Alison Stapleton is a seasoned financial executive who has worked across both traditional finance and modern financial technology companies, leveraging her valuable knowledge and experience gained from her time at the Bank of Ireland and PwC. As the Head of Corporate Development at Salt Labs, Inc., a company with a mission to enable hourly workers to own the value they create from their work, Alison is passionate about using financial technology to create positive social impact and financial outcomes for the underserved.
Her focus on creating a future where hourly workers can capture the value of their work beyond their paycheck, leading to greater financial freedom and long-term wealth creation, has the potential to revolutionize the way employees are compensated and create a more equitable economy.
As an expert in the field of finance and technology, Alison’s insights on the current and future state of the industry are highly sought after. In this interview, we will delve into her vast experience, explore her thoughts on the latest trends and innovations in finance and technology, and gain valuable insights into her vision for the future.
Thanks for sharing your time with us, Alison. Can you tell us about your experience working in both the financial and technology industries, specifically your time at the Bank of Ireland and PwC?
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have gained experience in both traditional finance and modern financial technology companies. My time at PwC and Bank of Ireland were pivotal moments in my career, providing me with the foundational knowledge and skills that I continue to utilize in my work today.
During my tenure at the Bank of Ireland, I worked on a team that was responsible for managing interest rate risk for the entire bank and supporting liquidity management for billions of dollars of deposits. This experience provided me with a deep understanding of risk management, which has proven invaluable in my subsequent positions in capital markets adjacent functions.
At PwC, I had the opportunity to work directly with partners to deliver accurate audit opinions for some of the largest funds in the world. The culture of professional services firms like PwC is unmatched when it comes to instilling a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence in their employees. The training I received at PwC was not limited to technical skills; I also gained valuable experience in interpersonal skills, client management, ethics, and more.
Overall, I feel that the combination of my experiences in traditional finance and modern financial technology has provided me with a unique perspective and skill set that allows me to excel in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of financial services. I look forward to continuing to build on this foundation as I take on new challenges and opportunities.
How did you utilize your fintech expertise at PwC, and what impact did you have on clients?
During my time at PwC, I was directly involved in servicing partners on delivering accurate audit opinions for some of the largest funds in the world. As a member of the audit team, my role involved gathering and analyzing financial data, identifying and assessing risks, testing internal controls, and communicating findings to the engagement team.
While this experience was prior to my transition into fintech, I was always an entrepreneurial self-starter even in the traditional finance environment, continuously seeking to challenge the status quo, from evaluating the effectiveness and efficiencies of audit tools to identifying areas of weakness in systems and processes to help our team to stay ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving landscape and fast-paced environment so that we could deliver the most complete audit opinions to our clients.
How have you navigated the challenges of bridging the gap between traditional financial institutions and innovative technology solutions?
It has definitely been a challenge! While traditional financial institutions have an abundance of resources, fintech firms rely on agility and questioning the status quo. It can be challenging to move quickly and with agility while providing meaningful inputs and creating practical solutions. Likewise, it’s incredibly important to continue to have curiosity, be a values-driven leader, and possess a growth mindset when operating in more ambiguous environments that start-ups can offer.
Bridging the gap between traditional financial institutions and innovative technology solutions requires a combination of technical expertise, effective communication, relationship building, and a deep understanding of the needs and challenges faced by both sides. It’s a challenging but exciting space to work in, and I’m looking forward to continuing to navigate these challenges as the financial services industry continues to evolve.
Can you discuss a specific project or initiative you led at the Bank of Ireland or PwC that you are particularly proud of?
By challenging yourself and assuming responsibility for projects beyond your day-to-day work, you can gain valuable experience, learn new skills, and develop strong relationships with key stakeholders.
At the Bank of Ireland, one such challenging initiative that I took on outside the scope of my job enabled me to gain exposure to senior executives and industry leaders and insights into an area of finance that later proved valuable for subsequent roles. For this specific project, I took on the responsibility of assessing the effectiveness and impact of cross-border securities settlements on the market. This initiative was beyond the scope of my job, but I felt that it was important to take on challenges and expand my knowledge and skill set.
As part of this project, I worked closely with senior executives and industry leaders to gain insights into the current state of the market and understand how securities settlements can be made more efficient. I researched and analyzed data, evaluated the effectiveness of current processes, and identified areas for improvement.
Throughout the project, I was able to develop strong relationships with key stakeholders, including leaders in the money market liquidity groups across Europe. This gave me a valuable opportunity to network and learn from experienced professionals in the industry.
Overall, I believe that taking on new responsibilities is a critical component of personal and professional development. It not only helps you learn and grow but also enables you to make a meaningful contribution to your organization and the industry as a whole.
How did you approach relationship-building with clients while at the Bank of Ireland and how did that impact your role?
At the Bank of Ireland, my clients were mainly internal stakeholders such as traders, business analysts, and senior management. This experience provided me with a unique perspective on the importance of stakeholder management. To effectively manage stakeholders, it’s crucial to understand their needs and goals and to treat them as if they were external clients, even if they are colleagues in different departments.
In my role, I focused on identifying the key stakeholders, understanding their requirements and pain points, and developing relationships with them based on trust and transparency. This helped me to effectively support the bank’s interest rate risk management and liquidity management activities and to provide valuable insights that informed business decisions.
One of the most significant impacts of my relationship-building efforts was the ability to work collaboratively with different departments to develop and implement solutions that addressed their unique needs. This resulted in improved communication, streamlined processes, and more efficient risk management activities across the bank. As a result, I was able to gain the trust and respect of my stakeholders, which positively impacted my role and ultimately contributed to the overall success of the bank.
Can you talk about your experience working with both start-ups and established corporations in the financial and tech industries?
One key difference that I have found between start-ups and established corporations is the level of flexibility they have. Start-ups are typically more agile and able to pivot quickly in response to changing market conditions or customer needs. In contrast, established corporations have more rigorous processes, reporting infrastructure, and conditions before entering into ambiguous markets.
In the tech industry, I have found that start-ups may have a stronger focus on innovation and disruption, while established corporations may be more focused on maintaining market share and defending their existing business models. That being said, while start-ups may be more likely to embrace new technologies and platforms, established corporations often have innovation hubs focused on evaluating innovative technologies with the agility of start-ups but the resources of larger institutions.
I am so grateful to have had the experience at both. The professional training that established corporations provide you is second to none. In contrast, working for a start-up often requires you to be a self-starter with a high degree of flexibility and agility in your thinking and approach, as well as a willingness to take risks and try new things.
How has your experience with traditional financial institutions influenced your approach to creating technology solutions for hourly workers?
It is funny because at both PwC and Bank of Ireland, my stakeholders were fellow institutions. Creating technology solutions for hourly workers requires a deep understanding of their needs, behaviors, and preferences, which differ widely from those of traditional financial institution customers. Hourly workers have different financial goals, constraints, and priorities – this showed through to areas as simple as the different channels of communication and engagement hourly workers prefer when interacting with financial products and services.
But the experience in traditional financial institutions provided me with the fundamentals of financial markets and being a professional business person which have translated seamlessly to both DailyPay and Salt Labs so that I can more effectively build those businesses to successfully create technology solutions for hourly workers. For instance, in understanding the workings of financial and capital markets, being able to raise money and deploy that capital effectively is the key to creating technology solutions.
In addition to technical skills, working in traditional financial institutions also developed my soft skills which have proven invaluable. For example, the ability to build relationships with clients and stakeholders is a critical skill that can be honed when working in financial institutions. This skill has been particularly important for me when creating technology solutions for hourly workers, as it allows me to think deeply about how to build trust in the solutions being offered.
At the end of the day, whether your client is a consumer, a business, or a financial institution, you need to be able to understand financial markets to build and operate that business effectively and have a professional approach to relationship building to serve your users for sustainable growth.
How did your time at PWC prepare you for your current role and what specific skills or experiences have you been able to transfer?
I believe that achieving success in my role is ultimately driven by my ability to lead and inspire my team and colleagues.
My experience at PwC was invaluable in this regard, as I honed my people management and collaboration skills while working in a highly collaborative environment. At PwC, I learned how to work effectively in teams to deliver solutions for clients, which has been crucial in my current role where teamwork and collaboration are essential for success.
In addition to these soft skills, PwC also gave me the opportunity to operate on complex projects from start to finish. As a young professional, I had the chance to manage projects from the beginning stages all the way through to completion. This experience has been extremely useful in my current role, where it is my responsibility to develop and execute on strategies through various business functions and then tie together departmental results into the overall business narrative. Thanks to my time at PwC, I feel well-equipped to handle the various challenges that come with leading complex projects and teams.