What could you not live without?
On my first long backpacking trip, I asked my friend what to pack. She said, “nothing”. The only difference between a nine-day trip and a weekend trip is more food. I try to carry this simplicity with me.
But if I had to pick one thing, it’d be my Visa card. It sounds corny, but it’s true. I remember traveling for the first time without traveler’s checks. Seeing $200 Australian come out of the ATM in Sydney. It was a miracle.
What made you choose this career path?
I started out in law, mainly to be sure I could support myself. I was drawn to compliance and governance. Basically enterprise risk management before that even existed. At Visa, that became my job description. I still relish the battle of wits between the fraudsters and us.
How does Security and Risk fuel innovation?
Our adversaries are some of the most innovative people on earth. That forces us to change the battlefield. Tokenization does this by devaluing the data; EMV and biometrics further alter the game. It’s not always about creating something new. Sometimes it’s about combining what we already have in new ways.
Where do you see payments heading?
Mobile payments are here and in full force. The velocity of adoption is also helping emerging markets leapfrog barriers. Countries that once lacked infrastructure can completely skip legacy security threats. This doesn’t just help their economies, it gives the risk community a model to build on.
Your education speaks to a love of words. Does that still resonate today?
Completely. I love words in all languages. I always try to say something in the local language, when I speak at conferences abroad.
Do you have a favorite moment from the time you clerked for Justice Powell?
He was such a gentleman about everything. He’s famous for it. When you clerk, you write bench memos. They suggest how the Justice should vote on the case. I remember so well walking into his office, after he’d read one of mine. We sat down together and he said, “Ellen, I think I’m going to part company with you on this one.” One of the most powerful people on earth, yet he treated me with such respect and equal dignity.