Sabrina Guenther Frigo jokes that her own husband doesn’t understand what she does for a living. And she doesn’t blame him—it’s a bit complicated.
Guenther Frigo is the associate general counsel of privacy and data management at CUNA Mutual Group, a broad financial services provider. She advises the company regarding data, privacy, and security risks as its maintains, develops, and provides insurance and investment products to credit unions and other financial institutions. Or as her husband puts it, “she’s the reason we all have to use two-factor authentication.”
As a data and privacy professional, Guenther Frigo is indeed a fan of layered security measures designed to keep intruders from stealing passwords and accessing private information. While a small contingent of consumers might see the steps as an annoyance, she knows how important it is to protect those consumers and her company alike. After all, CUNA Mutual serves 95 percent of all credit unions along with other financial institutions and protects 30 million consumers with more than $8.8 billion in annuity assets under management. Its annual revenue tops $4 billion.
Guenther Frigo relies on a blend of training and experience to excel in the role. She went to the University of Virginia School of Law and started her career at Jenner & Block. When a partner started a privacy and information governance practice, Guenther Frigo expressed interest and started to study its relevant issues.
That was in 2012. Smartphones had been around for five years, and as connected devices grew in popularity, the idea of personal information hit the mainstream. Guenther Frigo knew she had found a niche. “I saw how privacy and emerging technologies were about to change business on a global scale as all of these issues came together,” she explains.
As the early privacy landscape continued to evolve, Guenther Frigo worked to stay on top of the legal and business implications related to the intersection of risk, value, data, and technology. While advising clients in financial services, e-commerce, and other fields, she got more involved in issues related to privacy and data management.
Soon, Guenther Frigo realized these were no longer small practice areas but broad issues that impact all aspects of how employees and consumers engage with any organization. A desire to be part of a team that guides long-term strategy led her to investigate in-house roles, and she joined CUNA Mutual in 2017 to protect the business and its customers.
Guenther Frigo’s team includes one other attorney and two business compliance professionals who work broadly across all business lines on privacy, cybersecurity, data, and related topics. They analyze changes in regulations and policies and educate internal partners on what’s coming.
Those conversations are critical for Guenther Frigo and her team. “We shine when we connect and engage with people as true partners,” she says. “I talk to them about what we need to do, and we figure out how to do it together.”
The pace of innovation, an ongoing pandemic, and sophisticated threats from hackers are all making Guenther Frigo’s job harder than ever before. Data is valuable, consumers have high expectations, and regulators are strict. Guenther Frigo and her team advise on necessary safeguards to protect members who want the convenience of completing personal transactions 100 percent online.
“It’s not the consumer’s responsibility to understand the secure features a company provides,” Guenther Frigo says. “It’s our job to make sure we build an experience that is both safe and convenient.”
Keeping pace with the company requires constant prioritization, and Guenther Frigo asks her team to tackle items on a risk-based approach. “We believe in privacy by design and prefer to be engaged early in all projects,” she says.
In the pandemic and post-pandemic world, more things are done remotely. While that brings extra convenience, it also brings extra risk. “The divide between our personal and professional lives is rapidly disappearing,” Guenther Frigo says. “And we all need to take more care to protect our personal security.”
Guenther Frigo offers simple steps for everyone to protect their data.
- Review the privacy settings on your mobile device
- Delete apps you don’t really need
- Think carefully before granting all permissions
- Keep your phone updated
- Disable Bluetooth when you’re not using it
- Use a passcode to lock your device
- Turn on multifactor authentication wherever you can
Foley & Lardner LLP:
“Sabrina Guenther Frigo boils down complex, evolving privacy and security laws for her business teams so they’re easily able to align them with strategic goals. She gets to the bottom line quickly and has a practical sense of humor while doing it.”
–Jennifer Urban, Partner