Skip to main content

Five focus areas for payment leaders in 2021

5 focus areas for payment leaders in 2021

Happy New Year. I hope you’ve all had an excellent and productive start to 2021. 

I spent time reflecting on the impact of the past 12 months on commerce before writing this article. It’s become a cliche, but we’ve really witnessed a considerable amount of change in such a short period of time. We’ve moved into a digital-first economy — and it’s hard to see us going back to how things were before the crisis. If anything change is going accelerate.

I know the impacts of the past year — and the pace at which change happened — created plenty of challenges for payment leaders. I’ve had many discussions with peers around the world about the difficulties they’ve faced and how they’ve worked to overcome them. And while some challenges still exist, I think that it’s now time for us all to look forward to what comes next. 

It’s set to be an exciting year for payments. And, in my opinion, the impacts of the crisis have unlocked a once in a generation opportunity to make payments a boardroom discussion and a major strategic driver within organizations.   

This got me thinking back to my time as a Head of Payments. And I asked myself what would I do to capture this opportunity if still heading up a payment team. I settled on five key areas I personally would focus on and that may help guide your thinking as you set goals and priorities for the year ahead. 

1. Focus on communication and collaboration

Taking payments from a back-office silo and integrating them into every facet of the business is vital if you’re to unlock their full strategic potential. Some areas you might want to focus on are: 

OKR development and coordination:  In addition to sharing your accountability with your colleagues for the quarter or year, many OKRs will have dependencies that live outside of payments. So it’s crucial to identify those dependencies and collaborate/coordinate where needed. This will not only help you achieve your goals; it’ll also get others across the business bought into your projects and payments overall.  

Connect, cultivate relationships: Payments’ organizations rely on internal and external relationships for success.  Whether through your connections with your payment service providers, industry peers, or internal teams, building mutually beneficial relationships can lead to new knowledge, revenue growth, optimization and cost mitigation opportunities.

Ask for and give feedback: Asking for feedback is a learning opportunity for you; giving feedback is a learning opportunity for both you and your colleague(s). It provides praise and/or suggestions on improvement. It removes the ‘guessing’ and the subsequent anxiety that generally follows when one doesn’t fully know what is expected of them if they are trusted or how they are performing. This is also another great method to build those relationships that are so crucial to everything you do.

Make teamwork a priority: What were you always told as a child – ‘there is no I in team.’ Teams offer creativity, diversity and innovation. Teams generate thoughtful (and more) ideas together and offer collaboration for solving complex problems. Working in teams fosters trust and builds relationships. This motivates everyone to cooperate and support each other to drive towards individual, group and company objectives.

2. Apply an innovative mindset

Micheal Jordan famously said, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.” As one of the greatest basketball players of all time, his reference was aimed at the game and life — but it can absolutely be applied specifically in business and payments. As a Payments leader, developing revenue growth and cost mitigating strategies are mandatory, but given the complexities of this space, not every identified opportunity will equal success. However, every failure is a chance to learn something new and subsequently apply those learnings in future opportunities. 

3. Build your payments brand

Your company has a brand, but so do you as payments leaders and so does your payment organization. Like any brand, there can be positive or negative associations. It’s up to you and your team to lead by example and positively manifest your skills, passion, values and beliefs through individual contribution and teamwork. This will build trust and confidence with your colleagues and ultimately show strength and benefit from your brand.

4. Expand your knowledge

Whether through reading a payments article, working on a project with a colleague, talking with your partners or any other number of ways, aim to learn something new every day. Knowledge fuels creativity and aspiration — something all payments organizations require to stay passionate and focused on things like optimization and global expansion. I also found a personal sense of self-accomplishment when being resolute towards my learning and growth.

5. Strive for an optimal work/life balance

Finding this balance is different for everyone. I am married with three children — and I love my work. It wasn’t until my oldest was in middle school before I understood what work/life balance really meant to me. For me, prioritization, time management and establishing boundaries were my foundation. Maybe carving out time for daily exercise or having set work hours is the key for you — whatever it is, find it and stick to it. Encourage your team to do the same.

Thrive in the year of payments  

I’m excited to see what 2021 has in store. And I’m even more excited to see conversations about payments take the spotlight as businesses adapt and thrive in the post-COVID world. I wish you all the success and look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you throughout the year.

Want to understand how to unlock the full potential of payments? Download our actionable guide to get expert advice from Cyndi and others on where to start.