FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Co-Founder & COO at Maiden Century, Samrah Kazmi
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive: and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
- Maya Angelou
This resonates well with Samrah. To her it’s really important to take risks to stretch beyond her comfort zone, to continuously upskill and to live life to the fullest with a positive attitude, a growth mindset and consideration for others.
Samrah Kazmi has professional expertise from the unique combination of Fintech, SaaS and Compliance & Risk Management. Through her Risk Advisory practice, she has helped fintech startups shorten their sales cycle, land more enterprise deals and get to the next round of funding significantly faster. "A robust risk-aware culture can be the differentiator for emerging fintechs who, despite nailing product-market fit, must first pass the complex vendor due diligence requirements at incumbent banks to have their products adopted." She says.
Now Samrah serves as Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Maiden Century - The company sits at the confluence of asset management, alternative data and technology, and specializes in transforming alternative data into Alpha. Samrah's responsibilities go far beyond running its daily operations: She uses the portfolio of competencies that she built over the course of her career, to do justice to this multi-dimensional role. From writing and operationalizing compliance policies, conducting employee training, responding to customer due diligence inquiries, reviewing and negotiating legal documents, running cybersecurity with our Engineering Team, to managing all vendor relationships and strategic initiatives. No two days look the same to her.
Having been at the forefront of financial innovation since the beginning of her career, Samrah has had a very diverse set of experiences. She spent almost two decades in traditional financial services, first in equity derivatives trading, then structuring credit. During the Credit Crisis of 2008, she moved into Risk Management. "It was a challenging time for financial institutions as they experienced heightened regulatory scrutiny and major business and risk transformations." At the global bank where she worked, she built out the regulatory risk framework to meet the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s capital requirements for minimizing credit risk and for bank stress testing under the Dodd-Frank Act. She later applied her risk expertise to running a renewable energy loan platform (a green bank) at one of the largest utility companies in the US, executing the New York Stock Exchange-ICE merger and the $2 billion Risk Transformation of GE Capital known as “Project Hubble”. After pivoting to a SaaS company where she was a subject matter expert on technology for regulatory compliance (Regtech), she used her large-bank risk experience to enable SaaS Fintechs by building out risk, compliance & security frameworks. In 2019, Onalytica ranked Samrah among the top global Regtech Influencers. In 2020, she launched a risk advisory practice exclusively to help SaaS Fintech startups manage their innovation risks and move through the procurement process of incumbent banks with relative ease. Qaisar Hasan, the Founder of Maiden Century, approached Samrah to build out the governance framework for his alternative data startup, which was set to launch in the coming months. Seeing the value she could bring to the organization, Samrah joined as co-founder.
At Maiden Century, the core values underpin their agile culture. The Sales, Research & Engineering teams work very closely together, as the company is customer and product focused. Samrah is proud of Maiden Century’s technology: "The IDEA platform is a game changing, cloud-based alternative data platform for analytical users. After nearly 10 years in the making, encompassing 200,000+ man-hours of research and programming, the interface provides seamless data ingestion, evaluation, back-testing, modeling, quality assurance, and visualization out of the box. It is the de-facto standard for alternative data solutions."
On the personal side, besides her professional practice in risk advisory, Samrah is also proud to have successfully mentored industry colleagues who wanted to pivot from traditional financial services into fintech or regtech.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building on the new.”
- Socrates (470-399 BC), Philosopher
Samrah keeps being inspired by this quote and she says: "This is more true today than ever before. We are in a time where change is the only constant, but because people don’t like change, there is a lot of holding on to the old and resisting the new. Our job as innovators is to break this inertia by demonstrating unparalleled value through our products and services."
More on Samrah
Anything personal you would be open to sharing?
I was born & raised in Pakistan, studied in the US, UK and Europe, but consider NYC home, as I’ve lived here for more than two decades.
NYC nourishes my soul and fuels my creativity. I love the diversity of its neighborhoods; weather permitting, I run along the Hudson River, and as a live performance junkie, I attend the full season of the New York City Ballet, the Flamenco Festival and any new off-broadway shows.
Listening to non-fiction books on Audible and traveling to new /off-the-beaten path destinations
Favorite show to binge: Tough to pick one
1. The Queen’s Gambit - I’m always spellbound by the cerebral storyline layered on top of mid-century modern style
2. The Parisian Agency - When I feel like dreaming big
3. Silicon Valley - When I want to remind myself how aspects of my real-life career closely resemble a comedy show about startups.
What keeps you motivated?
Watching the impact my work and meeting all the smart people in the innovation ecosystem.
6:00am -6:30 am: I normally wake up around this time everyday and try to get an early morning workout either at home or at the gym, while listening to an audio book.
8:00am: Check the news, email, Slack & LinkedIn messages for anything urgent.
9:00am - 10:30am: This is my peak focus time so I try to do deep work like reviewing legal documents, writing or refining policy, responding to due diligence questionnaires, doing research on upcoming regulations and emerging requirements for our startup. Today, it’s a 70-page red-lined Master Services Agreement that requires my full concentration.
11:00am - 12:00pm: Because our team has grown significantly over the past few months, I’m now looking to implement an expense management platform. I take this time to get recommendations from industry peers, and talk to vendors to determine the best fit for our growing company.
1:00pm - 2:00pm: Attend online course on AWS Cloud Security. So glad I’m doing this. Helps me do a technical assessment of the attack surface.
2:00pm - 2:30pm: Weekly call with our accountant.
3:00pm - 4:30pm: Two software demos for SOC2 compliance and my self-imposed deadline of year-end, looks almost achievable.
5:00pm -6:00pm: Recap the day. Invariably not everything on my project list gets done, so I re-prioritize for the next day.
6:30pm - 8:00pm: Attend a Fintech event at Rise, by Barclays. Great networking and lots of valuable insights. This is what inspires me every time.
10:00pm: Listen to recordings of webinars that I missed throughout the day.