Christopher Bailey, from CTO to CEO, but always solving problems

Christopher is a problem solver. Whether it is coding, building Lego as a kid, finding the right number to finish Sudokus at home,

or now solving problems in the cybersecurity space as NuData’s CEO, Bailey is always looking for the next challenge to throw himself into. He co-founded NuData with Michel Giasson in 2007. The two have been an unbeatable duo, with Giasson as CEO, focusing on growing the business and its clients, and Bailey as CTO, delivering innovative features and capabilities that help clients thrive.

After driving the company from a two-person start-up that relied on empty coffee shops for some peace and quiet to a 150-employee tech company that spreads out across several floors overlooking the ocean, Giasson has retired leaving a strong legacy that Bailey is picking up and making his own.

What’s next for the new CEO and NuData? Let’s ask him.

A newspaper delivery company at 8, a founder of a gaming company at 19, a founder of NuData in 2007… What drives you to create companies?

A lot of it came from my dad. I don’t know if entrepreneurial is the right word but he was deeply involved in the community and always working on projects. In Ontario, where I grew up, during the winter he would create an ice rink for all the kids in the area. He always had a project, something going, and he instilled that into my brother and me.

What did you want to do when you grew up?

I always wanted to build stuff. Since childhood, I loved Lego and tools to construct things. I started programming at eight, building little videogames or whatever project that caught my attention, much like my father. Through technology, that turned into software development. And, ultimately, into building H20 Entertainment when I was 19, a gaming company for top tier publishers like Nintendo, Sony, and THQ. I continued on that path that got me to where we are now.

You seem to enjoy moving on to new projects. What made you stay with NuData, after founding it?

Here there is a whole new scale of opportunity. Since the Mastercard acquisition, I had been given challenges and opportunities that enabled me to grow and learn at a faster rate compared than with previous companies. Having the constant opportunity to learn and grow is a privilege I want to make the most of. My new role as a CEO of NuData brings a whole new set of opportunities that I haven’t seen or experienced before. Honestly, learning is so much fun!

Tell me more about these opportunities

Moving from CTO to CEO, I have access to a different side of the business, although I had some view into it through Michel [Giasson, former CEO]. Now, going from visibility to responsibility changes the depth at which I think about these things. I go into more detail and have more consideration around each challenge. For example, I have to manage and lead people at a different level. With Randy [Lukashuk, former NuData architect and now NuData CTO] coming in and taking over the role, I’ve seen him and his team grown to become great innovators and managers. Supporting people grow and learn is one of the most satisfying things I think about when I go back home at night. I don’t see that curve of learning and growing changing any time soon for NuData people.

How did the acquisition help NuData?

Unlike many acquisitions, we were very lucky because Mastercard chose NuData, but NuData also chose Mastercard. We saw the synergy and fit of the corporate values. The promises made during the acquisition have been delivered in spades. Across these years I have witnessed dozens of people grow within the organization because of the investment from Mastercard in our staff.

Christopher Bailey during interview

“Do you miss coding?”


Do you miss coding?

[Laughs] Yes and no. I grew up loving to program. Started programming professionally at 17 and released my first game at 19. All I did was program. I programmed when I started NuData. You could say I miss programming but I replaced it with similar challenges. Working with people and with the teams is not programming per se, but there are similarities. It is a change in functions, a change in how you think about the problem in front of you. With programming, you take a problem and break it down into smaller pieces, and implements solutions or capabilities around those other pieces. Or you think about strategy; how are you going to get the team to work together? The problems are different but they are still problems you need to solve.

Your full title says “Executive Vice President, NuData & EMV/Digital Devices at Mastercard”– what does that mean?

[Laughs] Let’s start with the terms. Digital devices are any devices that conduct commerce online. EMV, within Mastercard, creates the tech standards to enable commerce to work anytime everywhere globally. My new title is the result of an effort to bring those two together, same as NuData is merging both sides. From a Mastercard perspective, the reason to bring transactions and security together is to give a layer of trust around all of those transactions. The ultimate goal is to offer a better experience to merchants and consumers.

You’ve worked with Michel for many years, what is the main thing you have learned from him?

“Say what you mean. Do what you say.” This is one of the mantras that really resonates with me. Michel has always followed that and he is also truly passionate about the people. That’s the place where Michel and I really align. You can say all the things you want but unless you believe it or act it out, it doesn’t matter. Another really important thing is to genuinely care, be sincerely passionate about the things you are doing, and the people you are interacting with. If you put those things together, that is the magic required for building great teams.

Christopher Bailey helping out Manny, from the Customer Success team

What does NuData need to do as an organization?

The most important thing we need to do is retain our passion towards our customers. We need to continue to be known as the company who does what it takes for their customers. Customers are number one and our focus has to stay there. But there is another side of the business that can’t work with the other: our staff. We need the same level of focus to retain our staff. When it comes to our customers and our staff, I am proud to say that we say what we mean and we do what we say. We make sure our staff has a great work environment, are treated well and have appropriate work-life balance. That genuine care for our employees makes NuData a great place to work and innovate. If we keep focusing on those two things we will continue to have a great path ahead. The third thing is continuing to innovate, continue to create new things that will delight our customers in the future.

What are the things you see NuData innovating on?

NuData is going to continue threading through security gaps to offer an end-to-end solution that is secure and convenient for customers. Our mission is to enhance our technical capabilities to solve the ever-evolving challenges around stopping bad actors from getting in and polluting protected environments. Our innovation is moving towards how to better prevent the creation of fake accounts, and to protect access to those accounts so that they are not compromised and remain safe and secure. NuData will continue to build comprehensive capabilities that fit into the larger authentication and identification strategies, especially as we work closer to EMV. This will have a positive impact on how people use their cards and how we can build safety across all different transactions, not just online.

How do you see online user authentication evolving?

There is going to be a move towards more centralized authentication services. Right now, most people roll their own authentication tools. This can be a problem because there are a lot of ways adversaries are taking advantage of the lack of security considerations from these tools and take over accounts. In the future, there will be less roll-around technologies and the solutions will also become more encompassing – not just for one placement or one type of credential.

Authentication will stretch out from a username and a password to everything that leads up to the user entering a credential (what type of device is it? what is the behavior?). Protecting a device will be part of the job of having an effective credential system so you know that the device trying to authenticate is safe and secure, and it hasn’t been compromised by malware.

Traditionally, security has been about “do you know this username and password, do they match?” Now that expands to the first contact with a device to determine if it is the right person interacting before we give them access to the server. Sometimes it is in the customer’s best interest to block the access because we can see there is a bad actor waiting to take over the session through malware. And technology is going to keep evolving to be as frictionless as possible.

This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t build their own tools but large digital players have resources to do it properly and effectively. There is a balance between what is your core business and what you should be focusing your resources on while asking yourself a realistic question: do you have the capacity to create and secure that credential system or environment properly? If not, it’s best to leverage existing working technologies.

As we centralize these capabilities instead of each developing their own, companies can focus on giving the control over to the user. Today, if you create an account with merchant A, that merchant gets all the data you give. If, on the other hand, you have a central repository, someplace where you can have your credentials and you show them to merchant A, then you can give assurance to the merchant A that this is a legitimate credential. Centralized authentication systems confirm that there is trust, but also give customers control and decide what they are going go share.

Check out the press release.


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