Melanie Maier: Forging a New Path for Banking with Security Compliance

Entersekt is an innovator of mobile-first fintech solutions. Financial services providers and other enterprises rely on its core product, the Entersekt Secure Platform (ESP), to provide advanced security and the best in convenient new digital experiences to their customers, irrespective of the service channel they use. The company was founded in South Africa, 10 years ago, and has since established itself as a global organization with a proven track record. Every day, Entersekt’s technology protects tens of millions of consumer devices and transactions across the world. The company has clients and partners in Africa, Europe, and the US and its technology is currently used in 45 countries.

Entersekt’s initial focus was on authentication and mobile app security, but its services have since evolved and expanded. The ESP now offers a fast-growing menu of digital tools, orchestration engines, and plug-ins that equip service providers with the building blocks to design new digital journeys faster, with less effort and less cost than they could before. These may include convenient new ways to pay on the go, fresh alternatives in secure messaging, or seamless remote onboarding.

An Exceptional Leader

Melanie Maier is currently the Pre-sales Solution Lead DACH & Central Europe at Entersekt. In this role, she focuses on developing business in the region and providing solutions-based and consultative advice. Melanie says, “My goal is to help financial institutions and enterprises to achieve compliancy through strong authentication and state-of-the-art app security as well as to enable new digital experiences. Another aspect of my role is to support Entersekt’s position as an industry thought leader by representing them on stage and creating content for expert blogs and articles.”

Melanie is not new to the digital payments space. Before joining Entersekt, she spent more than five years at Wirecard, where she most recently served as Head of Presales Value-Added Services. She says, she had one of the most exciting projects during this time was to spearhead the rollout of Alipay and WeChat Pay in Europe.

Alongside her role at Entersekt, Melanie is the country ambassador (Germany) for the European Women Payments Network (EWPN), where she helps to grow the network in order to bring more female voices and diversity to the payments industry. Furthermore, Melanie is an active member of Professional Women’s Network (PWN) Munich, where she serves as a mentor.

Creating a Business Impact

According to Melanie, financial institutions are in the unenviable position of having to keep pace with rapid technological change, both as a means of meeting consumers’ expectations of digital service delivery and to head off increasingly sophisticated fraud tactics. All while new regulations in the fields of consumer privacy and open banking, such as PSD2 and GDPR here in Europe, force a rethink of core business strategies and revamping legacy systems. Financial institutions are looking at new ways to reduce in-branch costs, expand their digital footprint to better serve their customers, and compete against innovative fintech providers – always ensuring that their biggest asset, consumer trust, is not jeopardized – this is where Entersekt can help.

Valuing Everything to Become a Successful Leader

Melanie was fortunate enough to start her journey as a leader very early on. During her time with Wirecard, she successfully built and developed two individual teams, which have been highly operable and motivated after very short ramp-up periods. These experiences made Melanie realize her true passion: helping others to succeed and grow.

Melanie believes, you don’t become an effective leader overnight, and categorized her journey to becoming a successful leader into three critical components:

1) Never stop learning – especially outside your area of technical expertise, e.g. leadership tools and public speaking.

2) Building relationships & creating trust: as a leader, you must have a great relationship with your team. If you want to get the best out of them, you must win their trust. Trust is a feeling that begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain.

3) Building your network outside of your team: in order to support my team in the best way possible I had to learn how to strategically network in order to influence people outside my direct circle.”

Attributes to be Incorporated for Innovation

In response to vital attributes, Melanie says, “Leadership isn’t about the leader but about helping others become successful and about removing obstacles – such as excessive bureaucracy, interpersonal conflict, uncertainty, and toxic cultures – that hinder their success.”

She notes some attributes every innovative leader should possess:

  • Embrace diversity and inclusion in gender, race, ideas, etc. Studies show that diversity is a key driver of innovation.
  • The ability to listen: communication isn’t about speaking, it’s about listening.
  • Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the organization and the customer. Pleasing the boss or some other higher-level executive always has to take a back seat to do the right thing for the project or the company.
  • Action-oriented: in order to get things done, which is critical for being innovative, done is often better than perfect
  • Vulnerability: It’s okay to not have the answers to everything right away and to ask others for help – even as a leader.

Building a Supportive Network to Address Risks

Entersekt challenges the widely-held assumption that security and convenient access stand in opposition to each other. Realizing that security is the key to unlock the endless potential of all digital channels, we are at our core a mobile-first security company, Melanie cited.

Entersekt’s vision is of a world where everyone can interact and transact digitally without fear. This vision begins with trust, and it takes the form of the ESP. The ESP provides core security and platform services to the mobile device, serving as the foundation for a range of sub-services and user experiences that can be activated by the service provider with minimal effort. The system is highly modular, and providing a growing range of “service plugins”.

Overcoming Challenges with the Disruption

Since the beginning of Melanie’s career in the payments industry, she found herself in many situations where she is the only woman in the room or on the team. Melanie says, “I’ve seen first-hand that there is a lot of unconscious bias, which means you might get overlooked for a project or a promotion because you are not “one of them”. I had to find a way to make myself heard and seen without losing my authenticity. I believe that being brave is better than being perfect. This also means never be afraid to ask for what you want and deserve.”

In the voice of Melanie, being a trailblazer isn’t without its challenges. But at the end of the day, the only way to change the industry is for more women to get in and break down those barriers. This is why Melanie is so passionate about working together with women to help them overcome certain obstacles they might face, whether those are external obstacles or internal beliefs holding them back.

Melanie feels that things are slowly improving in the payments space; however, the lack of gender diversity in cybersecurity is definitely apparent, especially when you are attending industry events where men make up the vast majority of attendees. The argument in favor of greater gender equality in cybersecurity is really not one of right vs. wrong or men vs. women. Rather, it’s that having more diversity in perspectives, leadership, and experience is good for business and staying innovative.

Unravelling Future Missions

Melanie comprehends players in the cybersecurity industry will always have to have their finger on the pulse of the industry. New technologies will emerge and, once mainstream, will attract fraudsters. The world is becoming more and more digital. We see a strong trend towards online and mobile banking across the globe. Other industries, however, are just at the beginning of the digital transformation, like the insurance and health sectors. Furthermore, we are seeing a strong industry trend towards digital signatures and in a couple of years, there will be more use cases around digital identities. There are also new technologies which need to be taken into account: wearables, voice commerce, new services based on blockchain technology. The more digital any sector becomes, the more attractive for fraudsters it will become.

Melanie says, “Entersekt understands the threat landscape the cybersecurity industry faces and takes a visionary approach: so far, we have had remarkable success in anticipating where future issues will come from and how we can use our technology to counter them. We understand that it isn’t enough to simply react to trends in digital fraud or to try and improve incrementally on long-established authentication practices. That’s why we built something entirely new, and we continue to innovate in that spirit. I believe companies that operate with this mentality stand a much better chance of surviving the many unknowns and changes that lie ahead.”

Piece of Advice to Budding Leaders

Melanie advice to emerging leaders to first, ask yourself, why do you want to become a leader? Just for the title? Subject matter experts don’t necessarily make great leaders. Leadership is not a rank, it’s a choice. There are people who have authority, but that does not make them a leader. There are people who have no authority, but they themselves are leaders. That’s a truth a lot of companies today still overlook and unfortunately, there are still not enough technical career tracks resulting in people going for the management track in order to advance in their career. However, if you decide that this is the right track for you, start with yourself: get to know yourself, and focus on self-awareness and self-monitoring.

Ask your company to provide you with coaching or leadership training. Also, importantly, focus on your strategic network – smart leaders accomplish their goals by creating a strong network of allies and supporters – looking beyond their immediate circle of influence. Providing guidance, feedback and being direct while still showing empathy can feel like walking a tightrope – but with enough passion and the right tools, it will be a very rewarding journey.