Jillian Munro didn’t start off working in the fintech industry; she started off her career as a consultant in telecommunications. She also has a non-technical background with a Master’s degree in East Asian studies.
Even though she has a seemingly non-traditional background, she quickly found herself in the financial services industry and now has been “in every facet of financial services and the technology world,” she told FinLedger. Now, she’s the head of technology, data & analytics for data aggregation giant Envestnet | Yodlee.
In this newly created role, Munro works closely with the Chief Technology Officer of wealth management technology company Envestnet to advance its financial data aggregation capabilities and insights from Envestnet | Yodlee.
Munro joined Envestnet | Yodlee around the end of November, but she previously worked as the CTO of payments startup Spreedly. She has also worked as the CTO for Fidelity Digital Assets, where she oversaw Fidelity Investments‘ digital currency technology.
Munro spoke with FinLedger about her strategy for this year, her thoughts on regulations concerning data aggregating companies and advice she has for women in the fintech field.
FL: What is your strategy overall this year?
Munro: Envestnet | Yodlee was always an intriguing company for me because of the innovative culture and because it was stepping into a space that it was pioneering — the data aggregation space. It was disrupting the entire industry by allowing individuals to see an aggregated view of their overall financial wellness. That was different from the model out in the industry at the time.
We are building on that innovative mindset, and then taking the industry to that next place. A lot of that involves thinking about things like open banking, and creating more seamless and secure connectivity to create that aggregation. At the same time we’re moving more away from the early days of the industry which is around screen scraping.
The second part is to look at our organization and continue to build upon the amazing and strong foundation that we have. Envestnet | Yodlee has been fortunate in that the talent base is incredible. We have an incredible set of data scientists, engineers and product managers. We need to continue to cultivate that. One of my objectives is to build a little bit more of a presence, or a lot more of a presence, in the Raleigh area in North Carolina, to tap into the skill sets in the talent base that’s here in the region, as well as to build a little bit more of a ‘follow the sun model’ to help better serve our customers globally.
FL: I know you’re working with the CTO of Envestnet and aligning financial data aggregation capabilities with the Envestnet Wealth Management ecosystem. What are the challenges you anticipate with these duties? And what challenges have you experienced in these past few months?
Munro: I wouldn’t say that there’s been any extraordinary challenges. We’re very united in our mission which is around providing financial wellness to the masses. If you take the wealth advisor platform that is core Envestnet and take the data and analytics, they’re incredibly complimentary business areas. The data analytics function can help drive better insights, better decisions and better visibility into our customers and their customers’ financial wellness. The challenge isn’t so much of a roadblock, it’s about how do we continue to elevate the power that we have, and make amazing data driven decisions? And move those to expand our mission of overall financial wellness for the masses while propelling our investment portfolio forward with that.
FL: What is your outlook on the data aggregation sector as it concerns regulation of the sector? I know recently that the CFPB allowed data aggregator industry players such as Envestnet Yodlee to provide feedback on parameters for consumer permission to access financial data.
Munro: I’m bullish on the data aggregation space. We’re really evolving as an industry as we move into the open banking arena. It provides well defined interactions with our customers in safe and secure manners, It’s really the maturing of the industry. I’m bullish on it and I think there’s a lot going on in that space.
FL: What is your advice for women and the fintech field?
Munro: I’ve been in financial services for a long time. When I joined the industry, I was at the intersection of two male-dominated spaces, both financial services — in particular Wall Street — and technology. I go to work every day and I love creativity, innovation and building new solutions. However, I always feel like my underlying mission, from a day-to-day basis, is to create a safe environment for women and to continue to promote the elevation of women in the industry. Largely it’s because I’ve had that throughout my career. There’s a couple of things, one [piece of advice I have] for other women is to always take risks, do what you’re passionate about and let that passion drive you. The other thing that I’ve been fortunate to have is to have others help me along the way. I’ve also adopted this, when you get into a position, if you’re able to do it, always bring other women along. Create the wake for other women, so that they can also then step into that role and then pay it forward when they are able to do it. That’s how I think we can continue to evolve the space for women.
Note: This article has been edited to read clearly and concisely.