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People over payments: the duty to our clients and why the payments industry must change

I truly love my work. Depending who’s asking, that might be a blessing or a curse. But for me, it’s a blessing and I know I share this sentiment with many colleagues at U.S. Bank and among the payments industry. What we do is really cool and exciting and I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen all about it.


One of the many silver linings of quarantine is the closeness and time I’ve shared with my family, and by now I’m certain that even they can tell you why I love my job so much. But they’ve also challenged my career and goals, and the business of the payments industry itself. And as I’ve wracked my brain on ways to best explain the goodness of it all to “industry outsiders” (that so happen to be my most important stakeholders), I’ve had some incredible clarity on where the industry stands right now, in light of both where we’ve been and where we ’re headed. So long as we as payments professionals and providers want to continue to succeed, there are some changes coming in the next few weeks and months that will challenge our assumptions and redefine service delivery.


We will change the way we talk

The payments industry is relationship-based. Our service model is a constellation of trust, technology, and security. We stake our reputation on this because the more clients know, the more we can help them succeed. We also know from occasions of friction and reluctance, uncertainty and indecision that we can do a better job at putting clients first in terms of the benefits of digital payments. What I’ve noticed lately is that we’re spending too much time on “tech,” when we need to be talking business.


What does REST-compliant, or SWAGGER Definition, or Application Programming Interface (API) mean to a treasurer, CFO, board member or controller? While TechCrunch or Wired might appeal to people like us who are tasked with inventing new solutions, payments practitioners simply do not have time for jargon, buzzwords and clichés. Clients need to know what we know: this technology gets things done.


At U.S. Bank, we’ve found that metaphors resonate very well with clients. We talk about transformation as a journey, where digitization optimizes business by building digital bridges along strategic routes. When we talk about how we build the bridge, we save tech talk for our CIO and IT friends; for payments practitioners, we describe the construction of the digital bridge in terms of connectivity.


When I think of this from the client’s perspective, I’d prefer that my business partners speak about the digital connection as a “relationship” vs. “stack of code.”

We will change the way we think and act

What we do is not about payments, it’s about people and their businesses. It means nothing to me that we can deliver faster, more secure payments with unprecedented data transparency if the treasurers, CFOs and practitioners aren’t simply happier people because of it. The payments industry is more than just moving money between accounts; it is delivering more family time, reducing stress, and getting new ideas off the ground.


My boss Andy is constantly reminding me of this and, in the time I’ve been with U.S. Bank, I’ve noticed this shift in thinking is also changing the way I act. I stopped thinking about emerging payments solutions in terms of “integrations” and “DIY;” instead, we’re seeing our innovation teams and relationship managers talk about “DIT,” or do it together.


I’m not a detective, but I’ve seen the evidence to prove how the people-centric way of thinking about, communicating to, and working with our clients has partly filled the void of in-person relationship building throughout the pandemic. And I know this because, lately, my experiences with clients and stakeholders here at the Bank – much like the new closeness I’ve had with my family — have been the most rewarding and meaningful of my professional and personal life.


(usually this is the point in a conversation I learn I’ve been on mute …)


I’m excited to share more thoughts about this with my Bank and industry colleagues at MPC21, and exploring ways we can accelerate faster toward serving people better. Together.

Learn more about how U.S. Bank is changing digital for clients.



Author

Peter Gordon, Head of Enterprise Money Movement and Business Digital Officer – U.S. Bank


Peter Gordon, Head of Emerging Money Movement at U.S. Bank, leads strategy and development for emerging money movement products and services, including Zelle and real-time payments (RTP). An RTP veteran with over 30 years of global financial services experience, Gordon joined U.S. Bank in 2019 after serving as chief revenue officer at PayFi. He has also held leadership roles at Mastercard, Santander, RBS Citizens, eCom Advisors, First Commons Bank and FIS.


As founder and general manager of FIS PayNet, Gordon was instrumental in forming the first U.S.-based real-time global payment network. His international experience includes Brazil, EU, India, and UK markets. He was also one of 18 steering committee members at the Federal Reserve Faster Payments Task Force, which developed guidelines and criteria for RTP and faster payments. Gordon, a Syracuse University graduate, earned an MBA from the Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

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