The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

The payments industry bridges many markets — including technology and finance — that haven't always demonstrated diversity at their highest ranks. Things are changing, and this year's Most Influential Women in Payments honorees demonstrate the importance of women to all aspects of the payments industry and all corners of the globe.

Many have risen through the ranks at traditional payments companies, while others kicked over the corporate ladder to become entrepreneurs and investors.

PaymentsSource asked this year's honorees to share the stories of how they got where they are — including their riskiest career move and the best constructive criticism they received — and where they expect the payments industry to be in five years.

Many also chose to address the obstacles that still stand in the way of women rising to C-suite jobs, and how the atmosphere is shifting for LGBTQ employees.

The honorees are presented below in alphabetical order. Please click the link below each picture to read their full profiles.

These stories were written by Kate Fitzgerald, John Adams, David Heun and Michael Moeser.

Carolina Caballero, head of innovation for B2B payments, Mastercard
Carolina Caballero, Mastercard
Growing up in Argentina with a father who worked in banking, Carolina Caballero had always considered a career in financial services. But it was her curiosity and global sense of adventure that led her to become head of innovation for B2B payments at Mastercard.

Caballero steadily advanced through a variety of payments-related jobs at consulting firms and banks — including a stint at Argentina’s central bank — developing a rich set of skills and experiences.

Caballero’s upward mobility is tied to her consistent willingness to leave her comfort zones by relocating across the world or rebooting her skills, along with the courage to challenge any double standard.

Read more: Carolina Caballero
Lia Cao, head of wholesale payment solutions, JPMorgan Chase
Lia Cao, JPMorgan Chase
Lia Cao once dreamed of being an urban planner, balancing a complex array of factors to benefit broad groups of people. Although her career went in a completely different direction, aspects of Cao’s job today as head of wholesale payment solutions at JPMorgan Chase neatly align with her original intentions.

“It’s fun, as it’s a combination of art and engineering and it has a real impact on people’s lives,” she said.

Today, Cao leads a team that designs integrated global payments solutions for companies incorporating foreign exchange rates, merchant acquiring, commercial cards and the disciplines of trade and digital retail banking. Because each product category is unique, her role requires constant invention.

Read more: Lia Cao
Susan Chapman-Hughes, Executive Vice President, Global Digital Capabilities, Transformations and Operations, American Express
Susan Chapman-Hughes, American Express
To hear Susan Chapman-Hughes tell it, one might think she came into each of her leadership roles at American Express like a hurricane. And she's glad someone called her on it.

"I have a big personality and am very extroverted," said Chapman-Hughes, the executive vice president of global digital operations at Amex. "As a result, my messages aren't always received by other people in the way that I want them to be received."

A mentor once told her to simply be more aware of how people were taking in her message "by watching both their verbal and non-verbal clues," she said. "That's become a powerful tool in helping me to manage what I want and need from my team."

Read more: Susan Chapman-Hughes
Beverly Cole, Sr. Director of Global Treasury, Walmart
Beverly Cole, Walmart
Walmart’s a trendsetter for multiple industries, with retailers, banks and technology firms paying rapt attention to each new innovation that comes out of Walmart’s corporate campus in Arkansas or its innovation labs in Texas and New York.

Beverly Cole bears the responsibility of integrating payments with the big box retailer’s overall strategy as senior director of Global Treasury.

As Walmart battles Amazon to dominate omnichannel retail and nudges deeper into building a stack of digital payment services, it will rely on the expertise Cole has accumulated over two decades working in the payments industry. Cole, who has been with Walmart for about a year, has also held senior roles at firms such as First Data, Verifone and JPMorgan Chase.

Read more: Beverly Cole
Angela Conti, Head of Consumer Payments, TD Bank
Angela Conti, TD Bank
Angela Conti understands that having ambition is important, but not enough to get ahead in life and business.

While most people have lofty career ambitions, few have plans on how to fulfill them. Still, others have plans — but once a wrench gets thrown in their way, even fewer have a back-up plan to lean on in order to get back up. Angela Conti has both and her success demonstrates why it’s important.

“Doing a great job in your current role is a must, but it's not enough to get you to the next level,” said Conti, head of consumer payments at TD Bank.

Read more: Angela Conti
Donna Embry, Senior Vice President of Global Payments Strategy, Evolve Bank & Trust
Donna Embry, Evolve Bank & Trust
When Donna Embry was growing up, there were no computer classes or sports teams for girls. But as an adult, Embry found a way to apply her brains and a fearless desire to compete, building a path for herself as a top payments industry executive over five adventurous decades.

Embry, senior vice president of global payments strategy at Evolve Bank & Trust, has a storied career full of “firsts.”

As the first person in her family to go to college, Embry put herself through school working in the back office of a bank. Upon graduation, a supervisor thought her "foreign language background” might be useful in the emerging field of computer programming.

Read more: Donna Embry
Hannah Fitzsimons, Elavon President and General Manager, Elavon Merchant Services, Europe
Hannah Fitzsimons, Elavon Merchant Services, Europe
There’s still a gender gap in financial services, though Hannah Fitzsimons says there’s reason to be optimistic.

“We’re seeing increasing numbers of young women studying mathematics, computer science and engineering at universities, which is encouraging undergraduates to pursue careers in financial services and expand the visibility of women at entry-level,” said Fitzsimons, the president and general manager of Elavon Merchant Services in Europe.

But there’s more room for improvement. Businesses are making progress on overcoming barriers that stop women from progressing past a mid-career level or dropping out entirely.

Read more: Hannah Fitzsimons
Ruth Fornell, EVP, Retail/Consumer Payments & Payments in Public Cloud, ACI Worldwide
Ruth Fornell, ACI Worldwide
At a certain level of influence, leaders are expected to do more than just perform their own jobs well. They have to become active coaches, rather than simply teaching by example.

“When I was chief of staff to a CEO a major company, he told me that I should worry less about my own work and focus more on guiding others,” said Ruth Fornell, executive vice president of retail/consumer payments and payments in public cloud for ACI Worldwide. “He pointed out that I’d ably demonstrated that I could do good work, but the next challenge would be to set direction and lead teams to be successful.”

The advice has guided Fornell for the past twenty years, through a career that has included senior roles leading a more than $600 million business at NCR that focused on digital services and channel transformation for banking, retail, and other businesses, guiding 3,800 consultants in 58 countries on matters such as SaaS, cloud and systems integration for digital services.

Read more: Ruth Fornell
Jasma Ghai, Vice President, Global Products, Discover Financial Services
Jasma Ghai, Discover Financial Services
Jasma Ghai has a long list of achievements during her 19 years with Discover Financial Services, not the least of which is the past three years she spent as vice president of global products.

However, an achievement she points to with extreme pride is the ability to juggle an important career in payments with the needs of her family. It's a challenge many women face, no matter what responsibilities or time commitment their jobs demand.

Rather than let it take over her life, Ghai made it a priority to be in charge, a trait that has served her well.

Read more: Jasma Ghai
Kim Crawford Goodman, President, Merchant Joint Ventures and Acquirer Processing, Fiserv
Kim Crawford Goodman, Fiserv
If the payments industry presents anything to aspiring leaders, it's change.

As technology, corporate structure and business plans undergo dramatic change, employees can get caught in that crossfire. Kim Crawford Goodman knows this as well as anybody, having been involved in what she refers to as "four significant fintech transactions" in the past three years via company buyouts, breakups and corporate rollouts.

"Although it has been volatile, the learning has been tremendous," said Goodman, president of merchant joint ventures and acquirer processing for Fiserv Inc. "In life and in business, it's important to be flexible and pivot when circumstances necessitate."

Read more: Kim Crawford Goodman
Stacy Hughes, Senior Vice President, IT Governance, Risk and Compliance, Global Payments
Stacy Hughes, Global Payments
Stacy Hughes came into her role as a key security and compliance executive at Global Payments in a traditional way — one that everyone who has ever been in a classroom can relate to.

"Early in my career at Global Payments, I raised my hand during an IT risk and compliance meeting, stating that I was interested in doing more security work," Hughes said.

It was a move that illustrated her belief that one has to be vocal about career aspirations. That philosophy has guided her through 17 years at Global Payments, the past four in the role of senior vice president of IT governance, risk and compliance.

Read more: Stacy Hughes
Tia Ilori, Senior Director of global fraud and breach investigations, Visa
Tia Ilori, Visa
Helping grow a new specialty field — such as data security — can sometimes help one's resume stand out among a crowd.

Early in her career, Tia Ilori knew she liked working in new fraud areas that were still undeveloped, yet could better answer why data breaches occurred, how to better defend against them and their impacts on payment fraud. However, the biggest career challenges of going into a new field is that unless you’re already an expert, it can be difficult to gain traction, and if the field is too narrow it may not have much of a future.

But that’s also where taking a gamble on a burgeoning opportunity can pay off in the long term

Read more: Tia Ilori
Seema Khinda Johnson, co-founder and COO, Nuggets
Seema Khinda Johnson, Nuggets
Listening. Instinct. Focus.

These are words often spoken by mentors and clients yet, so rarely taken to heart — unless one takes a big risk such as the one Seema Khinda Johnson took when she left the corporate world to follow her entrepreneurial instincts.

Based in London, Seema Khinda Johnson is one of the founders of Nuggets, a British startup helping consumers take back control of their ID and payment data by storing it in a blockchain-based platform. Leaving the corporate world can often jolt someone’s career with a boom or bust, because it all depends on how they deal with the risk.

Read more: Seema Khinda Johnson
Jodie Kelley, CEO, Electronic Transactions Association
Jodie Kelley, Electronic Transactions Association
To succeed at a tough job, you've got to believe in the cause.

This is according to Jodie Kelley, the recently appointed CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association. The Harvard-educated lawyer always loved the art of negotiating in her corporate-law jobs, but it wasn’t until she became a front-line advocate for the global software industry that she realized how exciting her work could be.

As general counsel for the Software Alliance for more than a decade, Kelley traveled around the world confronting companies illegally using software, aiming to convert pirates into paying customers.

“I deeply believed in the cause of enforcing software rules, which made it easier. But it was also an opportunity to develop creative, non-adversarial approaches to resolving problems,” said Kelley.

Read more: Jodie Kelley
Sue Kelsey, Executive Vice President, global prepaid and financial inclusion, Mastercard
Sue Kelsey, Mastercard
Studying food science doesn’t point immediately to a career in payments, but for Sue Kelsey it’s been key to her job driving financial inclusion at Mastercard.

“Understanding consumer needs is foundational to helping people trapped in a cash-only economy find their way into the digital world, starting with a bank account,” said Kelsey, executive vice president for global prepaid and financial inclusion at Mastercard, and one of this year’s Most Influential Women in Payments.

Since joining Mastercard five years ago and landing in her present role in 2018, Kelsey has seen huge gains in Mastercard’s goal of bringing 500 million previously unbanked people into the formal economy by the end of 2020. Examples include digitizing payrolls for garment industry workers in Egypt and Cambodia, and extending bank-account access to individuals, small merchants and micro-businesses in impoverished zones.

Read more: Sue Kelsey
Patricia Kemp, co-founder and Managing Partner of fintech, Oak HC/FT
Patricia Kemp, Oak HC/FT
One of the things that makes payments technology such a vital market for investors is its role as a portal. And not just in the literal sense.

“It’s the infrastructure or support structure for so many other industries,” said Patricia Kemp, co-founder and managing partner of fintech for Oak HC/FT, a health care and fintech investment firm with offices in Greenwich, Boston and San Francisco and $1.9 billion in assets under management.

Kemp has a diverse range of companies in her portfolio. It’s a mix that demonstrates how the payments industry has changed since 2014, when Oak HC/FT was founded. Kemp has helped back FastPay, Digital Currency Group, Poynt, Rapyd and Feedzai, among other firms. Oak HC/FT looks for firms it believes can wring out the inefficiencies that it sees in health care and fintech, two industries that are heavily regulated and rapidly automating.

Read more: Patricia Kemp
Martina King, CEO, Featurespace
Martina King, Featurespace
There used to be an odd, almost inexplicable market gap in the U.K. that helped Martina King’s career — something that had little to do with financial services, fintech or fraud prevention.

“In the U.S., radio has always been a medium that’s enjoyed a good commercial reputation. But that’s not true in the U.K.” said King, who has been CEO of Featurespace since 2012, a role she came to after a winding career path that included a stop as sales director in London for Capital Radio. Before King became one of fintech’s top fraud fighters, she won marketers over to radio advertising in the U.K., where the gap between listeners and advertising share was quite large.

Well over 90% of U.K. residents regularly listen to the radio, a level that's been steady for decades. But for some reason most companies did not advertise in the late 1990s, with radio only getting a 2% share of advertising revenue in the U.K. “There’s a disconnect between the audience and the advertising spend,” said King.

Read more: Martina King
Lyndsey Lang, Chief Strategy Officer, Fattmerchant
Lyndsey Lang, Fattmerchant
Despite knowing nothing about payments when she started, this industry has provided a fast track to success for Lyndsey Lang, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Orlando, Fla.-based startup Fattmerchant.

“Payments found me,” said Lang, who joined Fattmerchant fresh out of college as the company’s first hire in 2014 and rose through jobs in marketing and business development to become chief strategy officer last year.

As one of the first companies to offer subscription-based merchant acquiring services, Fattmerchant was already challenging other norms with its female CEO, Suneera Madhani, a 2018 Most Influential Women in Payments honoree, making inroads in the typically male-dominated merchant services arena.

Read more: Lyndsey Lang
Deborah Liu, Vice President of Marketplace & Commerce, Facebook
Deborah Liu, Facebook
If a street vendor in Asia is selling and promoting goods with more payments technology than some restaurants in the U.S. possess, that's an indication that there's a major opportunity to change how U.S. citizens initiate and receive payments.

Deborah Liu, Facebook's vice president of marketplace and commerce, saw that street corner tech at work on a family trip and would like to see her powerful social media company be a part of expanding that.

Facebook has had some starts and stops along this path, but it's made enough progress with Messenger and other products that everyone in the payments industry should pay attention to what the company is saying and doing.

Read more: Deborah Liu
Stacey Madge, Country Manager and President, Visa Canada
Stacey Madge, Visa Canada
As the leader for all of Visa’s activities in Canada, Stacey Madge learned something early on in her career that has helped her succeed in multiple leadership roles at different companies. It’s something that many of us take for granted or don’t use well enough — a voice.

“The most memorable constructive criticism I received was from a very senior female partner, when I was an associate at McKinsey. She told me that I need to have presence in meetings, and that it would be key to my advancement. She advised that irrespective of how senior folks were in the room, ‘to speak early in the meeting and then again at the end’,” said Stacey Madge, country manager and president of Visa Canada.

Madge took the advice to heart and drove herself from being an associate at McKinsey to eventually becoming a partner at the elite consulting firm. It's a task so few men, let alone women, achieve in their careers.

Read more: Stacey Madge
Helena Mao, General Manager of Platform Services, Green Dot
Helena Mao, Green Dot
Helena Mao has spent the past several years advancing real-time payments services for Green Dot. So much so that Mao, in her role as general manager of platform services, has a pretty clear idea of where this is all heading.

"I anticipate that the barrier between digital balance and physical cash will disappear," said Mao. "Traditional banking features, modern-age P2P, international remittance, access to credit, loans and investments, will all be accessible to customers within a single destination."

Mao's been with Green Dot for 17 years, with the past year being her first in the platform services role in which her work is definitely important to creating those single destinations.

Read more: Helena Mao
Jennifer Petty, Head of Global Card and Comprehensive Payables in Global Transaction Services, Bank of America
Jennifer Petty, Bank of America
When established leaders offer advice on success, they often overlook the obvious: advice on how to start the journey.

Jennifer Petty has six simple words of advice on how to advance past the first rung and into management: “Earn it, then ask for it.”

Petty is head of global and comprehensive payables in global transaction services at Bank of America.

Read more: Jennifer Petty
Paulette Rowe, Paysafe Group President, Integrated Solutions
Paulette Rowe, Paysafe
There’s much more to someone's contribution than just performance. There’s also “PIE.”

Rowe recently started her job at Paysafe following a stint at Facebook as Head of Payments and Financial Services Partnerships. Her two decades of experience also includes a stint working for a French piston manufacturer and a stop at GE Capital, where she was introduced to the concept of PIE, which means Performance, Image/influence and Exposure.

“You need to let people know who you are and what you’re contributing,” said Paulette Rowe, Group President of Integrated Solutions at PaysafeGroup.

Read more: Paulette Rowe
Terrie Smith, CEO, DIGISEQ
Terrie Smith, DIGISEQ
Terrie Smith bet on herself when she became an entrepreneur. It was a daunting task — and well worth it.

“When I was transitioning from my corporate role in Mastercard to starting up DIGISEQ, it was scary but also fulfilling. In a startup, nothing is guaranteed, you deal with challenges on the daily and every step you take holds much more weight,” said Smith, chief executive of the U.K. fintech DIGISEQ.

Smith and Collin Tanner, both former Mastercard executives, founded DIGISEQ, which adds payment credentials to connected devices, such as watches, bracelets, key fobs, and just about anything that can and will be developed for the internet of things.

Read more: Terrie Smith
Molly Walsh, Head of Global Product, JPMorgan Merchant Services
Molly Walsh, JPMorgan Merchant Services
Telling the truth has been a powerful tool in the career of Molly Walsh, head of global product for JPMorgan Merchant Services.

Over a long career at parent company JPMorgan Chase, Walsh rose from operations to program management to president of commercial card before landing her present role, in which she’s being honored as one of this year’s Most Influential Women in Payments.

Habitually hard-working, Walsh discovered that being ambitious isn’t enough. To advance in an organization, you need to be honest about what you need.

Read more: Molly Walsh
Uma Wilson, Executive Vice President, Director of Treasury Management, Card & Bank Product, UMB Bank
Uma Wilson, UMB Bank
Uma Wilson earned success by mastering three basic — yet often overlooked — skills.

Those skills are: 1) patience, 2) working as a team and 3) providing feedback. Probably the first skill, patience, is the hardest to grapple for eager executives climbing the corporate ladder.

“When you’re young and hungry, you want to be unstoppable — but you have to have patience. Not everything happens overnight, and it’s perfectly fine to accept the role you’re currently in and work to be the best at it, rather than constantly pushing for the next step," said Uma Wilson, executive vice president, director of treasury management, card & bank product at UMB Bank.

Read more: Uma Wilson