Welcome to our podcast series, Coffee with the Council. I'm Alicia Malone, senior manager of public relations for the PCI Security Standards Council. Today we'll meet one of the Council's newest employees, our Regional Vice President of North America, Wenlock Free. Wen is based in the USA and spent 20 years in a senior role at Security Metrics, where he led strategic partnerships and business development activity. Thank you for joining us today, Wen, and welcome to the team.
Wenlock Free: Alicia, thank you. I'm really excited to be here working with such talented and terrific folks.
Alicia Malone: Well, we are excited to have you as well. So, your new role as Regional Vice President of North America is also a new position at the PCI Security Standards Council. Tell us a little about what this new role is and what you've been hired to do.
Wenlock Free: You know, that's a great question. I've been tasked, or asked, to make sure that the Participating Organizations and that the surrounding folks who participate with the Council, particularly in the North American region, are comfortable with the engagement process. There is some emcee work that I've been tapped to do for the Community Meetings, and provide insight from the experience that I have in helping support the adoption of the standards in North America, and particularly to grow the participation in the program itself.
Alicia Malone: So that sounds like a very big job. You have your work cut out for you, I guess.
Wenlock Free: Indeed.
Alicia Malone: Your background is in payments with a long tenure at Security Metrics. Can you describe your career path in this industry and how it led you to PCI SSC?
Wenlock Free: Yes. You know, I think everybody I talk to has a unique story, and hopefully, anybody listening is thinking about their story and how PCI became an acronym that is a daily accepted part of your language. But I was participating in an organization that did charting and graphing for financial industries. So, you would go to E-Trade. You would see your portfolio in charts and graphs, and we focus particularly on the financial industry. I was asked to join Security Metrics in the very early days, as the number three employee, and the job at the time was to create a customer base.
And simultaneously, or within a few years, individuals from each of the respective card brands and card schemes approached us, and they said, "You have some unique tools regarding data security, and we have a program that we're going to launch called the Payment Card Industry, and we're going to create a data security standard." So, having a technical insight into what the card brands needed was very fun, very powerful, and in the early days there were some very unusual hours that kept us up, whether it be with breaches or whether it be with certifications, or just meeting and talking to folks from all over the planet.
Alicia Malone: You bring a wealth of industry relationships and knowledge to the Council. What does that mean for you in terms of helping PCI SSC to succeed in its mission to secure payment data?
Wenlock Free: Mostly, Alicia, the relationships that I've been able to gather and that I've been able to make in the industry are what's going to be a great benefit, at least in my mind, because I'll be able to tap into those relationships and get insight into where we're going to need to move. For example, there's a lot of discussion right now around artificial intelligence and what AI is going to do, and ironically, I have some friends in the industry who have a great understanding of that, on the good side and on the bad side. And so, whether the topic is artificial intelligence or cameras, whatever it is, I usually have a resource that I can reach out to that will help us succeed in our mission to secure payment data.
Alicia Malone: A major part of your new role at the Council involves growing the Participating Organization program. Why is that important, and how do you hope to achieve that?
Wenlock Free: The Participating Organization program is the lifeblood of the future of securing payments and payments information. As people choose to participate, as they bring their expertise and their knowledge, we see a giant library, or a giant resource, in creating a standard moving forward that will stay in front of those who are trying to steal data or use data for nefarious reasons.
Alicia Malone: So, Wen, what are you most looking forward to in this new role? It sounds like you'll be wearing several hats.
Wenlock Free: Yes, indeed. Part of the role involves making sure those who are currently participating understand the value of their participation and in their membership. Another part of the role has to do with making sure those who wish to join and who wish to contribute can do so and understand the best way to do that. What I'm most looking forward to has got to be the new folks that I'm going to meet and the new insights that I'm going to gather.
If I could give you just one example, I was recently at a meeting in Washington D.C. and there I met some of the Participating Organization members who were telling me about their businesses. One such member has a cash machine, and this cash machine is designed to accept payments for utilities. He shared with me an interesting statistic, I'm sure he won't mind, and that is that more of his machines have been stolen by tornadoes than have been stolen by people. So, there was a tornado that came through the area. He saw that the 7-Eleven, where the machine was mounted was missing, and his machine was off in a landfill somewhere. So, the fascinating stories and the people are what I'm looking forward to most.
Alicia Malone: So now we'll have to come up with a plan on how to protect payment data from tornadoes.
Wenlock Free: Yes. You got that.
Alicia Malone: PCI SSC's North America Community Meeting is this month, and you will be leading the conference as emcee of the event, which you mentioned to us earlier. Talk to us about this endeavor and what you're hoping attendees will take away from the Community Meeting this year.
Wenlock Free: Great question. The first thing I'm hoping is that they'll make sure that all the rotten fruit and vegetables are eliminated before I go on stage.
In addition to that, I'm hoping that attendees will see that there is a cutting edge that begs their participation. There really is. We've come to some plateaus as it relates to data security for payment card data. And as we advance the technology in allowing merchants to take transactions unfettered, that's vital. But there are threats on the horizon that we need to look after. And as we identify those, as we categorize and make sure we understand those threats, and then eventually come up with standards to mitigate those, that's a never-ending process. And from the Community Meeting this year, I hope people get an insight into the future of why that's so important.
Alicia Malone: Outside of your day job, tell us a little bit about yourself. What kinds of things are you passionate about? What would you like others to know about you?
Wenlock Free: Oh, that's a loaded question. That can be summarized in three words. One is the word ‘beach’. The second is two words, and that is ‘vintage automobiles’. When I'm not goofing around with my data security associates, I love finding a unique, off and away beach, jumping in the water, and goofing around. And then, of course, antique cars, particularly Corvettes, is something that I'm quite passionate about. So, if anybody listening has a vintage car or a unique beach that they want to share with me, please seek me out. I would love to talk to you about that.
Alicia Malone: That sounds like such a fun hobby. I'm so glad you shared that with us.
Wenlock Free: You bet.
Alicia Malone: And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you how you take your coffee since you're on Coffee with the Council, or if you're not a coffee drinker, what do you prefer instead?
Wenlock Free: Well, that's a great question. Personally, I am not a big fan of coffee, but I'll tell you what I love is a very, very well-done cup of hot cocoa with plenty of whipped cream or marshmallow cream. That happens to be my favorite.
Alicia Malone: That sounds delicious.
Wenlock Free: Yeah.
Alicia Malone: I agree with you on that. Excellent answer.
Wenlock Free: Thank you.
Alicia Malone: Well, thank you so much for joining us on Coffee with the Council, Wen. It's been a pleasure getting to know you, and I look forward to working with you at the Council.
Wenlock Free: Yes, indeed. Alicia, thank you. And I look forward to meeting lots of great new people and reuniting with those who I've known for many years.
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