Taking career risks, managing cyber risk

Alumni Close-Up: Kathleen Hamm

By Matthew Biddle

When Kathleen Hamm, BS ’85, arrived at the U.S. Treasury in 2014 as counselor to then-Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, the department’s cybersecurity strategy was largely reactive, both internally and for the entire financial sector. Her mission was to change that.

Hamm, center, in 2016 with Jacob J. Lew and Sarah Bloom Raskin, then secretary and deputy secretary, respectively, at the Treasury.

Hamm, center, in 2016 with Jacob J. Lew and Sarah Bloom Raskin, then secretary and deputy secretary, respectively, at the Treasury.

Hamm led the development of a risk-based strategy and common lexicon that allows regulators and private-sector stakeholders to communicate effectively and identify and mitigate cyber risks. She also supported the department’s efforts internationally through a cyber experts panel convened by the Group of Seven (G7), a forum for the world’s most advanced economies. In October 2016, G7 officials agreed on fundamental elements of cybersecurity for the global financial sector.

“It was the first time the G7 had ever come together and published an endorsed set of principles,” she says. “Our financial systems are interconnected and we must think about cybersecurity worldwide because, as we know based on various incidents, we’re only as strong as our weakest link.”

As a School of Management accounting student, Hamm never imagined where her career might take her. She earned her bachelor’s in 1985, completed a law degree at Duke University in 1988 and accepted a position as a corporate and securities associate with a Phoenix-based firm, where she interacted frequently with the Securities and Exchange Commission for her clients.

The experience prompted her to move to Washington, D.C., to work for the SEC by day and attend Georgetown University Law Center at night. Hamm earned her master’s of law in securities regulation and spent nearly a decade in the SEC’s Enforcement Division, eventually overseeing three branches that investigated hundreds of cases.

“I never had a predetermined path for my career; if something seemed interesting or extraordinarily challenging, that was an opportunity I wanted to pursue,” she says. “That’s a lesson I’d share with current UB students: Keep an open mind, take risks and try new things so you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses and where you thrive best.”

From there, Hamm went to Nasdaq Liffe Markets, where she built the new electronic exchange’s governance, regulatory and compliance programs. In 2004, she joined Promontory Financial Group, a consulting firm acquired by IBM in 2016. As a managing director for 10 years, she created and led the firm’s securities practice group and worked with exchanges, broker-dealers, credit-rating agencies and companies across the globe.

Today, she’s back at Promontory after serving at Treasury from September 2014 to January 2017. Hamm, as global leader of securities and financial technology services, draws on all of her experiences to provide regulatory, compliance, risk management and cybersecurity advice to financial sector clients.

“My clients are at a crossroads: They rely on labor-intensive legacy systems, but need to sort through vast amounts of data,” she says. “My role is most exciting when I can help them use innovative methods and technology — including artificial intelligence and robotics — to meet their legal and regulatory obligations. If you had told me at UB that I’d end up doing something like that, I would not have believed it.”