Meet Malia Oliver: financial services expert and my colleague at CCG Catalyst Consulting.
With over fifteen years in the financial service industry, Malia has extensive experience in retail operations, consumer lending, mortgage banking and commercial finance. She inspires others through fostering innovation and creativity, as well as leading by example.
In her role as COO at CCG Catalyst, she works with operations, IT and collaborates with consulting and business development teams to develop and implement plans for the operations infrastructure of systems, processes and personnel designated to accommodate her clients’ needs.
Malia’s career in banking and finance has led her to regard cybersecurity as the greatest threat facing the industry. One reason why is the growing importance of fintech startups and their increasing custodianship of vital customer data, though established institutions have been victims of breaches in recent years too, from Equifax’s 143 million compromised accounts on down. But as customer data is loosed from a few institutions to many companies, the risks for banks and customers is growing quickly. As Malia notes in her interview, innovation is needed in cybersecurity to keep up with the growing sophistication of bad actors.
Another topic of conversation in Malia’s interview is Cannabis banking. Cannabis banking is a largely untapped opportunity because while cannabis sales are legal in many states, they remain illegal at the federal level. In June, FinCEN noted that 633 banks and credit unions officially accept deposits from cannabis-related businesses, but the actual number is reportedly much lower. It’s no surprise why, given the regulatory uncertainty and jurisdictional ambiguity, but the result of uncertainty, Malia points out, is lost opportunities for financial institutions.
Tell us more about what you do and how you moved into your space.
By accident initially. I intended for it to be just a short term gig but then the pull of the industry and the numerous facets have kept me constantly challenged and encountering constant opportunities to apply my skills
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
As COO I review a variety of tech advances to decipher what best suites our firm and will propel us to work smarter, not harder. I believe that technology is one of the greatest tools we as humans have. Capitalizing on ecosystem front-runners is part of my job. Part of my role is to engage with vendors of all shapes, sizes and offerings to help bring our clients the best of breed solutions they deserve.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
During my career I’ve witnessed the emergence of a unique blend of technology which is rapidly changing the face of financial activities. Starting my career as a teller in a credit union, I processed daily work with teller stamps, a separation of checks (or drafts as they called them) by “on-us” and “external” a bit before Check 21 came as a standard and all on a Green Screen MS DOS platform.
Since then, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with institutions of many different sizes and structures which has allowed me to view technology advancements and implementation over the years. Transformation has come at a rapid pace over the past several years as the core banking platforms are being forced to integrate with more cutting edge technology sprouting from the FinTech space. Whether it’s been some of the early interfaces with Chat Bots to controversial block-chain, I know that we’re just beginning to scratch the surface where innovation will remarkably transform the landscape of the financial industry as we know it.
Who is a person that inspires you? Why?
My mentor, Mary Holman. She’s an incredibly talented woman with a passion for people. She’s spent her career expertly navigating the predominantly male environment of banking with grit and grace and leads people by example. Her dedication to truly leading others is displayed in her efforts to teach, encourage, question and lift others up to exceed their own potential. Mary can readily spot pain points and creates visionary strategies that are filled with innovation and ideas bringing solutions that repeatedly save time and money. Personally, she’s also one of the most caring individuals I’ve ever met. She has challenged and supported me both personally and professionally.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019 (as it relates to your industry)?
There’s so many it’s hard to pick just one. I believe that cybersecurity will continue to evolve and be an absolute necessary path of advancement as we continue to have consumers demanding increased convenience coupled with higher data security. More and more users store critical financial information within third-party software which makes for quick and easy transactions as well as utilize biometric identities to complete purchases but the ever increasing threats of security breaches hoover ominously. I think it’s going to be not only critical, but really exciting to see what advances continue to be produced to fuse the user experience and their data security.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into your space?
Constantly learn, read, and absorb from those around you. There are so many incredibly talented people in the financial and fintech industries right now with a broad range of experience and points of view that it can be head-spinning. I really believe that retaining all that you can from those individuals will propel you forward. Also, find your passion and be prepared to work hard. I don’t think this space is something you can just waltz into without being prepared to work your way through and experience the many facets that make it all work.