Women Leading The Finance Industry: “I’ve been told a glass ceiling exists, but I choose not to accept anything that will hold me back from achieving my goals or potential.” with Cyndie Martini and Tyler Gallagher

I think we have finally come to accept the equality of men and women in the work place. Intelligence is not gauged by your gender, nor are we rated by our desire to succeed. Each of us have a purpose. I truly believe it’s our God given right to work at our potential in any […]

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I think we have finally come to accept the equality of men and women in the work place. Intelligence is not gauged by your gender, nor are we rated by our desire to succeed. Each of us have a purpose. I truly believe it’s our God given right to work at our potential in any field we choose. True, I’ve been told a glass ceiling exists, but I choose not to accept anything that will hold me back from achieving my goals or potential. Men and women have views on their “positions” and what that should mean in society. Yet, at the end of the day we all have free will and the ability to define our own path.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Cyndie Martini, the President and CEO of Member Access Progressing, the largest aggregator for credit unions in the United States. Cyndie has managed and directed successful credit union card and ATM portfolios, marketing programs and business strategies for over 30 years. In 1998, Martini spearheaded Member Access Processing’s entry into the card payment and ATM processing arena — the first and only credit union league (Washington Credit Union League) nationally to resell Visa Debit Processing Services (DPS) as a “collectively” priced card processing solution. Martini has propelled this business model into one of the nation’s leading CUSOs while fostering MAP’s relationship with Visa, Inc. into a premier and exclusive partnership.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?

Back in the late 1990s, when debit cards were in their infancy, only a few processing companies were dedicated to debit. Quick advancements in technology swiftly revolutionized payment processing, often with dramatic impacts on processors and clients. In the late 1990’s, Westcoast financial institutions experienced unexpected difficulty with a local processor due to Y2K preparation and a subsequent merger. It was at this time many clients experienced swings in funds settlements, multiple transaction postings, unrecovered funds and ongoing service issues. I was employed at the Association of Credit Unions in Washington State, affectionately called “The League” in the area of governmental affairs, regulatory compliance and PAC fund raising. Because of my past experience managing payment programs, I was called upon to convene a townhall meeting of those impacted in search of future opportunities to support our affiliated credit unions. As a result, I developed a request for proposal (RFP) with approximately four payment processors which culminated in a final report and presentations by each processor to our credit union community. During the RFP it became clear an alternative solution to the status quo was needed. I proposed a business concept to my supervisor which swiftly became a business plan outline. Board approval was gained shortly thereafter. Following the board meeting my supervisor turned to me with note pages in hand and said “I am excited we are starting a payments processing business. Go make it happen!” There was no funding and no formal client business secured, just a passion to do right by our credit unions by providing a solution they would be proud to serve their members.

Today, billion-dollar processors are gobbling up other billion-dollar payment companies just to stay relevant in an era where banking is moving away from the vertically integrated business model established over 3 decades ago. There are over 10,000 fintechs globally that would likely bounce on an idea I was given the chance to move forward with. I feel very lucky, but I have also enjoyed every minute of it! I have been honored to work with outstanding technology partners, amazing people, credit unions and their members for over 20+ years. I would have never imagined leaving the Board room on approval day I would be embarking on a remarkable journey and career that provided me the ability to pursuit my vision and passion each and every day.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The world of APIs and Open Banking will change everything for banks and credit union over the next few years. First we saw it with mobile banking and payments, and now it’s moved away from the core legacy systems that financial institutions use to run their everyday business. While the opportunity hasn’t become mainstream yet, once people realize the potential and overcome fear, they will love it. The development and introduction of new processes and products that have taken us weeks or months in the recent past, will be accomplished in hours or days in the near future.

At every opportunity, I am recommending institutions begin embracing Open Banking solutions now as they are onboarding new products and services. While we recognize that we are in the early days of moving away from banking as a vertically integrated business, there is no time to waste in adopting models like those used by Amazon and Google, which employs a series of horizontal layers that connect with each other and exchange data easily. We see collaboration as essential first step to helping clients assess their strategies and goals necessary to address immediate needs and long-term solutions.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

I think we have finally come to accept the equality of men and women in the work place. Intelligence is not gauged by your gender, nor are we rated by our desire to succeed. Each of us have a purpose. I truly believe it’s our God given right to work at our potential in any field we choose. True, I’ve been told a glass ceiling exists, but I choose not to accept anything that will hold me back from achieving my goals or potential. Men and women have views on their “positions” and what that should mean in society. Yet, at the end of the day we all have free will and the ability to define our own path. Those paths are our opportunities and frame our purpose. I had two reasons start the company, one personal and one professional. When I was offered the opportunity I was asked a very smart question, “Do you want someone else to tell you what to do or do you want to run the company?” I knew I wanted to run the company because the credit unions needed us. I had seen how others were failing credit unions through a lack of service. In Seattle we are lucky to have had decades of first-hand experience with the Nordstrom service model. It’s that kind of service we’re always trying to emulate, where client comes first in everything. This philosophy has served us and our clients well.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?

First, women in business should recognize that men feel just as insecure in their positions and lives as we do. Understanding that offers women, especially women just starting out, the advantage of perspective. Second, women need to support each other. I belong to a SheEO group whose focus is on being positive for ourselves as individuals. As professionals, we give up so much of ourselves at home, work, and community. We need the power of positive words to nurture our individuality — to speak wisely and remove the negative from our lives. I firmly believe a different mindset can change a negative situation into a positive one. Finally, we all need to practice forgiveness and understanding. In business as in life, we will get hurt by others. There is nothing as destructive as anger and resentments. As Nelson Mandela said, “I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.” We need to look for a positive outcome or a way to exit a bad situation.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

I was a volunteer for the local Youth Involvement Board, where I talked to high school and middle school students about the impact of decisions. I shared that “you should not let choices happen to you — choose to make conscious decisions.” Opt for a direction even if you don’t know the final outcome. You can always change mid-stream if you have the mindfulness to course correct. And, it’s never too early to save — a point I cannot stress enough and applies to at any age. I remember reading the prospectus about my first IRA that started by saving $25 per week I would have $1.2 million after 30 years. The thought stuck with me my entire adult life. I worked to achieve my goal even if it took 35 years or more. I reminded myself regularly I would not succeed if my diligence weakened. So, with each paycheck deduction I just pretended the money was never there to begin with. Not always an easy task with a growing young family. I would advise those younger than me to be careful of how much debt you carry through life. It’s easy to grow debt as your income increases but it can have negative effects. Set a percentage of how much debt to income you will take on early in life. This forces you to have a budget and the mindfulness to think through the value of your purchases. Having patience with what you want and what you are accumulating can be good for the soul. Finally, learn to set rules for your budget cooperatively. First with roommates, but most importantly with your spouse or partner. Develop an understanding of what you can spend and save together. Have long-term spending and saving agreements with your spouse or partner helps in managing daily expenditures and future expectations such topics as children, mortgages, college and retirement goals.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Success often takes grit and fortitude. Sometimes those closest to you can be the most inspiring. My oldest son experienced a life changing accident just weeks following the Board approval of MAP. My first thought was I could not manage the start of a new company and also help my son begin a new life. From the beginning, his strength, amazing courage, ability to see and go for each step in the path — to move steadily forward, was my greatest inspiration. His story is one of strength, commitment and unwavering optimism of what the future could hold. We walked the journey together and grew together. My purpose became two-fold, to build a company that would provide outstanding value and prosperity for our clients and a life for my son that would allow him the ability to find true happiness, success and joy. I do not know if I would have pushed myself as hard had I not had such a beautiful and inspiring role model by my side. I will not sugar coat the difficult times. But, I do know our struggles made us stronger, wiser and more appreciative of what we have.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I will survive.” — Gloria Gaynor

I believe that no matter what life throws at you can get through it. And it’s fun to dance to.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Every person has the ability to achieve their greatest good–whatever form their greatest good is to them. We are at our best when we acknowledge that we are intrinsically powerful with the ability to provide a positive and impactful influence on those around us. When a person says, “I want to be just like you.” I think, why? You have so much to offer being you.” It’s why I am not a fan of reality TV. To me, it’s wasted energy thinking about what it would be like to live someone else’s life. Conscience living requires actively connecting with one’s self and others. I take a few minutes each morning to read inspiring words or books to help me reflect and build upon the person I am, what I value and to affirm how I want to show up each day to the world around me. I believe that by being true to myself and my principles as a person and business leader has led to the creation of a culture and company I hope will continue to serve and provide value to future generations.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

About The Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders.

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