Member spotlight: Stephanie Wallace
What is being In-House Regulatory Counsel like in a young fast paced FinTech business? ‘It can be challenging and there is a lot of responsibility, but there are with amazing opportunities to grasp.’ Says Stephanie Wallace (nee Jackson, RGS 1998 – 2005), our latest Spotlight, about her role at the award winning FinTech company, Ratesetter.
“Fintech is a really interesting, fast-paced sector,” Stephanie says, “and there is a lot going on. RateSetter is at an exciting stage in its corporate life – it was founded in 2010 so is very young and growing rapidly.”
What were your first steps in your career?
After finishing A-Levels at RGS, I went to Warwick and read History and French. Initially I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but was interested in Law. I knew I liked words! I spent my third year in France where I luckily got a place on a 4-week vocational vacation scheme at Hogan Lovells International LLP (HL). After this, I successfully interviewed for an HL training contract and they sponsored me to do my BPP Conversion to Law and Legal Practice Course.
When I finished my training contract, I qualified into the Commercial and Retail Banking team at HL, where I enjoyed learning from the industry-leading legal experts and working with lenders and retailers for almost 4 years, before I was headhunted for this job. I loved it at HL but felt that opportunities like this one are rare and jumped at the chance to give it a go.
How did you find the change from Hogan Lovells to RateSetter?
It’s been an interesting change from a huge global firm to in-house at a smaller, faster-moving firm. I have responsibility for advising the company on consumer finance legislation and FCA regulation. As well as advising the business and senior management, I work closely with the Compliance team and external counsel. I like that I am involved in a wide range of projects and have a high level of responsibility that I wouldn’t get the opportunity experience at this stage in a larger firm.
What do you like about RateSetter?
It is a really interesting, varied place to work and never a dull day. I like it when our team are involved right from the outset of a project. Getting to see the whole process from launch through to implementation and beyond. The flipside is that working at a small company, operating within a relatively new regulatory framework, can be challenging because we are always trying to balance innovation with risk reduction. Being in-house means there is obviously less support to rely on, but I am building up a broad knowledge which will help me in my long-term ambitions. There is also a fantastic culture with a real value on work-life balance.
The gender pay gap in finance firms is being talked a lot about at the moment, how has the youthful Ratesetter faired?
Actually, the legal and compliance teams here are almost all female, so it’s kind of the other way around!
Having less than 250 employees, we didn’t have to publish gender pay gap figures this time, but our CEO reassured us that RateSetter compares very favourably to others in the financial services sector*. This is good, but there is still work to be done across the sector, particularly at a more senior level.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m still in the fairly early stages of my career, my ambitions are to be General Counsel for a Financial Services firm.
I measure success holistically – I’d also like to use my skills in a charity trustee role. The Salvation Army is very close to my heart, and I want to help unemployed people get back to work. Those I have met through my volunteering at St Luke’s Community Centre made me realise how important a job is for people’s dignity.
Finally, what would your advice be for any RGS student following in your footsteps?
- Do your research – it pays off. With a bit of luck, I was informed and in the right place when the opportunities at Hogan Lovells and RateSetter came along.
- Be brave – get in touch with firms you are interested in.
- Use your networks – More and more, good positions are being filled by word of mouth or your LinkedIn Profile.
- Show enthusiasm – don’t be snobby about names of firms. Show what you know and why you want to do it.
- you can teach (almost!) anyone to be a lawyer, but can’t teach enthusiasm for it. That is the difference between a good and a great lawyer.
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* There is a good article about gender pay gaps if you want to find out more.