Women in Technology: Stephanie Lyon
Updated: Jan 12
Celebrating Women’s History Month!
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with Ncontracts’ Vice President of Compliance and Regulatory Content Strategy Stephanie Lyons. The Brentwood, Tenn.-based company provides a comprehensive integrated risk management and compliance platform to more than 4,200 clients.
By W.B. King
Since Stephanie Lyon entered the credit union space in 2013, she has focused on how credit unions need to evolve to best serve the needs of membership. At the time, she was a regulatory compliance intern at State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU). Among her tasks was co-managing a three-month strategic planning session that directly impacted the board of directors’ 2014 fiscal agenda.
“This opened my eyes to the importance of operational fintech partnerships as financial institutions cannot provide all member needs without continued investment in technology to reach more customers, provide faster access to funds, and keep up with the pace of change,” recalled Lyon, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Schreiner University and later a juris doctorate from George Washington University Law School.
After her time at SDFCU, she next interned at World Bank Group before joining GEICO Federal Credit Union as a risk management specialist.
“This realization was even clearer after I became a risk management specialist for a smaller credit union that relied on manual processes from account opening to back-office fraud detection. Without technology, our smaller team was unable to scale and with fewer assets, this institution could also not afford to hire more staff to keep the manual processes running,” Lyon continued. “We were at a crossroad, but I took what I learned at SDFCU and made a push to invest in process improvement technology.”
A major takeaway from these experiences was that “no financial institution can survive without partnerships," said Lyon. “Especially in this day-and-age where our customers are savvier and expect a frictionless experience no matter where they try to interact [be it] online banking, website or by phone.”
The Only Female in the Room
Noting a figure that women make up fewer than 30% of employees in the fintech industry, Lyon said at the beginning stages of her career she was the only women in her immediate work environment.
“During the past few years, I have started to notice more women in the tech space and I believe this shift started with more women in leadership as well as allies who understand the importance of representation,” said Lyons, who assumed her current role as Ncontracts’ Vice President of Compliance and Regulatory Content Strategy in 2019.
“For example, when I first joined a software company, we only had about 10% of females in the technology department and no females in management,” she continued. “After I was promoted to vice president and given the ability to hire, my team is now comprised mostly of qualified females. I have challenged my male colleagues to look at their departments and try to close the gender gap.”
Among colleagues she admires and points to as a mentor is Ncontracts’ Chief Technology Officer Bill Simpson who taught Lyon “that the best software is built by inspired people.” Being a leader, he told her, “means getting to know your people, understanding what they value and playing to their strengths.”
This advice came in handy when Lyon assumed her first executive role opposed to being an “individual contributor.” Simpson, she added, took a chance on her.
“He recognizes that it doesn’t take long tenure or brilliant hard skills to be a great leader. I attribute most of my success as a young leader to his management style that I adopted to inspire my team to deliver their best work,” Lyon said. “I now have the pleasure of coaching my own team of managers, and I have already started to impart the importance of leading with empathy, building trust, and coaching people so they can do whatever they want within our company and anywhere else.”
Building Software with a Human Touch
A dedicated problem solver, Lyon’s skillset includes software development. She recently advanced a compliance management software solution designed to transform the day-to-day job of compliance officers.
“This software was unique to others in the market because it married technology with knowledge to be a true knowledge as a service (KaaS) offering,” she noted, adding that of the 280-plus Ncontracts employees 67 are in research and development. “This compliance management solution took off like a rocket ship and it is now one of our best-selling solutions.”
Software initiatives like the aforementioned are important, she said, because compliance and risk management are only getting more complex.
“Just last year, hundreds of new regulations, laws and expectations on the federal and state level emerged, making it nearly impossible to engage in effective compliance and risk management without relying on partnerships and technology,” Lyon continued. “We are essentially at a crossroads where traditional banking institutions either embrace technology or they drown. Fintechs offer the essential innovation push that the traditional banking space needs to mature and scale their compliance risk management efforts.”
And while she fully embraces the possibilities technology affords, she is mindful not to lose the human touch.
“There are jobs better handled by computers such as digesting millions of pieces of data points to produce insights. However, people and technology need to work together to ensure responsible innovation and ultimately make the banking space more inclusive and fair for all,” she said. “Looking ahead, I see the marriage of technology with the human understanding of the banking space and our responsibilities to the communities as a productive approach to improve and future-proof the financial services space.”
What continues to excite Lyon is the opportunity to make second and third-line processes “smarter” by developing software that take the “hardest parts of the compliance officer, risk managers, and auditor’s jobs and turbocharges it” with technology.
“Because of our SaaS based mode, we can offer our solutions to institutions of all asset sizes, across the U.S. and evolve with them,” she said, noting that Ncontracts increased revenue by 73% in 2021 and added 500 clients, moving from roughly 3,700 clients to more than 4,200.
“Responsible innovation is the way to move forward, and I hope to continue to see the tech industry self-regulate,” she said. “Regulations and laws cannot keep up with the pace of change, but tech companies have the resources to review algorithms, correct flawed assumptions, and employ diverse people who can ensure models are representative.”
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