According to the American Express OPEN 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States generate nearly $1.3 trillion in annual revenues and employ 7.8 million people. For the past 16 years, the number of women-owned businesses has grown at a rate 1.5 times the national average for business startups, and ranked second to publicly traded firms in U.S. job creation since 2007.
Over the past decade, a similar trend has developed in the payments industry with an increasing number of women entrepreneurs and leaders influencing payments during a time of immense change. The Green Sheet interviewed six prominent women in payments to understand the qualities embraced by today's leaders and how each envisions the future in their respective fields.
In March 2013, Kim Fitzsimmons was named one of the top 20 most powerful women in payments by PaymentsSource. For Fitzsimmons, who thrives on expanding her knowledge, every new challenge presents an opportunity to learn. Soon after completing a degree in business, she joined payment processor Concord EFT Inc. as a sales representative. "I then wanted to get into management, because I really had a desire to lead," she said. When First Data Corp. acquired Concord in 2004, she was Senior Vice President at the time. She remained with First Data as President of Independent Sales until she accepted her current role as Chief Executive Officer of Cynergy Data LLC in January 2012. In describing her decision to lead Cynergy, she stated, "It was the first time I actually felt I did something that was selfish. I did it just for me, and that's unusual.
"I think the one common characteristic that I have that may or may not be a typical trait in females is that I always asked for more, whether I thought I could handle it or not. I was always raising my hand for the next challenge. You surround yourself with great people and the rest is just building a team and working together and learning."
Since joining Cynergy, Fitzsimmons has made a point of being visible at all levels. She has also restructured the customer care teams to support sales training initiatives and position the company as a service provider to third-party distribution channels. "Products are being launched and rolled out at a more rapid pace than ever," she noted. "We're investing in our product groups, who we align with for our partners, helping to vet out all the new shiny objects."
As a leader, she adheres to a philosophy shared by her husband, which is, "You come into this world with only two things, and that's your name and your word."
With an undergraduate degree in French and a Master's degree in Computer Science, Joan Herbig, CEO at Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance provider ControlScan, clearly understands the boundless nature of learning. "I completely switched my frame of reference," Herbig said. "I think what's really been a theme for me is stepping outside my comfort zone and taking on challenges that didn't seem obvious as things that would fit my skill set."
Consistent with that theme, Herbig joined ControlScan as CEO in 2007 after successful stints at the helm of two other technology-based companies, one of which was an enterprise security company. "What was a stretch for me here is the whole payments space and learning about the payments ecosystem, developing relationships and then helping provide solutions for small merchants," she said.
While at ControlScan, Herbig has witnessed increased awareness of cardholder data protection, including migration to the Europay/MasterCard/Visa standard, but she noted there remains a pressing need for tools that address card-not-present transactions. "We will be offering tools that help merchants reduce scope in that environment as well as provide our partners with tools that allow them to keep pace in that space, which is evolving very rapidly," she said.
Like Fitzsimmons, Herbig fosters team building and transparency within organizations. She also believes effective leadership requires both analytical and creative skills, which a broad-based background in science and math can facilitate. She advises anyone pursuing higher career goals to "raise your hand and accept challenges even if you don't think you have all the skills, because it's through those opportunities that everyone has a chance to grow and stretch."
In March 2013, Jennifer Miles was promoted to President, VeriFone Americas to oversee VeriFone's business in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. Before that Miles served as VeriFone Executive Vice President of North America, where she was responsible for 10 business units, including retail, mobility, security and hospitality.
Before she joined VeriFone, Miles worked as a banker selling and providing technology and services to Fortune 500 companies. "When I had the opportunity to join VeriFone, frankly it was the culture here that was very focused on the end user," she said. "When we talk about the VeriFone culture, it's very much a culture of enablement." Through that culture, she helped transform VeriFone's North American retail vertical for Tier 1 and 2 merchants into a $200 million a year business.
But with today's dynamic changes in payments, companies run the risk of over-selling how quickly those changes will occur, Miles said. Tempering those expectations so the payments industry delivers solutions that help shift the ecosystem step by step will be critical. "As the technology ecosystem providers, we have to make sure that we're bringing things to market that actually provide a business benefit and don't just sound really interesting," she said.
VeriFone is planning an incremental transition. "I think you'll see us over the next 18 to 24 months really spending a lot of time building robust tools and applications that work with our technology that allow the acquirer and ISO community to take our products and bundle them with theirs to deliver things that make them unique and allow them to compete," Miles said.
For ISOs that expanded their business model north into Canada, the same opportunity exists south of the border. "That's really the new frontier," Miles said. "When you start getting into places like Brazil, where there is untold opportunity, there really hasn't yet been an ISO market that's developed.
"If you look in Latin America, take the complexity of understanding the regulations in Canada and multiply it by 30 incremental countries, you have to target where the opportunities are. Every country has different legislative requirements, and that's part of the value we want to bring because we've been in these markets for 15 years."
Mary Dees served as a financial institution and payment technology company executive before becoming President and Chief Operating Officer at Preferred Health Technology Inc. She joined the electronic payment and transaction-processing services provider to the health care industry in 2006.
According to Dees, she was attracted to the health care sector because it reminded her of the payments industry 30 years ago. "Health care is still in the infancy stages in its payment processing, in terms of using technology," she said. "As advanced as health care is in the actual delivery of health-care services, it's backwards in the delivery of the payments interaction."
A self-professed problem solver, Dees said, "This was a great opportunity to bring all the things that I had done to date to an industry that really needed the types of solutions we've been giving retailers all these years. The types of things we do, particularly around technology to create operational efficiencies and technology to aid commerce, really are problems that can be quite easily solved by the kinds of products we sell."
However, health care as a payments niche is not for everyone. "There are some sectors of the payments industry that you can be a generalist in," Dees said. "Health care is not one of them. We are uniquely focused around health care and health insurance. It's one industry where you really have to live and breathe what they do." And because PHT is owned by a major insurance company, its proprietary technology and internal expertise are exclusive to health care, she said.
Dees expects medical offices to adopt new payment technologies in greater numbers as a result of compliance with electronic health record mandates. When they make that step, electronic payments lend themselves to an easy integration process so that everything is seamless, she noted. And for results-oriented payment professionals, opportunities in health care and other emerging markets are virtually limitless.
When Mary Winingham, Senior Consultant for Planet Group Inc., underwent training for her first job in payments, her initial reservations turned to enthusiasm when she discovered it was a perfect match for her skills.
"I'm a critical thinker," Winingham said. "I like to solve problems. I like to see patterns and practices, and that's what processing does. It sets up plans, processes and systems. And then when something goes wrong, there is always a logical way to work through it."
According to Winingham, there is no shortage of available data to support informed business decisions, especially in payments, where data is part and parcel to processing. "It's extremely revealing and it leads you down the right path," she said. However, she noted that problems arise when data is underutilized or implemented inconsistently. Not surprisingly, her favorite motto is: bad data, bad decisions; good data, good decisions.
Well known for her ability to resolve business issues, she frequently advises others on such matters as how to maximize portfolio profitability by considering the lifetime value of customers, factors to consider in portfolio acquisition and when to aggregate.
She recommends that ISOs consider ancillary services for their customers, especially merchants with multiple profit centers such as auto dealerships. She recommends testing four or five products to determine what resonates best with top customers.
A longtime board member of the Midwest Acquirers Association, Winingham often participates in the Field Guide for ISOs seminar presentations at regional tradeshows in collaboration with Mark Dunn, founder of Field Guide Enterprises LLC. Following one of her recent presentations, she said, "A guy came up to me and said, 'You know, I heard you two years ago, and I walked away.' And then he said, 'You have changed the way I do business.'"
Early in her career, strategic marketing specialist Nancy Drexler worked as a creative director for a New York-based marketing firm. It was there that she was given the MasterCard International (now MasterCard Worldwide) account. Based on her success with MasterCard, she was assigned the firm's EVO Payments International LLC and Cynergy Data LLC accounts shortly thereafter.
In June 2012, Drexler launched Acquired Marketing, a Dallas-based marketing agency that offers creative and strategic services exclusively to payments industry businesses. The full-service agency provides advertising, sales collateral, product launch and vertical marketing penetration support to industry clients. According to Drexler, Acquired Marketing limits itself to two companies per market niche, which allows for greater focus in each market served.
"I have the knowledge and experience and breadth to do what I'm doing now, which is offering marketing consultation and services to any business in the payments industry," she said. Having done marketing for everything from an art museum to a national magazine to United Way, she firmly believes it's not about what you're selling, but whom you're selling to, that matters most.
"You're selling solutions to people based on their individual needs," Drexler said. "Developing relationships that reflect the other person's wants, needs, goals and even limitations are what makes me successful doing what I do. It also makes my clients successful doing what they do."
For Drexler, success is measured by the quality of each day. Am I working with people I like? Am I making a difference in their world? Is my day enjoyable? These are questions she typically answers affirmatively.
She invites others to consider them when making career choices because each can potentially impact personal growth and learning, as well as the ability to make a contribution to the payments industry.
Asked about specific advice for payment professionals, she said. "Always think outside the box. Always put yourself in the mind of the end user and view what you're doing from their perspective, and form a relationship that way."
Looking into the future, Drexler expects fundamental changes within the payments industry, where new technology will empower new forms of payment, and the old merchant services model will be supplanted by more of a technology-based model. Mergers and acquisitions will also play prominently in the future, she added.
"Agents, I think, will not be working for ISOs as much as they will work directly for solutions providers," Drexler said. "As a marketer the opportunity is fantastic. For my clients, survival is really going to be about understanding and putting yourself in the place of your buyers.
"What do they want? What do they need? Not what do you want to sell them and what you think is a good opportunity, but really what the market is demanding."
All six of the women interviewed for this article will continue to monitor and assess market demand for new technology from all channels. And each is prepared to make adjustments as shifting consumer and merchant preferences dictate how payment interactions will be conducted in the future.
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