Wharton FinTech
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Wharton FinTech

Sigal Mandelker, General Partner at Ribbit Capital — Promoting Public & Private Fintech Partnerships

In today’s episode I’m joined by Sigal Mandelker, General Partner at Ribbit Capital, an investment firm focused on financial services and technology.

Sigal and I cover a range of topics, including:

Sigal’s Work in the Public Sector:
After receiving her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Sigal went on to hold a number of senior positions in the U.S. government, including Deputy Assistant General in the Criminal Division. Much of Sigal’s work centered around counter-terrorism national security. In December of 2016, she received an offer to serve as the Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. As Under Secretary, she supervised four main components of the Treasury — OFAC, FinCEN, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. During her time in the public sector, Sigal saw an incredible opportunity for growth within fintech, and in April of 2020, she joined Ribbit to help bridge the gap between public and private partnerships.

Cryptocurrencies and Anti-Money Laundering:
During her time as Under Secretary, Sigal noticed that incentives for financial institutions to innovate in AML were not where they should be — banks spent a vast majority of their time proving a negative statement. She worked to provide banks with the leeway to build out AML systems more efficiently. Furthermore, towards the end of her time working in the public sector, Cryptocurrencies had become a major talking point. She focused on helping the technology and its use cases grow while limiting its use for nefarious activities. Sigal also points out that cryptocurrencies are much more transparent than traditional financial infrastructure because (for the most part) the blockchain they rely on is transparent and immutable.

“If you talk to prosecutors and you gave them the choice in their criminal cases of going after money-laundering that happened either in cash… versus money-laundering that happened in crypto, universally they will say yes, please give me the crypto cases.”

Ribbit’s Investment in Chainalysis:
Sigal had some exposure to Chainalysis during her time in the public sector — she used a Chainalysis report to identify different connections to a sanctioned digital wallet. Fast-forward to Sigal’s time at Ribbit, and Chainalysis was one of the first deals Sigal participated in. She currently works as an advisor to the company.

Over the past few weeks, Chainalysis has created a number of reports on crypto flows into Ukraine. Ukraine raised $70M in cryptocurrencies in a few weeks for humanitarian purposes including food and supplies. Sigal is a firm believer in the future of cryptocurrencies as an “enabler for humanitarian aid”. Chainalysis’ reports also find that cryptocurrencies have not been used at a large scale for sanction evasion.

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Sigal Mandelker:
Sigal Mandelker joined Ribbit Capital as a General Partner in April 2020. Ribbit is an investment firm focused on financial services and technology. Prior to Ribbit, she served as Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. As Under Secretary, Sigal supervised four main components of Treasury (OFAC, FinCEN, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes). Before serving as Under Secretary of Treasury, Sigal was a partner at Proskauer in New York. Sigal also previously served in a number of senior positions in the U.S. government, including as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, an AUSA in the Southern District of New York, Counselor to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General. Sigal is also an Advisor to Chainalysis, is on the Board of the Financial Technology Association, serves on the advisory group to the Digital Dollar Project, and is Member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.

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About the Author:
Anirudh Singh is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton School, where he is part of the Wharton FinTech Podcast team. He has a passion for economic development, venture capital, financial services, and all things FinTech. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, feedback, and opportunities at singhan@wharton.upenn.edu.

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