Visa-owned fintech Plaid has hired a former regulator as its new general counsel to help it better work with wary banks — here's how her consumer champion background will be key

  • Major startup Plaid announced Thursday that Meredith Fuchs, a veteran lawyer with decades of experience in government regulatory agencies, is joining as its new general counsel.
  • Fuchs has worked in a slew of high-profile jobs in government, from chief investigative counsel for the US House of Representatives' committee on energy and commerce, to deputy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Business Insider spoke with Fuchs about how she landed at Plaid, and how she plans on helping the startup navigate tensions with banks that are concerned about fintechs accessing their data.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Plaid has hired Meredith Fuchs, an attorney with extensive experience working in government regulatory agencies, to join the startup as its new general counsel, the firm announced Thursday.

As GC, she will be overseeing the legal and risk teams at Plaid, a major Wall Street startup that links users' bank accounts with digital finance apps and services, and helping it navigate the thorny policy and legal issues surrounding the personal financial information it handles.

As fintechs have grown in stature, some banks have become wary of giving them unlimited access to customers' accounts and data. Zach Perret, Plaid's CEO and cofounder, told Business Insider in February a main focus of the startup was to put more controls in place around access to customers' data. 

Fuch foresees a potential challenge in helping banks, who are typically very focused on risks, understand that fintech products can actually benefit their customers and business.

"Part of what I want to bring to Plaid is just understanding that when banks are pushing hard about their interactions with Plaid, it's because they feel a lot of pressure from the way they're regulated," she said. "Once Plaid understands the banks better and the banks understand Plaid better, I think we're going to be able to jointly find solutions."

With her background in regulatory agencies like the CFPB, as well as in banks like Capital One, Fuchs is well-positioned to help bridge these seemingly opposed mindsets.

The road from regulator to legal counsel 

Although she always thought she'd be a litigator, Fuchs found herself jumping into a string of consumer-centered regulatory jobs after graduating from the New York University law school in 1993. 

In 2011, Fuchs spent a year as the chief investigative counsel for the US House of Representatives, before joining the government's newly-minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial crisis.

It was an encounter with a Texan megachurch's food bank during a CFPB work trip that stuck with Fuchs throughout her legal career. The church described how it was seeing more people coming to its food bank to ask for money — not to buy food, but to pay off their loans. 

"I thought, 'that is just not acceptable.' There's gotta be ways for our system to work, to allow people access to small-dollar loans, to help them get through hardship," she recalled.

Fuchs then moved in-house, spending four and a half years as senior vice president and chief counsel at Capital One. She helped the bank "make the right choices and stay out of trouble" as it navigated the complex regulatory landscape.

Read more: How lawyers can break into the $34.5 billion world of fintechs and land lucrative jobs at hot startups, from general counsel working at companies like Lemonade, Toast, and Stash

When Plaid reached out with the GC offer several months ago, right in the middle of the pandemic, Fuchs was initially hesitant, but the opportunity for growth ultimately reeled her in.

"I was happy at Capital One, but after speaking with the CEO of Plaid, I became excited by a company that wants to build the infrastructure for future financial services and expand access for consumers," she said.

Ultimately, Fuchs is the most eager to be part of a forward-looking startup whose core business is innovation.

"Several years down the line, Plaid is going to be able to look at all of the apps and developers who use its services… and realize that it actually helped change financial services," she said. "And I just think that's really exciting. The change is going to be access — access for any person to the services they need."

Read more:

  • $5.3 billion fintech Plaid is in the middle of a high-stakes fight over customer data. Its CEO told us why the startup wants to give users control.
  • Average fintech salaries are in the six figures. A talent exec at $5.3 billion Plaid lays out 3 ways to get your foot in the door.
  • The notoriously old-school legal industry is finally warming up to tech. Here are the winners and losers as law firms turn to startups to cut costs.

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