Anna Novoseletsky – Discover Financial Services
Having lived in multiple countries—and passing the bar exam in three—Ukraine native Anna Novoseletsky can’t help but look at the world through the lens of globalization.
That international perspective drives Novoseletsky in her role as the legal head of global payments and senior counsel at Discover Financial Services in Illinois. For the veteran corporate attorney, e-commerce is an integral part of the universal ecosystem, a common tie that binds different regions and populations around the globe—never more so than during a pandemic.
From the start, COVID-19 put global financial systems to the test, driving Discover to develop e-commerce initiatives to support financial interactions between consumers and merchants across the globe. Digitization became the primary pathway to produce faster, safer, often touchless transactions—with Discover also exploring other payment channels.
“My team and I work very closely with business and technology experts,” Novoseletsky says, relishing her leadership role of working with others. “Digitization is all encompassing and ever-changing. We are looking ahead to new developments in solving today’s problems for our merchants and customers.”
Primed for a pandemic
Development has been a consistent theme in Novoseletsky’s life—both personally and professionally—from her law school days at the National ‘Jaroslav the Wise’ Law Academy of Ukraine in Kharkiv, to practicing corporate and financial law in Ukraine, Russia and later the U.S.
Novoseletsky was inspired by her Ukrainian grandfather, Joseph, a lawyer who specialized in criminal prosecution and litigation. During her education and early work in Moscow, she took was also an attorney at the Center of Economic and Financial Examinations, becoming the head of the legal department. She gravitated toward business law—with a focus on finance, mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance.
“Globalization is the story of my life. I embrace it and understand it,” says Novoseletsky. “It’s here in America now, and part of conducting business globally. There’s no way of avoiding it.”
Arriving in the U.S. as political refugee in 2001— four years after her husband Dmitry arrived—Novoseletsky focused on getting a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. She graduated in 2006, passing the U.S. bar that same year.
After graduation, she joined Latham & Watkins, whose clientele included Discover. Quickly drawn to that company’s culture—and with a desire to go in-house—she joined Discover in 2016 as the head of the payment services legal advisory group. She’s received two promotions since, most recently to her current spot in 2020.
“E-commerce was not a primary initiative at the time, but international finance and globalization were certainly topics at the forefront,” Novoseletsky recalls. “I was chosen for my pedigree and my transactional experience in the work I was doing. We had an eye toward international expansion, reviewing regulatory needs and partnering with businesses.”
Perhaps nothing accelerated e-commerce more than the arrival of a once-in-a-century pandemic.
With countries everywhere under lockdown, people couldn’t pay for things on-site as before, using computers or mobile devices to buy what they needed online instead—from groceries to schoolbooks.
In reaction to the crisis, Discover developed a steering committee that met virtually to accelerate and better enable remote transactions. Digitization is the key to speed things along, Novoseletsky says, through technologies such as touchless payments, click-to-pay mobile applications, quick response codes and cryptocurrency—efforts that were already underway.
The work, Novoseletsky says, is ongoing and has been a focus for more than a year.
COVID-19 required us to gain an understanding of the global legal regulatory framework for conducting ecommerce—everything from regulations for online payment channels, to researching and developing privacy policies like Global Data Protection Regulation and the California Privacy Act,” says Novoseletsky.
The benefits of digitization for a global population are welcomed and obvious, says Novoseletsky. People are given the freedom to buy goods and services from any location and from a variety of payment channels. Customers don’t even need a plastic card to secure a purchase because the data can be pulled up on a cell phone.
“The technological developments are amazing and ubiquitous,” she says. “We have arrived in a new age of making transactions.”
Novoseletsky credits her years of study and travel—and the legal knowledge gained along the way—for allowing her to help the company through one of the most difficult years in its history.
Coming to the U.S. and earning her J.D. broadened her understanding. Book knowledge is one thing, Novoseletsky says, but the basis of her success is built on building personal relationships.
“Aside from all the technical preparation to become a skillful lawyer, the most important thing is building great relationships. When you know what a person or business wants and needs, you can strategically develop a plan based on understanding,” Novoseletsky says.
Thinking back to tagging along with her grandfather in Ukraine, she says that passion for practicing law still burns bright. Even now, her love of legal is something she shares with those that she mentors.
“We’re all in this together; commerce is an ecosystem,” Novoseletsky says. “I enjoy being a part of that commonality, especially during COVID-19, where there’s a real sense of purpose. The relationships you build and the information you share are the ties that bind and helps us survive.”
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