Blog

Meet Stephie Ndinga, Swan’s Chief Compliance Officer

How Swan’s Chief Compliance Officer helped set the foundation for Swan to scale its European Banking-as-a-Service. Plus, catch her thoughts on how to fuel your own ambitions!

Sarah Wachter
March 8, 2022

Before joining Swan as Chief Compliance Officer, Stéphie was at Leetchi, a leading European crowdfunding platform (12 million+ users), where she created a scalable scoring engine and built a compliance department from the ground up.

An expert in fraud, regulation, and client services, Stéphie is just the powerhouse Swan needed to help us earn our coveted e-money license, and to provide the most robust compliance processes.

Stéphie Ndinga picture and quote

Stéphie, what made you decide to join Swan?

Our founders had vivid plans for Swan. Their vision for the product was clear, and yet they were flexible as to how to achieve that vision. Swan is a mix between creativity and experience, that lets us build something innovative but solid and that’s something that really resonated with me.

Also, the job interview felt like a philosophical debate, we discussed what we really thought about payments, competitors, the payment ecosystem. It wasn’t a basic interview.

What led you to the Compliance profession in the first place? Young people don’t necessarily know this profession exists.

I originally wanted to become a trader, so I studied finance. After a couple of years in Belgium working in project management, I wanted to return to France and happened upon a Junior Management position at Leetchi, a crowdfunding platform. I applied because I was fascinated by everything related to risk: statistics, scoring risk. Like Swan, Leetchi was regulated, and so a Compliance department was created. I naturally went in that direction. It wasn’t a conscious choice at first but it suits me so well.

In Compliance, you have to find the optimum way to connect different areas so they function in unison: risk, scoring, legal, business, product... That’s what excites me about this work, on a daily basis.

So, you studied finance and worked in project management. What other profiles fit well in the Compliance area?

Firstly, legal experts, people who studied law. We see this in traditional bank systems. But once you look at Fintechs and get into the evolution of the Compliance profession, the job is not just to apply rules, but also to understand them, adapt them to the market. We’re finding ex-legal folks who also have startup experience to be a great fit. Or people from business schools, especially if they also studied risk.

How did you go about setting up Swan’s compliance department in the first place?

We had to get our e-money license, to be able to supply banking services to companies. That was my first mission.

Otherwise, after the first 2 months, I set up a foundation. Writing documentation, processes, imagining the right framework to link Compliance to Business, Product, and to the company’s life in general. The department was built to be in phase with everything else that is going on in the company, because fintechs must look ahead to tomorrow; otherwise things can get tricky when it’s necessary to pivot.

”How do we scale” was top of mind from the start. Going international, launching new services, having bigger and bigger KYC teams, and being prepared to welcome all kinds of businesses as partners.

The team was tiny when you arrived. How has the atmosphere changed over time?

I arrived during early Covid days and we’ve multiplied 7 or 8 times since. What I’ve noticed from the beginning is that everyone is devoted to what they do, whether they’re junior or senior. Everyone understands what’s expected of them, and does it well. It’s like we’re all playing a melody in unison, led by the same conductor. When the next person walks into the room, they grab an instrument and start playing along at the same beat and frequency as everyone else.

The ambiance has always been warm and friendly. Having worked at a number of other companies before, this is noteworthy. The fact that we’re able to keep this ambiance as we scale.

Swan got its start during the pandemic — what’s the remote policy like today?

During the lockdowns, we were all stuck at home and had this kind of solidarity. Some of us were alone, others were well surrounded. But still, we would all connect for Friday drinks and I think this really kept up the mental health of the team. Coming out of this we were actually closer than before.

Today we have a bunch of people working remotely, some who come into the office a few days a week, and others who like to be in the office every single day. Everyone understands they belong to a team, so we do show up for each other. And we have off-sites where everyone can regroup - a chateau, a trip to the mountains. I think this is a really healthy way of doing things.

What are your hopes and dreams for Swan?

So much effort, love, and serious attention is put into this company. We’ve thrown ourselves into the product, to make it great and extremely useable. We make it possible for tech companies to grow and scale - with embedded financial features. I’m excited to see how far they get. To see Swan help power Europe’s next tech giants.

So, Swan makes it possible for tech companies to grow and scale. And we’re scaling ourselves! Let’s talk management. Can you tell me how we cultivate managers at Swan?

We create the managers of tomorrow not by teaching them to tell others what to do, but rather to bring others towards their best selves. That’s what we preach at Swan. And we teach our managers to encourage others to do the same. We’re all in the same boat.

As Chief Compliance Officer you work closely with Swan’s CEO, COO, and CTO. What’s that like?

With Mathieu Breton (CTO), our relationship is very Cartesian, straightforward. We both have a logical vision. Black and white.

Nicolas Benady (CEO) looks so far into the future, sometimes it’s hard to understand what he’s saying at first, but a week later you see that he’s got a 360-degree vision. Nico sees things the rest of us don’t yet. His ambition is to take Swan much further than our little eyes can see.

And Nicolas Saison (COO), I love talking to him. He leads me to the right questions. When we exchange, it feels like ping-pong with my spirit. He gets into my head and seeks the origin of my reasoning, to help me confirm that the origin of my reasoning is right. We usually manage to reach the same conclusion but it can take an hour of meticulous discussion to get there.

Beyond Swan, management, compliance...what are you reading and watching these days?

Right now I’m into the docu-series Great Greek Myths (Zeus, The Odyssey). It’s interesting to see how a civilization that was once so dominant had such a fantastical way of looking at things. 🐉

I’m watching another one on Arté about dictatorships. And I’m working on getting my driver's license! So I’ve got my nose in the Driver’s Manual...

Any advice for young people just starting out?

Aim for the stars to reach the moon. Always try to go further. Is your dream to become a CEO? Don’t start out thinking, “how impossible.” Ask yourself, “ok what do I have to do to become a CEO?”

Desire things. Then give yourself the means to get there. Sometimes we think Linkedin posts, going to conferences, etc, will do it. But those things don’t make the leaders of tomorrow. Tomorrow is built by those who make change happen. So think beyond the surface. Concretely, this means taking time to understand the business you’re in. Are you in a big company? A startup? A scale-up? Once you understand your environment, you can make the most of the opportunities in front of you.

Push yourself beyond what society authorizes or reflects onto you. Don’t let anyone say: “you’re this type of person, you can only do such and such.” Only you can decide what type of person you are. So get to know yourself, what you want, and follow that!

Today, March 8th is Women’s Day! Any special words?

A lot of progress has been made so women can thrive in leadership positions, but we shouldn’t stop here. As I said, we mustn’t let anyone tell us what’s impossible. No one can decide in our place. We must put in a lot of effort, make a point to connect with the right people, and look for those people who have goodwill. Look for a supportive environment. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people today who have given me opportunities.

While we know that women still need to do more to be considered equally to the opposite sex, many men today understand this. Men who are our allies. Many stereotypes have been broken, and we are advancing bit by bit. I’m optimistic.

Sarah Wachter
March 8, 2022
Share article

Related Blog Articles

Company

Swan - Becoming a European company

The time has come for Europeans to build the next tech giants. Swan is here to help power the next generation!

Newsletter

Even more embedded finance goodness! News, feature-updates, tips, tricks, and more. For all the fintech builders out there.