a thought leader, trusted resource and industry gold standard for fraud prevention and risk mitigation.

The goal is to turn our regulatory and compliance expertise into a competitive advantage.

I'm excited to join such a stellar group of legal and compliance professionals and help the team grow and continue to make a huge impact across the organization.

Why is a role like this important for Alloy?

Alloy has become a significant player in the highly regulated financial services industry with its Onboarding offering. It has ambitious goals to expand beyond that by developing additional offerings. The General Counsel role is critical to efficiently and effectively navigate the business expansion through the maze of regulations and legal and compliance issues that impact Alloy and its customers.

You touched on this a bit when we talked about your past experience, but how have you helped past fintech companies you've worked at?

I've helped the companies I've worked with by embracing the "grey zone" we talked about before and thinking expansively to develop creative solutions to achieve the company objectives. What is the problem you're trying to solve? Ask yourself what needs to be true in order for us to get to "yes." Innovation does not have to come at the expense of compliance. I have also guided my teams to adopt a solution-oriented mindset. I think this is one of the most critical things in leading a legal and compliance team at an innovative company.

You clearly have a lot of regulatory experience. Are there any regulatory trends or issues that you think people should be paying extra attention to right now?

Privacy is always a big one. In addition to federal rules, states like California are passing state privacy laws. So there's still a lot of focus on privacy and giving consumers the choices on how their data is shared and used. That will continue without question. Going hand in hand with privacy laws are the ways that data should be protected. Soon financial institutions will have to report data breaches to their prudential regulators and require their service providers to notify customers of certain breaches.

I expect we will see more regulations over lending products, including requiring lenders to include a borrower's ability to repay in their underwriting. The CFPB is currently investigating the Buy Now Pay Later space, and we may see these subject to traditional lending and credit rules, including underwriting requirements.

Our legal team is still growing!

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