Corner Office Conversations with Martina King

Corner Office Conversations with Martina King

Corner Office Conversations with Martina King

Melissa Moss

Melissa Moss

Melissa Moss is product development manager in the issuing commercial client services division of TSYS, responsible for the strategic direction of innovative and emerging technologies.

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Martina King recently read that only eight percent of CEOs in the financial services industry were female. A rather gloomy stat pulled from a 2016 Oliver Wyman study, the research revealed how far away the fintech industry is from true gender inclusion – for half the world's population.

As CEO of Featurespace and one of PaymentSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2018, King acknowledges her status as an outlier. With extensive experience in media technology, including leadership roles at Aurasma, Yahoo! Europe and Capital Radio, she's catapulted from one accomplishment to another as a powerful female leader. Yet, she also strives to leave the door open behind her for even more women and underrepresented groups to follow in her footsteps.

Recently, King sat down with Melissa Moss, co-chair of The Thread, TSYS' professional development council, to discuss a range of topics on her radar, including the value of data, the power of numbers, staying agile and lessons from the dot-com bust.

Here are five highlights from the conversation, which has been edited for clarity.

01 on lessons from the dot-com bust

Ethics & the Impact of Technology video

King spent 14 years at Yahoo from the early 90s through to 2004, building a career throughout the dot-com hype, the resulting crash and everything in between. As a result, she's on watch for similar pitfalls in her current role, applying past lessons to the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

"One [potential problem] in particular is ethics and the impact technologies can have on people and societies," says King. "There's a race almost to get whatever it is you've made out there to see how people [will] respond to it. I think there needs to be a check and balance, before those technologies are launched into society."

Aside from the speed-to-market factor, King points to a responsibility to use technology for the greater good – protecting consumers and companies from fraud attack, in the case of Feature space. "I think that's what makes us the good guys," she says. "That's a noble reason for us to get up and work every day. It's our mission."

02 on staying agile

Biggest Tech Changes video

One way King stays on top of the shifts in how consumers want to pay is by keeping her eye on emerging markets.

"Look at these emerging countries with the way in which people are now paying with alternative payments – Alipay with QR codes and Payzone in Africa with mobile. There's a huge shift that's occurring," she says. "I think the main thing for us is to make sure we're looking at what consumers are doing and how they're reacting and interacting with different payment methodologies and making sure that we are completely current with that."

She also acknowledges that often the larger a company's size, the narrower its focus can be when it comes to major industry shifts.

"It's sometimes very hard for established organizations to really see the seismic shifts that occur, and even harder for large organizations to change," she says. "I think it's the lessons of the internet calling forward into the modern world and [highlighting] the impact it's had on industries such as retail. [We then ask ourselves] what it could mean for payments."

03 on confidence

Interesting Stats video

Last year, King was asked to speak at an event in honor of International Women's Day. In order to prepare her remarks, she found herself reminiscing about her career and how she's gotten to where she is today. She remembered seeing a study that compared men and women’s inclination to apply for a job based on their qualifications – or perceived lack thereof.

"When the job ads were posted, the men would look at the list and say 'I can do 70 percent of that; I'll apply.' The women would look at it and say 'There's 10 percent on there I can't do, and so I'm not going to apply,'" she recalled.

King credited her career growth to avoiding the tendency to hold herself back from opportunities, even if it was just psychologically. "I've always tried to push a bit harder," she says. "[Women] constantly doubt whether we are good enough to be able to do something. I think we've just got to be braver and say 'If somebody else can do that, I'm going to have a crack at it.'"

04 on the power of numbers

Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling video

In a male-dominated fintech industry, King acknowledges that sometimes it's tough for a woman to stand out. Over her more than 35-year career, she shares one piece of tried-and-true advice with greener professionals: Numbers don't lie. King recommends that all aspiring leaders focus on owning a P&L, setting a target and then surpassing it.

"I would urge women to own a revenue line. Your numbers speak for themselves," she said. "This enables you to outperform expectations. For me, that's been my way of being able to show superior performance. Ultimately [numbers are] the language that wins out and enables everybody to be agnostic to any potential prejudice they may have."

She also points to hard numbers as a potential tool to help women become more fairly represented in executive leadership roles. "When it comes to quotas, initially I wasn't really [on board.] But I've seen it work fabulously in the UK," she says. "I think that some form of quota to encourage women to get those executive roles is going to have to be the way forward."

05 on mining for data gold

Data is Modern Day Gold video

King emphasizes that for all the innovation and technology in the payments industry, it's actually data that serves as the foundation of Featurespace.

"If there's a technological rush that's going on at the moment, being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, then it's nothing without the data," she says. "In the old days, it was the gold rush – data today is the gold. We can take our machine learning technology, but it isn’t able to perform or have any function or role unless the data is there."

But the good news, says King, is that the age-old problem of fraud can always be solved with data, regardless of what type of new technology is in vogue.

"Every time there's a technological advancement, it takes [fraudsters] no time at all to learn it," she says. "There's no way to be able to chase that back – they already have access to those new methodologies. It comes back to… the behavior of the data, through the way in which consumers use their cards at the event level. The fraudsters don't have that, because they don't need it. They've traditionally been on the offensive, focusing only on overcoming static defenses."

She continues, "But leading companies have harnessed and leveraged that data to effectively turn the tables on fraud. We're driving a critical shift from reactive to proactive fraud prevention, while also maximizing customer satisfaction and maintaining the integrity of our payments infrastructure."

Martina King

Martina is CEO of Featurespace and joined the company in 2012. Former Managing Director of augmented reality company Aurasma, Martina has an extensive career in media technology, including leadership roles at Yahoo! Europe and Capital Radio. Martina recently received the Industry Achievement Award at the Cards and Payments Awards and was also recognized among PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for the second consecutive year.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

Other Articles by Melissa

Melissa Moss

Melissa Moss is product development manager in the issuing commercial client services division of TSYS, responsible for the strategic direction of innovative and emerging technologies. Moss is experienced in identifying strategic partnership opportunities and managing financial services products throughout several phases of the product management life cycle, from launch to market entry.

Prior to TSYS, Moss was a finance practitioner, and has served in human resources roles, as well as risk and compliance roles. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Columbus State University. Moss also chairs the Professional Development Council for the TSYS Thread.

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