7 steps to building a great payments team

For payments leaders, growing their team is one of the most crucial tasks. Get advice from heavy hitters in the industry and discover what structure works, what roles are important and how to keep teams motivated. 

As a payments professional, you might find yourself in a relatively new internal business function. Payments is a growing profession that is becoming increasingly vital to ecommerce businesses. This is great news for you, but it does mean it’s likely that you’ll have a small but rapidly expanding team—one that’s grown organically and needs to scale—or that you’re building a new team from scratch. 

Building out your team shouldn’t happen in an ad-hoc way. Planning it now will future-proof your team and position it—and you—for success. But what are the steps you can take to do this? We speak to payments professionals with impressive experience to find out how you should structure your team now to ensure the best results for the future. 

Here are seven things you can do to ensure you have the best possible team no matter the nature of your business.

Step One: Tailor your team for the unique business needs

Look around the world and you’ll find few organizations with a specialist payments team that is more than ten years old. So, when it comes to structures, there’s no clear benchmark. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, this gives you the chance to craft something unique. On the other hand, it can be difficult to know which way is the right way forward. This is made even more difficult by the varying degrees of sophistication between one company’s payments function and another’s. 

Team formats depend very much on the scale and nature of the business and volume of transactions, as well as other factors including channel mix, type of offering and risk levels. Some very large retailers have evolved multiple sub-teams to accommodate payment complexity: these include payments infrastructure, optimization, experience and analytics teams. Others have much smaller payments teams and must find creative ways to address business needs with limited resources.

Step Two: Encourage innovation with a multidisciplinary team

It takes a wide breadth of capabilities to deliver, optimize and innovate payments: technology, business, CX, security, operations, finance and compliance. The roles involved reflect this. Teams can comprise payments engineers, researchers and digital designers as well as data analysts, compliance and fraud experts.  

Members of the team can also be drafted in from other functions like marketing, digital experience and customer service departments. Involving other stakeholders ensures that the team is focused on the input and output KPIs and makes sure that every decision they make has the right impact on the business.  

In some cases, it may even be worth setting up a separate business unit. Aleksandra Wasielewska, Payments Lead Product Manager at Allegro, tells us, “Shifting the way that the business and technology teams work together has led to the creation of a business unit that handles customer awareness—the transaction, the checkout and the post-purchase experiences.”

Step Three: Optimize the resources you already have

Building your team from the ground up lets you make the most of what you already have by using resources and people to the best advantage. Identify current skills and capabilities and use vendors to plug any gaps or add specific layers of expertise, like risk management.  

Allow for growth within your structure by understanding your team’s ambitions. Find out what roles they’re aiming for and what training and tools they need to get there. Where possible, avoid getting locked into manager-led hierarchies. Instead, ensure your team has multiple career paths that allow individuals to focus on specialist areas, but with plenty of opportunity for advancement. 

Carmen Honacker, Head of Customer and Payment Fraud at Booking.com, reinforces this: “The reason people want management roles is because, in a lot of companies, the only way for you to advance is going through the management track. I try to break that barrier and that expectation because I think it does a disservice to the employee.”

Step four: Treat vendors as team assets 

Choosing the right partners can make or break your own team performance, so make sure you do your homework and select wisely. Look beyond feature sets and pricing to culture, fit and flexibility. Have clear SLAs and measurements in place. 

Where you inherit legacy vendors, make sure they’re working well. Canvass your team to identify barriers and bottlenecks and spot any collaboration issues that may be limiting their effectiveness.  

New and existing vendors should be recognized as part of the team with clear lines of communication and access to the resources they need to optimize ROI.  

Step five: Use specialist roles to lift payments to a different level

It goes without saying that roles which keep mission-critical payments live, secure and ready to take a sale are essential. However, some roles, like payments analytics, are strategically important.  

Transactional data offers a huge wealth of information on customer behavior, shopping trends, operational and resource efficiency, and real-time performance. Having teams that can gather, analyze and deliver accurate and useful data across the business can be a key differentiator.

Emina Zahirovic, Associate Director, Global Payments for HelloFresh, backs this up. “We’ve recently hired a payment analytics team that’s focused on managing and modeling our payments data. They’re doing amazing things with data science and machine learning to make the data available to us in a meaningful way that gives us the insights we need to make meaningful business decisions. They’ve had an enormous impact and freed me up to focus my time on developing strategies and working across the business to execute those.”

Step six: Use your position as a payments leader to help others succeed

Helping teams perform well involves lots of problem-solving and cross-fertilization of ideas. Encouraging a highly collaborative team culture helps people deliver value consistently at the standards needed to operate and improve your payments platform. It also helps overcome team issues caused by the pandemic. 

Richard Haywood, Head of eCommerce Customer and Payments at Ocado Technology, emphasizes, “Right now, a big challenge is how to stay close to the teams. Before COVID, this was easy; we would see one another in the office. With the flexible hybrid model, which has many advantages for work-life balance, the challenge is to engage teams beyond the ’transactional’ online meetings, so everyone feels supported and part of the group.”

Step seven: Keep the team’s focus on the end-user 

Knowing where and how their role fits into customer engagement, sales and success helps keep your team focused and motivated. It can also help shape your payments strategy.  

According to Aleksandra, “There are a lot of buzzwords in payments: ‘effortless payments,’ ‘seamless payments,’ ‘frictionless payments,’ but ultimately, it’s all about one dedicated internal metric that we call the C-index, or convenience index. We’re measuring convenience throughout the customer journey and how any change impacts customer convenience.”

Keep checking in as you grow

Your team will be a big part of your—and your company’s—success. Make sure you keep checking in with how it’s performing, and you can always check back with these steps to measure whether you’re still aligned with your goals. 

Now that you’ve planned what it would take to build the perfect payments team, you need to think about who you will get to fill the required roles. 

Find out more by downloading this blueprint to building a world-class payments team.

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Written on Jun 22, 2022 by

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Anthea Taylor

Content Specialist, Checkout.com

Keep up-to-date with all things payments

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