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Five minutes with Centtrip's new Chief Counsel and Compliance Officer

Five minutes with Centtrip's new Chief Counsel and Compliance Officer

International lawyer Vanya Stares has recently joined the Centtrip team. An expert in intellectual property, technology licensing, commercial contracts and change management, Vanya lived in Australia for nearly 20 years before returning to her native Wales in 2017. Her career spans both private and public sectors, and she spent four years as Global Project Manager for the leading international law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills.

She is also a breast cancer survivor and an avid salsa dancer.

We caught five minutes with our new legal eagle to learn more.

Hi, Vanya, welcome to Centtrip. You have an interesting background. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Well, it started at university. I did my LLB at Cardiff University but I knew even at that stage that I didn’t want to be a traditional lawyer. Then, when I met my boyfriend (now husband) he suggested we emigrate to Australia. It was difficult to settle in at first, but I joined the ERP vendor Baan, supporting their legal counsel for the Asia-Pacific. I learned a lot about software licensing, reseller agreements and international joint ventures. And, at the same time, I did a law conversion course and qualified as a lawyer in Australia.

I joined Herbert Smith Freehills in 2005. I was there for nearly 12 years, latterly as Global Project Manager where I ran strategic technology and business projects for the firm.

Then, when we came back to the UK, I took a role at Swansea University looking after research contracts – dealing with funding, intellectual property and everything that goes with public and private funding of research.

How did you come to move from Swansea University to Centtrip?

Well, I had a bit of a life-changing event while I was at Swansea University.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer right at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a shock. Luckily, I received all the treatment I needed and now I’m two years cancer free.

But the experience made me realise you only get one life, and you’ve got to keep moving forward and pushing yourself to your full potential.

I was introduced to Centtrip by a very good friend of mine, Sarah [Gooding, Chief Platform Officer].

So, what attracted you to Centtrip?

I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to work for a growing company within the fintech sector and the company’s values of curiosity, respect, agility and collaboration resonated well with me. I’ve always enjoyed working with women in senior roles and, when I met Jane [Turner, Chief Operating Officer], I found her inspiring.

When Jane asked me if I wanted to join Centtrip on permanent basis, in a part-time role and in a hybrid working model, I was delighted. I am part of the senior leadership team and it’s a role where I can continue to learn and develop my skills while making a positive contribution to Centtrip’s mission, which is to seamlessly connect the world’s most glamorous money for the most dynamic customers and their users

I was delighted that, earlier this month, Centtrip was recognised by J.P. Morgan Private Bank as one of the Top 200 Female-Powered Businesses in the UK with a leadership team that is 50% female.

What does your job involve?

I have a dual role as Chief Counsel and Compliance Officer. As legal counsel, I’m responsible for everything with a legal dimension: supplier and client relationships; corporate terms and conditions; privacy and data protection matters; investor relationships and third party business introducers; intellectual property and the protection of confidential information; and general corporate governance.

As compliance officer, I’m responsible for the management and mitigation of business-wide risk including those associated with money laundering and financial crime. I oversee our onboarding and monitoring processes, reporting and auditing obligations and ensure that Centtrip’s policies and procedures are adequate, kept up-to-date and implemented effectively. I need to keep abreast of regulatory matters that may have a direct impact on Centtrip. I work very closely with our money laundering and reporting officer (MLRO) and our internal compliance team.

And, what emerging legal challenges do you see for a business like Centtrip?

Internally, we need to continue to future-proof the business by trying to anticipate changes and challenges and ensuring that we have efficient processes that are repeatable and robust while being sufficiently adaptable to cope with new jurisdictions as the business expands.

Externally, I think the international regulatory landscape is becoming more onerous and more fragmented. As a growing and evolving business, we need to retain the flexibility to deal with the unexpected. Working with our clients and partners to cope with issues arising from the recent sanctions on Russia is a great example.

That all sounds like a huge job. What do you do when you find a little spare time?

I love salsa dancing! I’ve been doing it for over 10 years, I still attend regular dance classes and I love being part of the global salsa dance community. I try to attend local social events monthly and a couple of times a year I attend larger group workshops and conventions both within the UK and overseas. I’ll be going to Mallorca in October to attend a three-day dance retreat.  I also enjoy Pilates. I train weekly with a Pilates instructor and I recently purchased myself a Reformer Bed so that I can workout at home. I eat healthily and love to cook and travel.

Thanks Vanya. Thank you for your time and welcome to the team. We look forward to working with you.

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