As a child, it was her dream to become a teacher, divorce attorney or judge. As a teenager, she pictured herself working as an interpreter or translator. In some way, she is currently filling all of these professions: In her role as Chief Risk Officer (CRO), Cornelia Schwertner translates the law, implemented by the official authorities, into legal actions or trainings for tech and business and vice versa.
After studying commercial law at the University of Siegen and completing internships at audit companies and different law offices, including overseas in Canada, Cornelia started her career working for more than seven years as a Manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers within its Forensic Services unit.
At PwC, she handled tasks like advising clients from the financial services sector on the prevention of fraud, money laundering and the violation of financial sanctions. Due to her position, Cornelia had the chance to get a look behind the scenes of many big banks, to build a strong network, gain experience in leading a team and to work on exciting topics and also special investigations. This first job after university was crucial for leading Cornelia’s career path into the banking sector. “I’ve never pictured myself in a Bank before I went to my first banking client in the second week at PwC.”, says Cornelia.
Liking the fight against subprime crisis suspects, big fraudsters and money launderers, Cornelia expanded her knowledge in banking compliance and found herself in an expert role rather early in her career. “After working at PwC, I was already told to be “overqualified” for non-banking compliance – so I somehow got stuck with the industry”, says Cornelia.
It didn’t take long before Cornelia felt she had outgrown consulting external companies. She wanted to implement the strategies she developed, on her own. She worked as an Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Fraud officer at different financial institutions, before she finally joined the Banking Service Provider figo GmbH in 2016.
“At that time in my career, I had to choose between a department head of a major German bank with a topic focused expert leadership role, or my broader role as head of regulation at figo. I chose less money and the start up risk, because I wanted to finally drive smart, strategic compliance. FinTech finally provided this possibility as a real chance.”, says Cornelia.
At figo, she built up the compliance team and setup from scratch in a startup environment, with all the lessons she had learned before. Besides this, Cornelia drove the implementation of PSD2 from a market perspective and managed the project that brought figo the PSD2 licence as the first third party provider in Germany. Since August 2018, she has been managing figo’s regulatory compliance in the role of a Chief Risk Officer (CRO).
“What also has been great: all the policy work coming with FinTech as PSD2 and other regulations were and still are “work in progress” with regard to FinTech cases. I really like this part of my job: sharing strategic ideas with legislators and regulators on smart and effective regulation”, says Cornelia.
Besides the work at figo, Cornelia also has been a Co-Chair of the European FinTech Alliance since 2017. EFA was founded in 2016 and as a growing alliance represents the interests of fintech companies vis-à-vis the institutions of the European Union. Since 2019, figo joined forces with finreach solutions, a SaaS provider for banks, well-known for its account switch kits. Together, both companies will build the leading SaaS API platform, enabling their partners across Europe to build financial products. Cornelia rounds out the management of the merged companies as Chief Risk Officer (CRO).
Cornelia: “Being part of the management I have the chance to maintain my eagerness to not only help us internally with regard to smart compliance, but also to provide a great experience for our B2B-customers when choosing us as their solution provider. I am also part of the product development, involved in decision making from backend to frontend, as all risk topics are also a user topic in the end.”
Even though a merger between companies is always a challenge, Cornelia clearly sees the opportunity in the case of figo and finreach solutions, by, on the one hand, having the big idea of creating a truly innovative platform, while on the other hand knowing by the track record of both companies, that it’s actually realistic to achieve that goal.
And how did Cornelia achieve her personal career goals? To that she says, “What helped the most in my career were some simple rules that I follow until today. I always stay authentic, I speak my mind when I don’t approve of something and I try to understand others before I judge. Even before being part of a management team, I have always been focused strongly on solution orientation and a constructive overview on how to reach our goals, while keeping the “big picture” of the overall company in mind.”