Fintech Leaders: Meghan Ryan
Meghan Ryan is the chief financial officer of Treasury Prime. She joined the company from Affirm, a leading buy-now-pay-later platform. Meghan was the CFO of Affirm's Canadian business, responsible for the region's financial strategy, management, and execution. She was a founding member of Affirm’s Capital Markets team, responsible for building out and scaling the capital platform, as well as leading Affirm's Bank Partnerships team. Before Affirm, Meghan spent six years at Goldman Sachs, where she held advisory and investing roles in the Investment Bank and Merchant Bank. Meghan started her career in public accounting as part of Deloitte's Financial Advisory practice and holds a B.B.A. in Accountancy from the University of Notre Dame.
What first piqued your interest in tech?
My family played a big part in my interest in tech - both from a technical and business perspective. My grandfather was a pioneering computer designer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he led a computation center that ultimately brought about personal computing. My parents both spent their entire careers at IBM, holding many different roles across product, sales, and marketing over the years. Needless to say, I grew up hearing a lot about tech at home and, like most, have been a consumer of tech since.
When I was a kid, we had the opportunity to live in Japan for three years. IBM moved us there for my parents’ jobs. Although I was quite young, I remember appreciating the diversity I was exposed to living abroad. I really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture, as well as many other cultures, given that I made friends there that were from all over the world.
It's so interesting when I talk to my parents about my role in tech these days and a lot of the same types of challenges come up in terms of how you think about building the best product and positioning yourself in the market. What is the future of this product line and how do you get ahead of the competition? It's fascinating that a lot of the challenges they faced 20 some odd years ago are not that dissimilar from what we face today.
How did you start your career?
I was studying finance during the financial crisis of 2008 and was given the advice that I should consider switching my major to accounting - “You can always do finance with an accounting degree, but you can’t do accounting with a finance degree.” I took the advice. I saw value in having a strong accounting foundation, getting my CPA, and working for a Big Four accounting firm. My first job was in forensic accounting, and we were responsible for fraud, anti-money laundering, and compliance investigations, which were particularly big areas of focus following the financial crisis. A number of U.S. and global banks had been fined by the regulators for failing to have proper oversight and compliance programs in place. Our role was to help these banks figure out where they had gaps in their programs and remediate them. So basically, I helped these companies fight off the bad actors.
After doing that for a couple of years, I had the opportunity to move to investment banking, which was what I originally had my sights set on when I entered college. And so I moved from New York to Chicago and started working at Goldman Sachs.
I first joined the structured finance group and an industry team that focused on transportation. We helped airlines and aircraft leasing companies finance their aircraft portfolios in the capital markets. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to restructure the legacy asset-backed security deals to finance aircraft, thinking through the right way to make them more investor friendly and provide the right protection to investors, and also provide the capital and liquidity that our clients needed to run their businesses. It was a fascinating time to be in that industry.
How did you transition to fintech?
I had the opportunity to go on mobility at Goldman which gives you the chance to work on another team at the company. I joined the Merchant banking division on the private credit team. We were providing debt financing for leveraged buyouts and acquisitions by private equity-backed companies. This role leveraged the analytical skills I had learned in investment banking to evaluate companies and inform investment decisions. We looked at companies across a wide range of industries. I loved digging into each type of business and trying to figure out why the company might succeed vs. what risks they faced.
What this sparked in me was that entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to work in industry at a high-growth company. I realized my skill set was very well suited for fintech because there’s typically a strong demand for capital markets expertise, which I had from my structured finance experience. I also wanted to be in a fast-paced environment where I could impact change. So I began researching the fintech market and came across Affirm. I was excited about the business and there was a capital markets role that sounded like a great fit. I applied and was fortunate enough to get the job and that's how I made my entrance into fintech.
How did you become a CFO?
I wanted to grow in my function. CFO was the top of what I could be doing but I realized that I needed to spend more time rounding out my operational financial skill set. Capital markets is just one pillar of a CFO function — you also need to know accounting, financial planning and analysis, procurement, treasury, and more. There are so many different pieces of what a CFO has to think about and manage and so as I started to think about where I wanted to be, I realized that I needed to gain experience in those other areas in order to be successful.
The opportunity to be the CFO of the Canadian business actually was not something that I had even considered as an opportunity when it happened. I had been working on the capital markets side of the Canadian business that we had just acquired, and the CFO of Affirm said, “We really need someone to lead finance for Canada. Will you go do it?” And he pitched the role to me as hey, you want to be a CFO? This is the perfect opportunity for you to touch all these other things that you need to round out your skill set and make an impact on our first major acquisition.
Why did you decide to take on the role of CFO at Treasury Prime?
I had been following Treasury Prime for about a year before I joined. One of my former Affirm colleagues had joined Treasury Prime and was always telling me how much he liked his job and the company. I did some consulting work for the company and got to know Chris, Jim, and Remy through that work. I really liked the team and the business model, as the challenge we are addressing is one I experienced firsthand at Affirm. Adding a new bank partner, either for redundancy or to support new products, was a very long, resource-intensive process. When the opportunity to join Treasury Prime as CFO came up, it was an easy decision. I’m truly excited to build out the finance function and provide financial insights that inform our strategic direction.
What does it take to succeed as a woman in tech at the highest level?
I've always been on male-dominated teams. Often I'm the only woman in the room and that’s been my experience throughout my career. I think less about, how do I succeed as a woman, and more about: how can I contribute my unique skills and perspective? Where do I have the most value to add? How can I connect with others to build strong relationships? And really leaning into that. It is also a huge priority for me to mentor and support other women in their careers - that is how we make women on leadership teams the norm, as opposed to the exception.
On a leadership team, women may have a different thought process or approach — embrace that and find your way to make your voice heard. This may mean starting with listening —the more you know about the alternative approach, the better you can frame your position to be clearly understood. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Know your strengths, and know when to listen and learn from others’ strengths and expertise. And then, if you strike the right balance with that, you can build a pretty great leadership team.
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