In June of 2011, we sat down with Kelley Knutson, EVP TSYS International, as TSYS® celebrates 10 years of processing payments in Europe.
- What do you consider to be one of your major accomplishments in your career?
I think that completing tasks and being prepared to tackle obstacles to come are major accomplishments in and of itself. Within each accomplishment, there lies opportunity. And, along those same lines, each new opportunity yields a new, interesting experience. I believe that one's career has many parallels to one's life; it is a journey through which we seek achievement— the excitement of what's ahead drives us forward.
Since I've been fortunate enough to have a diverse career full of experiences, across multiple industries (paper/pulp manufacturing, aerospace engineering, electronic payments, etc.) , working for great companies and brands (TSYS, Visa, TRW, GE, etc.) , I've had the opportunity to travel and explore a variety of different cultures under the guidance of different leadership styles. With each experience, I have gained knowledge on how to tackle my next obstacle. We should always strive to improve, learn and evolve in our daily professional and personal lives, and to accomplish that is the biggest feat of all.
- Is there anything new, innovative or groundbreaking coming from your area that you can share with us? What is a new trend in your field or area of expertise?
Interestingly enough, I find the payments industry to be pretty new, fresh and innovative every day. TSYS uses new technology to improve controls, processes and procedures to support the day-to-day business between our clients and their customers. In terms of new trends, there are two— contactless and mobile. In the near future, simply swiping one's card or mobile device at the point of sale will become the norm in certain merchant environments. While neither one of these will change behavior immediately overnight, I predict that cards will become obsolete with both of these trends emerging, and there will be a shift in the payments industry.
- How has the relationship between buyers and sellers changed since your career began?
I think buyers now have the option to be more selective and in turn, many processing companies will do whatever is necessary, within reason, to win new business or to keep the clients they already have. It seems that buyers use this to their advantage by making processing companies work harder to maintain their business. With this in mind, higher buyer expectations have encouraged TSYS to continue to raise internal bars on efficiency, cost management and customer insight in order to keep our edge and ensure the best possible business relationship for both parties. Our reputation for integrity, commitment and willingness to go the extra mile still stands firm as the foundation for any business interaction.
- Where do you see TSYS in 10 years and how are you preparing for it today?
I see TSYS remaining an independently traded NYSE listed company and a global leader in the payments industry. I think TSYS will expand and have a broader, more diversified client base with a variety of different solutions and products. We will have healthy recurring revenue from our merchant acquiring on-risk partnership business. Additionally, we will have new lines of business in the mobile, prepaid, healthcare and transportation parts of the payments industry. We might also have some B2C brand recognition as we continue to differentiate ourselves and become a more sought after partner for banks, retailers, mobile operators and governments. We are preparing ourselves for the future by: (1) selling more existing services in existing markets; (2) extending capabilities in large-scale volume markets by adding new clients; and (3) being opportunistic about the acquisitions and partnerships we are pursuing.
- If you could go back in time in your career, what year would you choose and why? Would you do anything differently?
In the year 2000, I ran a small technology company in the electronic bill presentment and payments space. I worked with a talented team to create something that, at the time, was new and unique in the UK and Europe. In retrospect, I believe we were a bit too idealistic in terms of our short-term expectations. This idealism, combined with capital backers that weren’t aligned on their investment, made for an unfortunate combination. While the assets were sold off and some of the core team continued the concept under another, larger organization, the feeling of falling short was disappointing. Looking back, I would have worked differently on the relationships with the more established billers and banks, secured more funding from investors and been more concerned about the present instead of expectation of the future. These are all valuable lessons I was fortunate enough to learn from the dotcom boom-and-bust era. Although many of us lost out financially, we gained invaluable experience for the future.
- What legacy do you want to leave for TSYS?
First, I believe TSYS has the potential to truly live up to our strategic vision and become the leading payments companies in the world. We have the strategic belief, committed executives and financial capital, but now it’s about making the right decisions to step into these areas of business and re-shape the market’s views on the TSYS brand and organization. I want to be remembered for helping make these decisions that helped accomplish this strategic vision. Secondly, I hope to help build a respected, capable and professionally-driven leadership team with the tools to navigate the journey for the future of TSYS. I hope that someday I can look at the next generation of TSYS leaders and know that I played even a small role in their future success leading TSYS to the next summit.