Jun 7, 2023

Nicole Valentine: Leading the Charge in Fintech Innovation at the Milken Institute

The entrepreneurial spirit shaping strategy and access in the world of fintech!

Nicole Valentine: Leading the Charge in Fintech Innovation at the Milken Institute

Interview multiple candidates

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit proin mi pellentesque  lorem turpis feugiat non sed sed sed aliquam lectus sodales gravida turpis maassa odio faucibus accumsan turpis nulla tellus purus ut   cursus lorem  in pellentesque risus turpis eget quam eu nunc sed diam.

Search for the right experience

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit proin mi pellentesque  lorem turpis feugiat non sed sed sed aliquam lectus sodales gravida turpis maassa odio.

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.
  2. Porttitor nibh est vulputate vitae sem vitae.
  3. Netus vestibulum dignissim scelerisque vitae.
  4. Amet tellus nisl risus lorem vulputate velit eget.

Ask for past work examples & results

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit consectetur in proin mattis enim posuere maecenas non magna mauris, feugiat montes, porttitor eget nulla id id.

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.
  • Netus vestibulum dignissim scelerisque vitae.
  • Porttitor nibh est vulputate vitae sem vitae.
  • Amet tellus nisl risus lorem vulputate velit eget.
Vet candidates & ask for past references before hiring

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit ut suspendisse convallis enim tincidunt nunc condimentum facilisi accumsan tempor donec dolor malesuada vestibulum in sed sed morbi accumsan tristique turpis vivamus non velit euismod.

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit nunc gravida purus urna, ipsum eu morbi in enim”
Once you hire them, give them access for all tools & resources for success

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit ut suspendisse convallis enim tincidunt nunc condimentum facilisi accumsan tempor donec dolor malesuada vestibulum in sed sed morbi accumsan tristique turpis vivamus non velit euismod.

In the garden state of New Jersey, where the din of city hustle gradually gives way to quieter suburban rhythms, Nicole Valentine grew up amidst a family deeply entrenched in the pursuit of knowledge and the nobility of service. Her parents, who once belonged to different professional paths, ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and created a legacy in early education centers, serving a myriad of families across socio-economic lines. This was Nicole's first encounter with the democratizing power of access and ownership, a lesson that would guide her professional journey.

Now a force in the world of Fintech, Nicole serves as the Fintech Director at the Center for Financial Markets (CFM), part of the esteemed Milken Institute. Launched in October 2014, the program was a vanguard in its field, aiming to explore market innovation, scrutinize alternative regulatory models, and advocate policy amendments that would aid the responsible growth of Fintech.

With a remarkable portfolio that spans across financial services, international M&A, and technology, her stewardship has seen the Fintech Program contribute significantly to the industry discourse, with nearly 100 written reports, op-eds, and comment letters. Furthermore, Nicole has ensured that the program's discourse does not remain confined to academia but permeates policy circles through 80 private roundtables, public panel sessions, and congressional staff briefings.

Nicole also founded Synergy Business Development, Inc., where she has served as President and Chief Strategy Officer since 2009. Here, she wears many hats - from devising business strategies for Fortune 500 companies to aiding the growth of smaller enterprises. Her acumen and vision have propelled Synergy to become a trailblazer in business consulting.

In 2014, Nicole took a leaf out of her parents' entrepreneurial playbook and founded Winly. This innovative business strategy app aims to bring the experience of strategy and growth planning to the fingertips of entrepreneurs and business owners, creating a digital microcosm that democratizes strategic planning, irrespective of a business’s size or pedigree.

This is Nicole Valentine: a woman who internalized the ethos of democratizing access from her family's education centers and has woven it into the fabric of her journey in the world of financial technology and business development...

You're a member of the NY Bar and have worked in M&A, securities law, and on Wall Street. How did that path lead you toward Fintech?  

While law school taught me the art of law, the law firm taught me the art of the deal. I worked on financial services, telecommunications, infrastructure, oil & gas, airline, and media deals for private equity and public company clients at the firm. I only worked on a Fintech deal once I joined a broker-dealer as associate general counsel. The broker-dealer launched a fully electronic trading platform before I joined, and I worked on the reverse merger within the first few months of starting.

My first exposure to Fintech was on the institutional side. It makes sense because financial institutions have the capital, resources, and access to talent and technology to make the kind of transformation that Fintech enables. As Fintech has evolved, it's been incredible to see its solutions in the hands of so many people—twenty years ago, this wasn’t the case.  

Nicole, you're the founder of Winly, a business strategy app for entrepreneurs and business owners. What inspired you to found Winly and can you talk to us a bit about your journey making an app? Did you face any challenges that you encountered along the way?  

For over a decade I was a management consultant and during that time, the iPad and the ability to create and launch apps were introduced. While delivering my strategic consulting solutions to clients, I created a process for assessing businesses and managing growth. The app was a great container for inputting and saving information and tracking success.

I developed Winly because I saw entrepreneurs, consultants, and advisors making decisions and recommendations without a complete view of their strategic options. Winly started as a dashboard and then grew into a strategic development tool. When building a tool, you have to ask yourself, do you want it to be proprietary and bespoke, or do you want to build for mass consumption? The challenge I faced was answering that question. Keeping it bespoke enabled me to service my clients. Opening it up to the masses was a marketing tool for my consultancy, so my investment paid for itself. But if I were going to take it to the next level, I would have needed to raise funds, and I never took that path.  

You founded Synergy Business Development in 2009 and have worked with CEOs, Innovation Leads, and government agencies since. Can you talk a bit about Synergy's founding? How has this experience informed your current role as the Fintech Director at the Milken Institute?  

Starting a business was always on my bucket list. The question wasn't if; it was always when. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were business owners, so it's in my blood and a path I was never afraid to take. There's a saying that the law is a jealous mistress: in being a lawyer, there wasn't enough room and time for me to explore my other talents and gifts. I'm a creative, a deal-maker, a visionary, a problem-solver, and a relationship-builder.

In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, once you have food, shelter, security, love, and esteem, you need what’s at the top of the pyramid: self-actualization. Being a consultant and advisor was the box that fit me so I could experience becoming the most I could be. As a consultant, I worked on some of the most fascinating business transformations, created television content, and influenced economic and policy decisions on a global scale. The Milken Institute, in its mission, is effectively influencing the world to reach its highest actualized self—there is synergy in our paths, and my work at Milken is a continuation of those aims.

As an attorney and a Fintech expert, what are your views on the current regulatory environment for digital assets, and what changes do you think are necessary for a more transparent and compliant market?  

When I take a global view of the regulatory environment for digital assets, I currently see the dilemma of a square peg being pushed into a round hole. The digital assets industry is global, borderless, decentralized, and uses distributed ledger technology, while regulatory bodies around the world have borders and are centralized. The digital assets industry presents complexities when governments are not completely on the same page, and I don't expect we will have a quick coming together. Setting global standards will take some time. But I see promise in the regulations promulgated in regions worldwide that focus on modernized laws for a modernized financial system. There's consensus that transparency, compliance, and consumer protection are important values, and that's a step in the right direction.

Could you share insights on the role of Fintech in improving financial inclusion and access to capital, particularly in underbanked or unbanked communities?  

The number of commercial banks in the US has been diminishing in recent years. And most banking deserts in the US are in rural communities. While those realities exist, we are in a moment where we have the tools to fully include everyone into the financial system—it just takes collective will. Having a mobile phone gets most people access, but broadband service and internet access costs still remain a barrier for many. Onboarding the unbanked onto the financial system is one aspect while providing products and services that meet the financial needs of the end user is another aspect to focus on.

I challenge Fintech companies to dedicate more resources to tracking and measuring the financial inclusion and access of its users. Do your products and services create opportunities for economic mobility, prosperity, wealth creation, and business growth? That should go onto every leader's priority list.  

Your work involves a lot of stakeholder education and engagement. What are the main challenges in communicating Fintech concepts to policymakers and the general public?  

For policymakers, we found that the digital assets space was so nascent that concepts needed to be clarified. There needed to be a digital assets dictionary where we could all work from the same playbook. If we can't agree on baseline definitions and how digital assets are classified, there will surely be challenges when writing legislative policies and regulations to govern the industry. At Milken, we developed  A Taxonomy of Digital Assets early on to start creating dialogue around the complexity of digital asset terminology. Our work has been shared with and consulted by policymakers, regulators, and industry leaders. We've continued our communication and engagement with policymakers and the general public through our FinTech in Focus: Global Conference FinTech Recap publication, where we, on a bi-weekly basis, share the latest news, trends, and policy developments in the FinTech industry. It's essential to have a consistent dialogue about the Fintech industry because it's constantly changing and evolving. We're committed to creating more opportunities to learn and engage at our convenings and dialogues, which are all available to the public on our website. Here are a few sessions:

What role do you see for technologies like Web3 and ChatGPT in the future of finance? How should regulators and policymakers prepare for these changes?  

Web3 is already here. Some call it Web 2.5, but we are currently experiencing decentralized platforms, blockchain technologies, tokenization, and smart contracts. ChatGPT is also here. And now that it's in the hands of millions, we are learning how it will impact the future of finance, work, productivity, and business.  

Regulators and policymakers can prepare for these changes by prioritizing technology: they can create task forces and committees to address real-time issues that are arising with advanced technologies. We are seeing issues and disruptions in the music industry, at our colleges and universities, and news and media. Early areas of policy concern are data security, privacy, and intellectual property rights. Being proactive may reveal other opportunities to anticipate issues in the financial services industry, where it’s very possible that machine learning and AI will manage the financial transactions and data of millions. We want policymakers to be ready for the mass adoption and use of generative AI at scale in the global financial system.  

If there's one word of advice you could give to female entrepreneurs, what would it be?  

Be acquisitive in your business. Plan to acquire another company, property, assets, platforms, teams, technology, etc. The process of building your enterprise must include the desire to constantly engage in major transactions to grow.  

What guiding principle do you live by in both your personal and professional life?  

Be a good steward of your business, your friendships, your finances, your legacy, and your world.

Images and videos courtesy of: Nicole Valentine

With Us.

We love working with partners who are on a mission to change the world!