Women in Technology: Miriam De Dios Woodward
February 16, 2022
As first seen on Finopotamus.com.
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
For this issue, we visited with ViClarity’s Global CEO Miriam De Dios Woodward. With headquarters in Tralee, Ireland and West Des Moines, Iowa, the company offers governance, risk and compliance technology solutions to approximately 810 U.S. credit unions and 70 European credit unions.
By W.B. King
While Miriam De Dios Woodward said her “formal career” in technology is essentially just beginning, her tech lineage actually dates back to the birth of a now ubiquitous device.
“I started my career in the credit union industry in 2007, the same year the iPhone was first released,” she said. “So in many ways, fast-moving, iterative technology has been the ever-present undercurrent to my professional life.”
The reason she considers herself new to the tech world is that ViClarity recently transitioned from a regulatory compliance consultancy to a governance, risk and compliance technology firm.
“Formerly PolicyWorks, we now serve the credit union marketplace as ViClarity, the name of the Irish GRC software company we acquired in 2020,” De Dios Woodward, who has served as CEO since 2018, said. “The investment kicked off an entirely new future for our company.”
Becoming a “tech-driven firm” meant operating with a “completely retooled business model” with a “much deeper bench” of technology expertise, she added. “One of the most exciting aspects to this evolution is that our expanded knowledge is benefiting credit union partners through greater context of GRC best practices and strategies across geographies and industries.”
Earning a Bachelor’s of Science in marketing and management from Iowa State University, De Dios Woodward also completed academic programs at Harvard Business School and The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. And as her academic and professional career has unfolded, she has noticed changes in work environments, especially in the tech space.
Technology leaders, she said, have moved from “being order takers” to having a seat at the “strategy table.” Successful organizations, she added, see “technology optimization” as foundational to a sustainable future.
But when it comes to elevating women in the technology field, she said that while “incremental strides” have been made, disproportions exist.
“There is still a significant gap. This disparity was very evident at a recent technology awards event I attended. The majority of company representatives who took the stage to accept awards were male,” she reflected. “And it wasn’t just the leaders, but the teams supporting them, as well.”
Another gap she sees is the lack of multicultural leaders of either gender. To this end, she said ViClarity has a proactive diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program in place.
“As one example, our board of managers includes female leaders in technology. Our company has a mix of female and male employees across our software business unit,” she said. Currently, the company has 38 global employees, 25 of which are tech-facing. And of that number, nine are female. “I continue to have a difficult time finding female leaders in the technology space to network with.”
De Dios Woodward explained that she is always looking to build bridges for younger professionals. This is a direct result of the influence several mentors have had on her career.
Among these leaders is Warren Morrow, founder of Coopera. For nearly 12 years, De Dios Woodward worked at the West Des Moines, Iowa-based multicultural analytics and consulting firm, which serves credit unions. She began her tenure as the firm’s emerging markets director and eventually was named CEO.
“Thanks to Warren, I came to know (and love) working with credit unions,” she said. “The concept of furthering an organization that was both a for-profit company and mission-focused was eye-opening and exciting.”
Murray Williams, CEO of the Iowa Credit Union League, has also been a wonderful sponsor, she said. “He has supported me in my leadership growth and encouraged me to look at new areas. His guidance is what propelled me into the completely new field of GRC technology.”
Her experiences with Morrow and Williams compel her to “pay it forward,” which has included serving as a mentor at the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines.
“I have worked closely with interns in past positions to informally connect them with other female emerging leaders,” she said. “I also sit on a women in business advisory group for Iowa State University, where I am lucky to have the opportunity to weigh in on methods the college can deploy to bring and retain more women into the business field.”
Growing in the CU Tech Space
ViClarity’s “outstanding growth” to date is due to its talented team, De Dios Woodward said, placing special emphasis on Global CIO Ogie Sheehy, who founded ViClarity in Ireland.
“He is a terrific example of a human-centered designer and empathetic leader. He insists on working collaboratively with clients to make the ViClarity GRC platform better with each new feature,” she offered. “For instance, we’ve just introduced a document management solution that solves issues we heard about through conversations with our client community.”
Credit unions, she explained, are at the core of ViClarity’s business model. “They were our first clients, both in the US and Europe.” ViClarity, she noted, is majority-owned by the Iowa Credit Union League.
“Our value proposition is to make GRC easier for credit unions through technology and services. We want credit unions to have the time and resources to focus on their members and communities by allowing us to do the heavy lifting on all things GRC,” De Dios Woodward said. “We do this by helping credit union GRC leaders automate processes, simplify reporting and increase access to GRC expertise.”
Delivering on Promises
In effort to stay abreast of tech trends, De Dios Woodward said her team regularly has planning sessions. Recently the confluence of DEI, GRC and ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) stood out as a trend to monitor.
“It’s fascinating to watch the positive influence of humanity on the regulatory environment. At the same time, the global recognition of the need for more oversight in these areas means credit unions will no doubt welcome the integration of automation to make regulatory compliance and risk management stronger and more manageable capabilities,” she said.
Another area of her continued interest is consumer preferences. She is intrigued by shifts in where consumers will place their trust as digital transformation reshapes everyday experiences and expectations.
“Embedded insurance and finance and all-in-one providers are trying to figure out how to play in an environment of reprioritized trust, and technology will have a sizable role in delivering on promises made to end users,” she said.
Services performed by ViClarity are compliance and not legal in nature, and do not form an attorney-client relationship or any of the protections attendant to the attorney-client relationship.