Former DHS cyber official Schneck takes financial consulting job

Phyllis Schneck speaks at the 2016 Security Through Innovation Summit. (Scoop News Group)

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Phyllis Schneck, the most senior official with a cybersecurity-specific job at the Obama-era Department of Homeland Security, has landed at Promontory Financial Group, one of Washington’s most powerful and best-connected banking consultancies.

Schneck, who was deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications in DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, told friends that she started last week. The Promontory website lists her as “managing director and global leader of cyber solutions” in the company’s Washington, D.C., office. Neither Schneck nor a representative of the company immediately responded to an email requesting comment.

Promontory is a behind-the-scenes powerhouse packed with former banking regulators and other ex-officials — from founder and former U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig to board member and former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein. Indeed a large chunk of the company’s revenue comes from outsourced oversight. It’s hired by regulatory agencies, for example, to backstop overworked staff by monitoring  punishment deals or other agreements that financial institutions enter into with regulators.

The company was bought by IBM last year for an undisclosed amount. IBM says it wants to marry Promontory’s regulatory expertise with its artificial intelligence system called Watson. “Promontory, combined with IBM’s deep industry expertise and Watson’s cognitive capabilities, will directly address the massive operational effort and manual cost of constantly changing regulation and risk management requirements” for banks and other financial institutions, IBM said in a statement when the acquisition closed last year.

“Promontory will help accelerate IBM’s development of cognitive solutions for risk and compliance,” the statement continued. Cybersecurity is very much a growth area for regulation, and New York’s bank regulator, the Department of Financial Services just introduced some of the toughest and most prescriptive cybersecurity regulations in the world.

“Promontory’s professionals will train Watson, which will learn by continuously ingesting regulatory information as it is created and through interaction in real-world applications,” the statement finished.

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