As we dive into the New Year, I’ve been thinking about what leadership in payments means in 2017. What has stayed the same and what’s changing about leadership in our dynamic payments landscape? Although it often seems as if we operate in a constant state of flux, I believe there are some immutable tenets for leadership in our business.
The first tenet that comes to mind is leading by example. It’s the right mantra, regardless of what’s happening around us. As leaders, we must ensure that we and our teams are responsive – not only to crisis situations but also to new opportunities that present themselves.
We can transfer what we’ve learned from history to future performance; methodologies that worked in successfully in the past can successfully be applied to today’s landscape as long as we keep our efforts focused todays challenges and opportunities.
The dynamic payments landscape
What’s changing? To me, the most obvious change in the payments landscape is the compression of the adoption time for innovations. What once took many years to diffuse throughout the market now takes year, or sometimes just a few months, to be adopted by our target users. This external trend is driving us to become more agile and nimble.
What’s been going on inside companies is shifting roles and attitudes about how we do business. Our roles have expanded from being data providers to being stewards helping consumers manage their financial health. We use data to provide tools such as alerts, reminders, fraud protection and budget coaching to help consumers achieve their financial goals.
We now operate in an environment where the option to “just say no” is off the table. Regardless of constraints of time, availability of people and budget, we must review all innovations and ideas that present themselves. We recognize that our clients are looking for the one piece of functionality out of the hundreds of emerging ideas that will resonate with their customers.
Success in payments requires flexibility. It’s no. 1. We must be open to new ideas and create a culture that can pivot as priorities changes. As leaders, we must give teams permission to deviate from the plan when it makes sense. I speak with people who operate in environments where their capital investment plans are set in stone for the next 18 to 24 months. In payments, we need to be able to capture opportunities as they present themselves even when it requires changing course.
Moving the industry forward
We need the people who search out innovations, but we also must balance “chasing every shiny object that comes along” with focusing on what we need to accomplish to move the industry forward. It requires:
- A continuous review and feedback process to check plans against where the market is moving
- The ability to gauge the viability of the myriad of opportunities that come our way
- A method for maintaining a pulse on the consumer
An approach we have found helpful for weeding out less promising ideas is the down-select process. Organizing a sizeable list of potential initiatives into a weighted prioritized list and showing decision makers which products might be best aligned with organizational strategies. New product ideas are rated a list of criteria against a list of criteria. Each rating is then weighted in accordance with the importance of that criterion. The total score helps determine whether pursuit of a new product idea is justified or not.
Regardless of whatever approach leaders use to funnel ideas, my advice is threefold:
- Remain flexible.
- Position your firm to pivot when better opportunities justify a change in plans.
- Formalize a process that enables ongoing dialog and feedback from all the customer bases you serve.