By Dale S. Laszig
When asked why his company has so many female leaders, Saint Hung, owner of Universal Processing, said it wasn't by design. "The most loyal, capable employees, who execute day in and day out, happen to be women," he said. "And Nana Huo was our first member to become a Young Payments Professional."
Hung described Huo's exemplary record in the payments industry, which includes her earning a Certified Payments Professional (CPP) credential from the Electronic Transactions Association, being inducted into ETA's 2020 class of Young Payments Professionals (YPPs) and being recognized by the ETA as a Forty under 40 honoree. He praised the ETA for developing programs designed to cultivate young professionals and help them become payments industry leaders.
Huo agreed that education has been a crucial component of her industry training and career. "I came to the U.S. in 2011 and attended New York University," she recalled. "After undergraduate engineering studies, I majored in Manager of Information Systems (MIS), where I studied business, marketing, accounting and finance. In these two years of graduate studies, I also learned the American language and culture."
Huo is grateful to the NYU career center for placing her in her first job after she graduated: an entry-level position in Universal Processing's customer service department. "When I joined the company, there were around 10 people in the entire company, including the boss," she said. "There were three to four operations specialists and five to six salespeople."
Because UP was small, everyone in the company had the opportunity to learn many facets of the organization, Huo noted. Their diversified training included sales, marketing, terminal troubleshooting and working with the marketing team on results-driven direct mail projects.
When offered a chance to learn sales, Huo chose instead to focus on operations, a choice she has never regretted. She supplemented her on-the-job training with online courses in accounting and finance. She also received guidance from a skilled COO mentor, who took a personal interest in her professional development. Huo became a UP shareholder in 2015 and was promoted to vice president of operations the following year.
Huo took the CPP exam and first applied to the YPP program in 2018. She credits these programs with helping her build professional skills and an industry knowledge base. She pointed out that the ETA wants to encourage and cultivate next-generation leaders and said she feels fortunate to have been chosen for YPP and honored as a 40 Under Forty.
"Even when you're promoted, there is so much to learn," Huo said. "Technology changes every day; it's important to stay up to date. Each year, the ETA chooses 10 people under 35 years old for YPP and sponsors them to attend business shows and assigns mentors. "
Huo encourages new employees to attend payments industry events to broaden their knowledge and professional networks. She attends five to six payments industry events every year. "I realize it's a huge industry with many different facets," Huo said. "There are issuers, acquirers, software companies and banks – so many companies to learn from and grow. And as I learned and worked and attended ETA, in April 2019, I became CFO at Universal Processing."
Today, Huo's supervises the company's accounting, financial reporting and modeling for day-to-day, monthly and quarterly cash and expense management and merger and acquisition activities. In addition to managing the financial budget and preparing reports for shareholders and partners, Huo assesses risks and opportunities and works with the executive team to guide operations.
Huo attributes learning from mentors and continuous education as central to her success. She sees a similar thirst for knowledge among her colleagues at UP, whom she described as passionate people with an "energetic vibe" who want to be part of the evolving payments industry.
Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, Huo and fellow team members began working from home on March 23, 2020. The company wanted to be socially responsible, she stated, and because its target market is primarily small and midsize businesses, UP saw a precipitous drop in revenue, as customers and partners faced temporary and permanent closure.
"I personally believe this COVID-19 is a crisis affecting the entire world, and if we all work together, we'll get through it one day," Huo said. "I know the current situation is bad in New York, but I also see a lot of brave fighters who keep working to fight against the virus. We UPers will do whatever we can do and should do to support these fighters."
Huo said the entire company is focused on fighting back against the virus. Sales teams are actively reaching out to existing clients. Team members are helping small and midsize merchants understand and apply to government assistance programs, by explaining and translating complex terminology into minority languages and assisting with the application process. Operations teams are working remotely to solve client issues by phone, email and online, she added.
UP's CEO, Saint Hung, and COO, Bufan Yang, recently drove to New York City and delivered 1,000 N95 masks to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue (formerly known as Bellevue Hospital Center) and Elmhurst Hospital, in the Manhattan and Queens boroughs, respectively.
Committed to continuing these deliveries, Hung stated that the company is sourcing more than 10,000 more masks to deliver to emergency healthcare workers.
"Universal Processing thanks all the medical and healthcare professionals who serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle," Hung said. "We can't say thank you enough; you are all heroes."
As she reflected on her payments journey, Huo said she joined the company when it was small and has grown with it. Throughout the process, her passion for learning and helping entry-level employees has remained strong.
"Only when your group is growing, is it possible for each individual member to grow," she said. "I have no regrets about joining a startup; it has been an amazing journey at Universal Processing, and we continue to grow together. When I was brand new to the business and payments processing world, UPers welcomed me with open arms and supported and encouraged me. It's my turn to carry this tradition forward by helping others."
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and managing director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content development specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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