Sandra Kumhofer Mento Labs.jpeg

Employee Spotlight - Mento Labs

March 8th, 2024Victoria Calmon

An interview with Sandra Kumhofer, General Counsel at Mento Labs

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am Austrian, born and raised in Vienna. After graduating from the Vienna Law University, I worked for an international law firm for 6 years before moving to Berlin, where I somehow ended up in the fintech scene. My first contact with the fintech scene was being part of the development of N26 in its beginnings. In 2015, I started working as employee number 5 for the company builder Finleap. When I left Finleap 5 and a half years later, we had built up an ecosystem consisting of more than 15 fintech companies, 7 with a German supervisory allowance, 2 unicorns to be, and more than 3,000 employees. In 2018, I was selected as an expert in the European Commission's Expert Group Regulatory Obstacles to Financial Innovation (ROFIEG). After 3 years in the investment area, I decided to join Mento Labs as General Counsel.

What excites you about the regulatory landscape?

I love regulation. By doing business in a regulated environment, it is clear for all players on a level playing field what is allowed and what is not. I appreciate regulatory certainty and an understandable and manageable legal framework. But what I love the most is the pioneering work of an innovator and being part of the creation of regulations. The regulator always runs after the innovator and I see myself as a (fintech/Web3) regulatory early adopter. Every new law needs a lot of sensitivity to understand and manage it, and I embrace the diverse possibilities of interpretation - if any - and of course, the subsequent implementation within the organization.

How did you discover blockchain technology and the Web3 ecosystem?

My first contact with blockchain was in my days with Finleap. Some engineers mentioned it in an all hands meeting. I Googled it and was fascinated, even though I didn't really understand it. So I asked the former CTO of Finleap to explain it to me in dummies language. At the moment I understood the basic functions of the blockchain, I knew that we have to rethink centralized regulation. New players will appear and incumbents need to adapt. All of this reminded me of the early days of the fintech industry, I was captured and knew I wanted to work in this industry. But as the blockchain/Web3 scene was full of unserious and greedy players, it took me years to find the right company, as having a clean reputation is everything in my world.

Why is regulation important for Web3?

Everything that involves finance and money creates a lot of emotions and uncertainty in its usage. Above all users seek security. Web3 is part of that; by revolutionizing the system of centralized finance and opening up a new chapter with decentralized finance, all players need to follow the same rules while facing the same opportunities and the same risks. Regulation is important to set a minimum of standards each player should follow. It gives users guidance and therefore, certainty that whatever financial service of the same segment they use follows the same principles and rules and if not, something is wrong.

What are your recommendations for learning more about regulation in Web3?

To learn more about regulation in Web3, be sure to follow all press releases, blog articles, debates etc. of the ESAS (European Supervisory Authorities), especially the European Banking Authority and European Security and Markets Authority, as well as the legislator of the local jurisdiction you work in. I recommend that you read newsletters, blogs and articles of profound sources about regulation and its tendencies. You can also join (blockchain/Web3) associations. Attending expert discussions and webinars is also very useful to learn and stay up to date.

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