“Working in emerging areas presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges that make work both exciting and demanding”- Nandini Nambiar, Senior Corporate Counsel, Amazon

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Could you please share a bit about your journey into the fintech sector and what initially drew you to this industry?

My journey in the fintech space started with Ola Money. When I joined Ola, I was initially working on Ola cab and other core Ola businesses. But soon an opportunity presented itself for me to take up the Ola Money charter. I wasn’t sure about what it involved (since I hadn’t worked on financial products before), but took it up as a challenge and a chance for me to learn something new. Since then, there has been no looking back for me – with Ola Money (now Ola Financial Services) and now Amazon Pay. The excitement I felt when I first started working in the fintech space, is something I still feel today. The fintech space has seen tremendous growth in the past decade, a trend that I expect will continue. I am grateful I had the opportunity to explore this sector, and work on a range of fintech products over the years, including wallets, postpaid payments, insurance, payment aggregation, mutual funds and more.

You’ve had experience working both in-house and with law firms. How do these experiences differ, and how have they shaped your approach to legal counsel?

That’s right, I started my work experience in law firms, and then moved to in-house roles. I personally think I got to experience the best of both worlds. The law firm experience is what helped me understand and learn the intricacies of law, and its application to everyday issues. This formative experience laid the groundwork for my subsequent transition to in-house roles. When I moved to an in-house role, I had to further learn how to translate legal advice into on-ground executable inputs, and how to deal with ambiguity. I had to analyze situations from multiple perspectives (business, tech etc.), evaluate risks, and make informed decisions in the absence of absolute certainty. I believe these experiences have made me a much better lawyer as I am able to understand and appreciate both the business and compliance aspects of operating a business.

With your extensive background in regulatory compliance, particularly in emerging areas like fintech, what challenges have you faced, and how have you navigated them?

Working in emerging areas presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges that make work both exciting and demanding. There is a constant exposure to the unknown! Almost every day brings forth a new scenario, a fresh set of variables, or a problem that requires novel solutions. This situation demands a combination of creativity, critical thinking, and a willingness to explore new paths.

In the absence of established precedents, the ability to exercise sound judgment becomes paramount. Making informed decisions in the face of ambiguity requires a deep understanding of the subject matter, a thorough analysis of available information, and the capacity to weigh potential risks and benefits. It is a skill that is honed through experience and continuous learning.

I have also found that regulators are very open to engagement and discussions. This creates a collaborative environment where regulators, industry participants, and stakeholders can work together to shape policies and regulations in a manner that promotes innovation, while ensuring public safety and welfare.

So if I had to summarize, working in emerging areas offers a dynamic and ever-evolving environment where the unknown becomes a catalyst for growth and innovation. It is a space where individuals with a thirst for learning, a knack for problem-solving, and a commitment to excellence, can thrive and make a meaningful impact.

Could you elaborate on your role as a strategic business advisor for legal compliance in new business operation areas? How do you stay ahead of the curve in such dynamic environments?

As a legal counsel, it is crucial to operate as a strategic partner, collaborating with business to ensure we navigate the regulatory landscape successfully, and supporting innovation at the same time. This involves providing comprehensive advice and guidance that goes beyond the letter of the law, encompassing the spirit and intent behind regulations as well. In most instances, I have seen the goal of the regulations and business to be the same – give customers a product/ service offering, which is safe, secure, and easy to use. 

To stay ahead of the curve, it is important to stay on top of new regulations, actively engage with the industry and regulator, and track what is happening in the industry. To balance what business wants, what customers want and what regulations mandate, is a fine balance.

Having worked with giants like Amazon and Ola, what have been some of the most significant legal considerations unique to these tech-driven businesses?

I have realized that each company is unique, having its own set of distinctive characteristics and objectives! For instance, I have worked on the wallet business in both Ola Money and Amazon Pay, but the kind of work I have done in both organizations is very different. Like I spoke of earlier, the advice varies considering what a particular business wants to achieve, the applicable legal considerations, technology build and so on. So, my advice would depend on various such factors. 

These varied experiences have taught me that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to designing and implementing business and legal solutions. Each company has its unique set of requirements, customer base, and business model, which necessitates a tailored approach. Understanding these nuances is important in providing effective counsel. Also, one needs to apply the right judgement and understanding of what the regulations require, in letter and spirit, including what changes to expect, and how customers may perceive something. Factoring all this into my guidance is a critical part of how I work.

Your educational background includes an LLM from the London School of Economics. How has this academic pursuit influenced your career trajectory?

Education has always been a fundamental aspect of my life. Growing up, my family instilled in me the significance of acquiring a quality education. I think I always knew that pursuing a Master’s degree would be a natural progression for me. After my studies at Symbiosis, I applied for a Masters in the UK and was fortunate enough to get into LSE, where I completed my Masters in Law in Corporate and Commercial laws. My LLM experience was truly remarkable. I tried to make the most of it not just by focusing on studies (with some amazing professors), but participating in extra-curriculars, absorbing new cultural experiences, and making friends from all corners of the globe! Meeting individuals with varied backgrounds at LSE was a transformative experience. Their experiences and perspectives broadened my understanding of the legal profession and exposed me to various career options available to me. These interactions played a pivotal role in shaping my professional aspirations and goals.

From drafting and reviewing contracts to undertaking due diligence, you’ve covered a wide spectrum of legal tasks. Can you share a particularly challenging or rewarding project from your career?

I know it will sound like a clichéd response, but honestly, I don’t think I can pick something in particular. Each experience I have had so far, has helped shape me into the person/ legal counsel I am today. What is most rewarding for me is to work to solve problems/ challenges for customers, and every day that I am able to do that, it keeps me going! I have been working in the fintech space for almost a decade now, and I have been blessed to see this space grow and innovate. Being part of this journey has been very rewarding to me!

As someone with rich experience in the legal field, what advice would you offer to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, especially in the realm of corporate and commercial law?

Firstly, one size won’t fit all! So my advice is purely based on what I have experienced. As a fresh graduate, I would say your main focus should be on learning. Find opportunities where you can do that, and build a strong foundation. Embrace opportunities to learn from senior colleagues, attend workshops/ seminars, and engage in continuous professional development. Also, don’t feel pressured to pick a specialty area of work right out of college. Experiment and try new things. When you do end up specializing down the line, you will be clear on what you want.

What has also helped me during this entire journey, was having some great mentors. If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor, actively seek out their knowledge and learn as much as you can from them.

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