Interview: Cryptocurrency Compliance & Risk Management Insights from Steve Tunstall
“What gets me excited is when I see new solutions and ideas that will make the world a better place in the future.”
From horse-riding to preventing further forest destruction, Steve claimed he wasn’t a good student, but what did it take for him to be one of the top global influencers in his field?
Steve shares his weekend habits and bite-sized advice to never stop learning.
In our Team Spotlight section, we ask WadzPay’s executive leadership left-field questions to familiarise our readers with who the leaders are as individuals, on a deeper level.
What would it take for you to be globally renowned as the best in your field?
To be the best in my field, that’s a bit tricky. I do different things; in WadzPay, I’m head of risk and compliance, but I also have other technology companies. I like charity and voluntary effort. I’m interested in making sure the world I leave to my kids is the better world that I inherited, I’m trying to prevent further destruction of rain forest and encourage of replanting a mangrove, so it’s pretty hard for me to pin down what I need to do to be the best in my field.
I think one of the interesting things is I got into social media a few years ago. I have been pushing myself mercilessly on several platforms. What quite fun is that I do get recognized for that as a senior influencer in fintech, insurtech and various other things, but that means you got recognized as the best or the noisiest; that’s a different matter.
How would you explain your job to a 5-year-old?
My job to a 5-year-old is to stop Anish (WadzPay’s CEO) and the rest of the senior management team from getting into big trouble, getting their toys taken away, and sending them to bed early. If I can stop that from happening, then I’ve done my job.
As a risk and compliance champion and a company leader to more than five companies across four countries, how is your typical day?
I’m busy. I have quite a few different things going on. Hence, I try to work as efficiently as possible, and I’m used to working at home or in coffee shops. The best way for me to deal with things is to get them out of the way quickly. I do need a space to sit and think, so one of the important things I do is that I usually switch off notifications on almost every app and every device. There are one or two exceptions which I don’t.
I found it very important that I can sit and focus for an hour or so and get some work churn out; guess what? If the email doesn’t get read for an hour is not the end of the world!
I find that having constant notification is very distracting, so I tend to switch pretty well everything off except one or two vital channels that I want to know about pretty quickly.
Where do you think your source of knowledge comes from?
That’s pretty well from everywhere, one of the things that if you are going to my background a little bit, I wasn’t good at school I wasn’t a good student and I had to play a lot of catch up, and I left school. So, I did all my major qualifications by part-time study; I had a part-time diploma, degree and master degree, which I passed by about the age of 35. It’s a whole long process for me, but what does teach me is never stop learning, never stop getting interested in something new.
I’ve been particularly interested in digital and technology for about 4–5 years and keep doing short courses and refreshes to ensure that my knowledge gets up to date as much as possible. I did an online fintech course via Hongkong University a couple of weeks ago. I attend many online webinar and seminar, which I think it has educational value as well.
I read many books, I read books online, and I have many whole big books downstairs too, so I think that life-long learning is critical in any profession, not just the one I’ve chosen.
Tell us about your hobbies and your weekend activities?
I prefer to spend as much time as I can with my family; I got three kids, all teenagers, so they don’t want to spend as much time with dad as they used to, so I have to make sure I do things that they enjoy. Often, a lot of my time is spent trying to work out what they would like to do and trying to do something together and have much fun as possible. Of course, they are all at a critical point in education, so we try to give them as much support as possible to make sure that they do better at school than I did.
I’m a pretty outdoor sort of person; I like to walk, and I live in the north of Singapore, so it’s not difficult for me to get to the beach; I live near a tiny island here called Coney Island, which is great to get up early in the morning before it gets too hot and have a walk around out there.
I do other stuff like swimming; I used to do horse riding when I was young but not so much now as I’m too big it’s too scary for the horses. I enjoy the home activity as well, reading and having fun with cryptocurrency. I investigate the mind of investment, a new coin and things that come along.
I found it attractive looking at the underlying technology and working it out whether they get a chance to change the world; I think that’s what gets me excited when I see the new solution and new ideas that will make the world a better place in the future.
What is your favorite quote and books?
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal”, — Winston S. Churchill.
It’s the will to carry on, that’s most important, and I think that’s the excellent motto for life, no matter how well you are doing, don’t forget where you came from and don’t forget that everything can fall apart tomorrow. If you have bad luck and if you all down, things not going well, you could always put a bit more effort; you haven’t failed until you have given up. If you give up, then you fail. The willingness to keep fighting is critically important.
My favorite book is far too many to mention; I read a lot on diverse subject; I just finished a biography of David Bowie, which I enjoyed. I’m in the middle of reading a calm book on how to improve meditation, and I’m also reading The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson, which is about the secret activities of the psychological department of the US military pretty sinister but also quite funny. That’s the selection that I am reading, either online, offline or in paperback at the moment.
Lastly, what is one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people probably don’t know that I used to be into horse riding in my 20s, so I used to do it quite often every weekend. I had a big horse, you can imagine because I’m a pretty big guy; I take that horse on to the beach, on top of a mountain, all the way to the forest where I used to live in the UK, so I might not as a horse rider now, but it was something I enjoy back in the day.
In our Power Hour section, we ask WadzPay’s executive leadership in-depth questions about the fields of Fintech, digital currencies and beyond.
Steve, you have been on this journey for 30 years; how would you navigate a variety of risks to lead in the marketplace and disrupt through innovation?
I think the biggest issue being a risk manager is you must be able to listen, and you need to understand whats the case you are facing. Then you need to be a good problem solver, and you got to work out how we can navigate some of the challenges and come out of the side effectively. I think the big problem with a lot of people, not a lot but certainly some people in the risk and compliance team around the world, they often to perceive themselves as a blocker or defender, trying to protect against big problem, but for me, it’s more occasion you need to try to understand that problem, you can break it apart, you need to understand why is it an issue for the business and understand how you can help the business move forward, I mean the short way to saying this, I want the business to take as much risk as it possibly can. Still, I also like the company to understand the consequences if some of those things go wrong.
What is your strategy given to WadzPay on safeguarding all risks and staying compliant to win stakeholders' trust?
For WadzPay, probably the most significant challenge we face is that we are right at the cutting edge of what is acceptable from the regulatory point of view, trying to understand the position from a compliance perspective. A risk perspective is changing and moving all the time in every jurisdiction, so what are the things that I spend a lot of my time doing is scanning the horizon, what are the new articles, what are the recent interviews with senior regulatory people, where does it look like that moving.
We can try and predict and position ourselves effectively to be compliant, not just tomorrow or next week. Still, in 3 to 5 years, it’s critical that we understand that long-term perspective builds our company from the start with compliance and compliance culture right of the heart of WadzPay.
What is your view on the evolution of digital currency and the prediction of regulation/policy? And what does it mean for WadzPay?
One of the significant issues for digital currency, cryptocurrency, however you want to put it, is that it takes some time for regulation to catch up with what going on in business practice, and this means that there’s been an entire worrying sense of cryptocurrency is generally being used for bad things, is its use for fund terrorism? Is it use for money laundering? It’s the criminal aspect in general, perhaps more likely to be an issue In crypto that is in fear. My personal view is probably isn’t; I think that’s bad people do bad thing in any currency that they can get their hands on.
But I think it’s important that regulations catch up with the digital world as soon as possible, so we are making a stand exactly how the future of this asset will look and how they will work. One of the most interesting developments for this space, specifically for WadzPay, is the emergence of not just a stable coin but also CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) as the regulator, central bank start to move hand in hand to make digital currency for their jurisdiction. I think a solution like WadzPay is tailor-made to move in, capitalize and support that development. This is the sweet spot for us in the business, and I think where the future is.
How challenging is it in a fast-changing world of AI and Blockchain in Fintech and payment sector?
I think the challenge in this sector is keeping yourself up to speed but at the same time not getting distracted. There’s a lot of noise all the time and new thing is coming out every day, this year alone we have so much more noise around NFT (Non-Fungible Token) so much around the different new coin that launched.
It’s very important that as a professional, you keep abreast of all these changes and keep the sense of perspective which is going to have a long-term meaning, for our business, for the business work generally. I do feel it the moment that the crypto space, after some extent, the tech space feels typically like it at the end of 1999; we all know what happens in early 2000, there’s a real boom, and then there is a buzz. I think it’s important we keep our perspective, understand that there’s a lot to offer; the future is going to be this distributed ledger technology there’s no doubt about that, it’s the future financial services, but we need to focus on the business approach and make sure it’s practical, pragmatic and something that is still around in 3 or 5 years, not something that is going to disappear like dotcommer.
You can also watch the full video interview with Steve Tunstall here.