Patrick Ottenhoff is a Director of U.S. Government Engagement at Visa Inc., where he covers an array of technology and innovation issues, including cybersecurity, fraud/risk, privacy, digital identity, and digital currencies.
His responsibilities include advancing Visa’s legislative, regulatory, and public policy priorities, and engaging with key stakeholder groups in government and the private sector.
Before joining Visa in 2019, Patrick was with The Cypress Group (now called Mindset) for seven years where he served as Director of Financial Services and Technology. In that role, he provided an array of advocacy and advisory services for several large banks, tech and telecom firms, fintech and crypto firms, a global payments network, an operator of global exchanges, and financial services trade associations. Patrick also led the firm’s Strategic Planning practice, where he worked with executives at clients experiencing pivotal events, such as legislative crises, M&A events, or changes in leadership, to craft government relations strategies that align with corporate priorities.
Prior to that, Patrick also worked for UBS, PayPal, Bloomberg Government (BGov), and New Media Strategies (now part of Accenture), and started his career at National Journal and The Hotline. In these roles, he worked on a variety of consulting projects that took him from Silicon Valley to Dubai.
Patrick holds an M.B.A. from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and a B.A. in Political Science from Union College in Schenectady, NY. He resides his in his hometown of Washington, DC, with his wife, Lauren, and their son.
Get to know Patrick Ottenhoff
You have served on our board for over two years. What does being on the board mean to you?
It is an honor to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Cybersecurity Alliance. It’s an opportunity to work on one of the most challenging issues of our time, cybersecurity, and to help encourage a safe and secure online experience. It is especially gratifying to help be part of the solution at a time when so much of our personal and professional lives take place online – everything from emails, to connecting with friends, to banking.
At Visa, we see firsthand the importance of e-commerce and digital payments to businesses of all sizes. During the pandemic, we saw that businesses with a robust online presence and those with access to digital payments weathered the initial downturn much better and, in many cases, were more resilient and better able to compete. At the same time, fraudsters are getting smarter and constantly looking for new tactics, so it is vital that organizations like NCA continue to educate businesses and consumers on the safe and secure use of all technology. Even in my personal life, I worry about my family’s safety and security online. I feel fortunate to be involved with NCA.
How do Visa’s cybersecurity interests align with our mission?
As a payments network, Visa needs to consider the interests of all of our partners and stakeholders – including financial institutions, merchants and consumers – and to think about the integrity of the entire payments ecosystem. We do this by both investing in the latest cybersecurity and fraud prevention technologies, such as AI fraud analytics and tokenization, as well as layering on human intelligence. In 2021 alone, Visa’s fraud prevention capabilities helped prevent nearly $26 billion in attempted fraudulent transactions for merchants and financial institutions.
NCA takes a similar approach: the organization advises on technology security best practices, while also bringing together business leaders, government officials, and some of the best minds in cybersecurity to assist consumers and businesses.
Your current role at Visa is at an interesting intersection between finance, government relations, and cybersecurity. What brought you there?
Many of my career experiences have had elements of government, finance, and technology, but it’s been a pretty circuitous and unique Washington experience.
After college, I started off as a cub political reporter for The Hotline under Chuck Todd. This was the early days of “new media” like Twitter and YouTube. This experience led me to a consulting firm run by Pete Snyder that focused on using technology in government relations. We had fun with crazy ideas like trying to launch a social network for congressional staffers – something along the lines of a LinkedIn platform for the Hill.
When the financial crisis hit, I was interested in adding depth on finance and went to Business School at Georgetown. Afterward, I sought an experience connected to government while also drawing on my MBA. I joined Mindset, a firm with a niche at the intersection of financial markets, corporate strategy, and government relations. At this point, fintech was taking off, and I helped lead the fintech, crypto, and cyber practice at Mindset, which brought me to Visa.
At Visa, I work on the Government Engagement team and work with our Cybersecurity, Fraud, Risk, and Crypto teams, among others, to help highlight our work creating a safe payments ecosystem and to work with our government partners in advancing cybersecurity and data security policy.
Any career advice for people seeking careers in Washington, DC like yours?
I’ve heard many pieces of good advice that I try to follow about always continuing to meet new people, volunteering for the tough jobs, keeping your word, and producing high quality and consistent work over time. One piece of advice that I think is especially important in Washington is finding a good boss. In DC, more than anywhere, having a good boss is important. This is a people business – your boss can open doors and create opportunities for you.
I’ve been really lucky to work for people like Chuck Todd, Pete Snyder, Howard Mortman, Jessica Boulanger, Andy Blocker, Pat Cave, the Mindset partners, Pace Bradshaw, and Bobby Thomson. I’ve learned tremendously from each one of them – both on substance, but more importantly, how to conduct yourself and lead.
You are written and published several articles on topics ranging from politics to road trips. What is your favorite thing to write about? Do you have a favorite post that you’ve published?
I do some outdoors writing as a hobby to unplug from my day job, mainly interviewing various Mid-Atlantic hunting and fishing guides. A couple of these interviews have ended up in the ‘Talk of the Bay’ column in Chesapeake Bay Magazine, but mostly it’s just an excuse for me to pick the brain of various characters in the region that I otherwise would have no reason to talk with. I like to talk with people who are dialed in with a certain species or are four-season sportsmen or sportswomen. I like chasing the concept that there is always something “in season” or a fish or game in its peak. Perhaps my favorite interviews are Paula Smith, a woman who lives off fish and game on the Potomac floodplain; Billy Rice, a waterman who has worked the Chesapeake for half a century; and Charles Rodney, a true gentleman and expert rabbit hunter.
Besides the outdoors stuff, I did do the road trip article – I can’t believe they published my musings on food pits stops throughout the country!
Do you have any password tips for our readers specific to their financial accounts?
I have two “hacks” for solid passwords that are easy to remember.
- Song lyrics. The longer the password, the more difficult it is to hack. Pick out a song lyric that you can’t get out of your head and replace some of the letters with characters.
- For the passwords that need to be regularly updated, I used seasonal outdoors activities that I’m into at the time. I’ll leave it at that.
And of course, use multi-factor authentication!