Between customers wanting to buy and merchants eager to sell is Fern Glowinsky, chief legal officer and corporate secretary for Moneris Solutions Corp., Canada’s largest processor and acquirer of debit- and credit-card transactions. Glowinsky has played a key role in setting the payment-network rules that impact Moneris and its customers, and her advocacy for fairness and common sense has drawn more clients to the company and put them at ease, turning Moneris into a major player in just a little more than a decade.
Major payment networks such as Visa, MasterCard, and Discover have rules, not laws, that merchants and processors must follow.
“I was increasingly concerned that as a company we were missing an opportunity to be more strategic with those rules and make sure we were advocating for our customers and for ourselves,” Glowinsky says. “We have an ability to influence how those rules get developed and applied and to highlight any unintended consequences.”
With a nod from senior management, Glowinsky created an internal compliance function to ensure that Moneris was at the forefront when the payment networks were developing and launching rules. She lobbied for policies that would be achievable and commercially reasonable for merchants, including fewer fines and more time to comply with new and ever-evolving rules—a move that made clients happier and more likely to call upon Moneris to manage their credit and debit payments.
“Compliance wasn’t seen as strategic, but now we have a world-class compliance function, and we are called upon for our expertise and insight,” Glowinsky says.
Even as Moneris’s top lawyer, Glowinsky says business is still her true interest. The Toronto native earned a dual JD and MBA from Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business.
“The law degree was almost an add-on,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be in business, but I didn’t know what role as a businessperson I would have.”
By the Numbers
First lawyer hired by Moneris
Professional degrees in business and law
Transactions Moneris handles per year
Merchant locations that Moneris works with
Number of Moneris employees
Glowinsky worked for a time at a Bay Street law firm, serving technology and financial-services customers and developing M&A expertise, but the position never quite fit.
“I knew I didn’t want to be a partner in a law firm,” she says. “What I really enjoy is being part of a company and driving the business and being on the inside.”
After leaving private practice, Glowinsky joined Versus Technologies, the public company behind E*TRADE Canada. From there, she worked with a venture-backed start-up that was building an online alumni network for colleges and universities.
In 2001, she joined Moneris, just eight months after the company was established as a joint investment between RBC Royal Bank and BMO Financial Group. She was the first lawyer hired, and she now oversees a legal staff of 25, who handle legal affairs, compliance, internal auditing, government relations, and privacy. She also serves as corporate secretary and chief audit executive. The company has grown to more than 1,800 employees and today processes more than three billion transactions a year for more than 350,000 merchant locations.
“When I joined, Moneris was very much an entrepreneurial start-up, even though it was owned by two large banks,” Glowinsky says. “There were customers but no infrastructure for the business, as the business was extracted from each of the banks. Everything that I have responsibility for I have had the joy and pleasure of building in the company.”
Glowinsky has continued to lead on cardholder-data security, advocating for commercially reasonable and uniform standards across payment networks.
Her vocal activism even earned her a seat on the inaugural advisory board of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards Council, which sets rules for cardholder-data security globally.
“Merchants see us out there banging on the table and saying, ‘You need to care about how this affects the merchant community,’” Glowinsky says. “We’ve turned that into a competitive advantage because we are seen as worrying about our customers above what our competition does.”