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September 27, 2023 - Greg Oprendek

A Q&A with DataVisor’s new CRO Kevin McWey

Recently, we shared some very exciting news—we’ve appointed Kevin McWey as our new Chief Revenue Officer! Drawing on his experience as a sales leader at IBM, FiServ, and Socure, Kevin is uniquely positioned to guide and execute on innovative strategies to solidify DataVisor’s presence in the market and help continue to grow the reach of the fraud platform.

But that’s all information you can find in the press release announcing Kevin’s arrival. To get to know Kevin a bit better, we asked him to sit down for a quick Q&A and he graciously obliged. Read on to hear his advice for fraud leaders, one big thing he sees coming to the industry, and what he’s like outside the office.

DataVisor: Could you share a little about your background in the industry?

Kevin: My kickoff in the industry really started in late 2005-06. I was at a core banking and payments provider, Metavante, which had a partnership for check fraud prevention and acquired a compliance solution. At that time, post 9/11, technology was assisting the USA Patriot Act and Bank Secrecy Act. Compliance was really starting to get the eyes and the investment that it needed—and our banking clients required integrations with their critical transaction systems and customer databases.

I started off in lead generation, cold calling and following up on webinars. I became more effective when I started to drive deeper discussions and educate myself more around the problem our solutions were trying to solve. It really wasn’t just a numbers game, but about engaging in an educated dialogue. The compliance products were considered expensive insurance policies for a while and were very rigid. The fraud prevention solutions at the time were based on transaction limits and rules which, in our case, were hard coded and shot out mostly noise with some fraud capture. But we’ve seen the pervasiveness of fraud over the years explode exponentially and really impact not only the financial institution (FI) space but entire countries and the financial system as a whole. If you look at the variety of consumer and corporate scams, that number just keeps growing. So fraud prevention became a critical part of organizations’ business and operating procedures, as did the effectiveness of the solution both from a prevention and an accuracy perspective.

I spent quite a bit of time in alliance and channel management and led a team for our financial crimes and regulatory management solutions. That included not only our Compliance and Fraud Prevention Solutions, but our entire eFunds/ChexSystems portfolio. I managed the whole ecosystem of the data partners, solutions partners, and a lot of co-opetition. That’s when I started seeing that the industry has to come together across data, platforms, technology, and integration points to combat the rise in financial crime as a collective.

Following some time at FIS along with a three-year hiatus into the authentication space with Vasco, which is now Onespan, I wanted the opportunity to own more of the core components of go-to-market. I joined a smaller firm with a smaller North American presence for about three years. This was well into the rise of eBanking and the huge boom of mobile banking, and the balance between security and convenience started to shine a light on a lot of deficiencies in the market around current fraud and security offerings that created too much friction for all financial institutions and their customers. I had direct responsibilities for our eBanking, e-commerce and mobile markets, and I really enjoyed introducing transparent prevention methods utilizing SDKs and APIs. The analytics and server side of the operation brought me back to FIS to manage the product organization, including business development, partnerships, and most importantly our connections with the other lines of business. That gave me a lot of empathy and a much better understanding of what it takes to really develop critical solutions for the banking industry. That’s when you really start taking a holistic view of what makes a financial crime platform a success. Is the solution not only catching fraud, but is it accurate? Can it be navigated with a relatively knowledgeable operator? Can it interface with other systems of record? Can it be deployed in a scalable and cost-effective way?

My time at FIS led me to IBM, as we were both in the market to work on a fraud prevention system for the financial services space. IBM acquired a company out of Germany and launched Safer Payments. Safer Payments resonated with me because a business analyst or a product manager who didn’t have an immense budget to hire a lot of data science resources could understand and operate a highly effective fraud prevention solution with relatively little training and no code configurations at a very large scale. It offered a very easy entry point for the broader market to understand the computation and how the algorithms worked to create human-readable, explainable, and effective rulesets and scenarios. It also put the control and related business outcomes into a very simple framework and gave the institution immediate controls to manage fraud and friction as it applies to different channels.

I left IBM to join FISERV—which I did the same day the first data acquisition was announced—and managed the sales team and helped launch their enterprise-wide fraud initiatives, including evaluating a large number of technology and industry partners. This is really where I focused on improving my leadership skills and leaned on my direct manager for a lot of guidance and mentorship to help mold me into becoming an effective and ethical leader.

I joined Socure and had the opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished financial crime fighters in the world. It was a very quick lesson on operating in the demanding and competitive identity space and creating clear differentiation in how we approached the sales process and the market.

That’s really where I accelerated my understanding of building a complete ROI of solutions in the fraud space. I worked with customers and partners to dig deep into all aspects of their operations and products to remove friction, accurately prevent fraud, and deliver the right customers through the funnel. I took every opportunity to accept new challenges and influence how we operated.

What interested you most about Datavisor?

Datavisor was really a great find—and one I wasn’t expecting when it came across. I was familiar with the company and the prowess around building highly effective models. I was not familiar with the platform’s capabilities and functionality. What I’ve been looking for my whole career (in functionality) I discovered within Datavisor. At the end of the day, I like to consider myself a practitioner in this space—an evangelist along with being responsible for sales and customer success. I saw that DataVisor had all the components. They really have developed the best capabilities because they’ve taken diligent feedback from the market and focused on translating very complex data science and adding an interface layer that allows the operators to understand business outcomes. It was clear they kept in mind during the design and build phase that the solution needed to be a co-pilot for building and deploying models, integrating data, and making effective adjustments on the fly to combat new fraud attacks. The platform is cutting-edge and optimized for multi-tenant cloud operations in a very scalable way, so we can offer it to all sizes and shapes of FIs and enterprises.

Over the last few years, the industry has rightly focused on equitable access to financial services. I think our market needs equitable access to superior technology that helps FIs combat the mounting threats against their customers. Fraudsters’ technology and their access to data is better than the people trying to prevent that activity—and they are more organized than ever. With the internet, the most hardened criminals and a limitless amount of bad actors are only a few clicks away.

Datavisor has a lot of power in that it’s a light lift to implement. It’s pretty much a seamless integration. Data work has gotten really expensive for organizations trying to activate a solution like this in the fraud space. They’ve been constrained and they haven’t had the budget. Datavisor provides a lot of those key components and a holistic platform that solves key business problems. And we have the ability to do it cloud natively which is going to save cost and add to efficiency.

You also don’t need a team or an army of resources to manage and deploy DataVisor’s platform. It has a lot of the components in it that are going to assist a human being. When we talk about machine learning we use the term artificial intelligence. But in a lot of cases, it’s really augmented intelligence. We need humans on the ground who understand what’s going on—people in the institutions who understand the risk in their customer base. DataVisor provides that tool for them to effectively manage their program. One quote I always like to use—a client of mine from Fiserv always said to me, “Yeah, I’m the Chief Risk Officer, but in many ways, I’m the Chief Revenue Officer because the levers and the thresholds that I pull and push really allow our company to grow revenue, attract the right clients, and get the right dollars in place without a lot of friction.”

With real-time payments now a customer expectation, what do you think the industry should prepare for?

Well, they have to prepare for real-time fraud. Not only real-time fraud but orchestrated fraud. I started working on RTP projects long before The Clearing House formally launched it. In the iteration and development phase, we had meetings about a central network philosophy. We talked about what controls needed to be on the network and what controls the FIs would require.

Right now, institutions are still utilizing old fraud strategies in a real-time world. Whether that’s indicators or scenarios around wire and ACH or legacy payment channels, there’s a large amount of historical data that large models have to rely on. RTP is newer. Zelle is newer. If you’re doing it institution by institution and you have to collect large amounts of data, some of that’s not going to be effective for a while. That’s why introducing unsupervised machine learning to look into those data sets without requiring labels or a ton of training data is going to be key. The solutions you want to purchase and deploy aren’t just there for the problems you have. They need to be there for the threats you haven’t experienced yet.

How quickly can you mitigate those random or brute-force attacks? In instances where there are large targeted attacks, you’re not going to know how to build parameters if you don’t know what to look for and analyze. Sometimes by then, it’s too late. Utilizing unsupervised machine learning to detect new negative clusters of coordinated attacks is going to be necessary to evolve with the signals that can’t be detected early enough from your standard discovery approach.

Is there anything that you see coming in the next year or two that will make a significant difference in the financial industry?

I think the biggest one recently was the sharing of losses and responsibility to protect consumers with both the issuing and receiving bank for account-to-account payments and transfers like Zelle. So it’s about creating the network effect that everyone has to join in and protect the financial ecosystem as a whole.

Fraud managers at mid-market institutions and credit unions especially, who can’t spend eight figures and up on implementing really complex fraud prevention programs, tell me they feel like they’ve been playing whack a mole. Someone can jump from a regional bank in the Southeast to one in Texas and constantly repeat the same techniques.

On top of that, fraud is totally borderless now. It doesn’t matter if it’s a crime ring from Asia, Europe, Africa, or the US. With the democratization of transactions across the globe, fraud mitigation techniques have to be much more proactive and have gone beyond operating losses to catastrophic events, causing a ripple effect on the entire ecosystem.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to fraud leaders right now?

Don’t be scared to fail. I have so much empathy for these organizations that are, in many cases, underfunded. Many times, we need to be the strategic advisor to translate what the technology does for the business problems that executive committees and boards are looking to solve—expense, revenue, and safety. Learn from your mistakes, don’t be ashamed of them. We all make errors. The best thing we can do is be open-minded, learn, pivot, and attack again.

Last question—what are your hobbies and interests outside of our space?

Hobbies and interests outside of financial crimes. It’s kind of all-consuming at different times. Maybe I need to start looking at some shows to binge-watch. I’m a huge racket sport fanatic. I was a junior tennis player and then due to a shoulder injury, I stopped playing for 17 years. This summer was my first time back in USTAs in close to 25 years. So I’m playing competitive tennis, platform and now pickleball. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and went to Kansas so I’m a big Jayhawk basketball fan and enjoying their progress in football. I’m trying not to be fair weather but they’ve had a spotty history at best. And my family has been Packers season ticket holders since my great-grandfather in the ‘30s and ‘40s when he ran a bar on Main Street in Green Bay. Outside of the team and experience, every game reminds me of my childhood, tailgating with our entire family and having a mini-reunion at Lambeau on many Sundays.

But really I enjoy spending a lot of time with my family. I have four daughters and two sons, so when I think about the work that we do it does give a sense that I have to be very diligent about how we interact with the digital world. Family is number one in my life and if my work can help me protect them and other families like mine it provides a greater motivation to continue gaining knowledge. I think my kids are sick of hearing me preach about the threats of the web and everything they think is just a game. But being in this space for the majority of my career, it’s not so bad to be aware of what’s lurking on the other side of our device.

Learn more about Kevin McWey by reading the full press release announcing his arrival at DataVisor. See the DataVisor platform up close with a personalized demo from our team.

about Greg Oprendek
Greg is a passionate digital marketer, avid basketball fan, aspiring fraud expert, and Content Marketing Manager at DataVisor.
about Greg Oprendek
Greg is a passionate digital marketer, avid basketball fan, aspiring fraud expert, and Content Marketing Manager at DataVisor.