Member Spotlight: Payment Counsel

14 Oct Member Spotlight: Payment Counsel

This week we present to you Nadja van der Veer, Co-founder of legal consultancy firm PaymentCounsel. Nadja is a payments lawyer with a decade of experience in the worldwide landscape of payment services. In 2007 she started working for GlobalCollect, a renowned payment service provider, now part of French payment conglomerate Ingenico. Nadja: “It was an exciting period where online payments knew an immense growth, despite the financial crisis. I started at GlobalCollect when the first Payment Services Directive (PSD) was not yet implemented. Back then, adequate legal frameworks had to be built from scratch without the ability to peak at how other parties were addressing these. Further, I have had to negotiate contracts with merchants and payment method suppliers from around the world – from Brazil to Japan – and sat across the table with regulators from Colombia to Singapore. “

During this experience Nadja gathered a broad set of strong skills and was able to continue her career in this thriving work field. She witnessed the transition after PSD and was responsible for the expansion of the legal department and other significant changes in the company.

Nadja: “I worked myself up to become the Deputy General Counsel. After this major experience I started working as VP Legal & Regulatory for the credit card acquirer Credorax, based in Malta, heading up the legal department. This has further given me valuable experience in terms of card scheme rules and dealings. I always knew that I would start my own company at some point, but I never planned it on the short term. Moving back to the Netherlands I got the opportunity to work on two different projects and I decided to transform this into a legal consultancy.”

The result is PaymentCounsel, which Nadja founded in 2015 together with her US-based partner Morgan Andrews. PaymentCounsel is practically a young startup but cover the US and Europe since the beginning from their two offices in Amsterdam and Atlanta, both important Fintech centres. As a duo, they offer very dedicated legal counselling, and like to see themselves as a remote in-house counsel; flexible but incredibly committed.

Nadja: “Many companies come across lawyers who don’t have in-depth knowledge of this particular industry or have been assisted by so-called ‘showstoppers’, lawyers who focus on the hurdles instead of providing e-Payment providers practical and innovative solutions in clear and business-like language, whilst ensuring compliance. One thing we have learned is that in the payment business nothing can be reflected in textbooks. A course on financial regulation is not enough because the law will always remain outdated. Everything moves so fast, practical experience is essential to survive and at least get a minor feeling of the playground. The world of payments is a global one. International money transactions are the foundation of global trade and thus we are prepared for any complex cross-border partnerships our clients want to establish. It is our primary objective to advise our clients on how to boost sales and further business opportunities within the legal framework which is imposed by compliance, rules and regulations involving enhanced Due Diligence. Our services are mainly focused on contract handling between different parties in the supply chain. We offer advice to e-Payments industry players, such as Payment Facilitators, PSPs, Acquirers, to Payment Method Suppliers and to all ‘FinTech’ parties in the (online) Payment and e-Commerce industry. Our Services include the creation of standard contract templates, assistance in contract negotiations, but we also apply our operational expertise on regulatory compliance matters.”

Many of these issues include advice on card scheme rules and business acceptance strategies, the provision of regulatory compliance opinions, assistance with regulator discussions or license applications and new market entrance. Both founders worked in-house for many years and for various types of e-Payments players, thus they are able to advise companies on how to impact their speed and competitiveness, accelerate revenue and manage risk.

Nadja: “Fintech companies have a lot of impact on the financial supply chain. On one hand buyers,
customers and financials are experiencing a segmented landscape of payment methodWebsite Nadja 7 cors and processing parties and on the other hand the consumers is demanding user friendly and trustworthy money handling. The latter is mainly driven by smartphones. Still, a lot of paym
ents and collecting are situated offline and through manual processes. Banks and big financial institutions have an established and influential role in the Netherlands, many payment providers still depend on bank accounts. Based on what has already changed in many other countries, Dutch banks will eventually adapt new payment technologies and speed up their core systems to stay ahead of the game.
But still a lot has to be accomplished; some banks will strive and some will fail. For the upcoming years I expect PSDII will generate many new business opportunities in Europe for everyone involved in the payment services industry, but it will remain difficult for regulators to stay up-to-date. It seems that some regulators are hesitant to offer legal advice; because they consider the possibility that this advice could potentially be used against them at a later stage or that they are held accountable.”

During the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many national regulatory bodies came under scrutiny or investigation, either for having been too generous with their advice or for not having been strict enough in their supervisory duty). On the other hand, some regulators perceive non-face-to-face (anonymous) transactions as such a high-risk that they unnecessarily overregulate in order to cover any eventuality, without taking market realities into consideration.

Nadja: “Our challenge is to adapt the needs of our clients into existing financial laws and act as an intermediary party (even mediator or educator) between regulators. Hereby, we really try to measure the intention of specific requirements in regulations and anticipate on those while minimizing the risks. Technology-driven innovations within the industry are disrupting the regulatory systems, but laws take forever to change. This leads to a stress-factor in some markets and a potential drain of talent and investments. If local regulators do not catch up, their domestic markets will shrink rapidly, as investors and owners will consider alternative countries, where the legal framework aligns risk management with business needs. I am very glad that Holland FinTech provides valuable opportunities to communicate the wishes of the financial industry towards legislators and supervisors. Therefore I actively participate at the legal roundtables were I can share my thoughts with other lawyers and Fintech executives and most importantly the regulators. “