Amy Parsons, Discover

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In her 27 years working at Discover, Amy Parsons has always found herself in the right place at the right time. Or, more likely, decision makers at Discover have made a habit of putting Parsons right where they need her to tackle the hottest trends in payments.

It explains why the company chose Parsons to head a global Pulse ATM network initiative 10 years ago, at a time when ATMs were critical to the company's growth and its impact on the newly acquired Diners Club International.

In the same manner, Discover turned to Parsons two years ago to serve in her current position as senior vice president of global acceptance. It's a job that essentially put her at the forefront of Discover's growth in global digital payments.

Already, in targeting global acceptance of Discover outside of the U.S., Parsons has developed a five-year strategic plan and built a team that has established a global payments network of more than 44 million merchants.

That took a dose of Parsons magic. Or logic.

"While traveling for work, I take the opportunity to observe, ask questions and learn about the culture," said Parsons, one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments in 2019.

"Because Discover is a global company, it is important for us to understand the culture of each country that we are a part of," she added. "This impacts how payments are adopted, used and a part of people's daily life."

Her work is done with the understanding that payments and networks in different regions can have an effect on travel and tourism. There are few do-overs, and mistakes can have economic repercussions.

"If there is an easy way for tourists to come in and purchase goods, it could boost a local economy and positively impact resources they have access to grow and expand," Parsons said. "Part of our work around the world is making it easier for both consumers and merchants to transact across borders."

Good leadership comes from a "combination of both art and science," in that it starts with hiring the right people for a job and having a system in place that allows them to do their best work, she said.

"When creating a team, we look for people who are excited about payments," Parsons said. "We need people who want to be part of driving the change in payments and willing to challenge the status quo."

In the current payments landscape, that generally means Parsons seeks people "who want to be the first one on that new app or testing out new technology." It is also important that they are passionate about traveling to other countries and learning how Discover can best design solutions to make the payments experience better around the world, she added.

Parsons admires executives who have had the passion and courage to start companies that benefit the payments industry. She points to Peiter van der Does, co-founder of Adyen, and John and Patrick Collison, founders of Stripe, as people who envisioned modern platforms for the digital age.

That sort of thinking creates more fascinating horizons for payments.

"Ten years ago it was hard to imagine that a customer could pay for a new outfit with their phone or that they could pick up food at the grocery store without stopping to pay on the way out," Parsons said.

Parsons, who has had 10 different jobs at Discover, is also a board member of the Electronic Transactions Association, the Merchant Advisory Group and Lambs Farm, a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational services for adults with developmental disabilities.

She encourages women to seek female mentors within or outside of their companies to help refine ideas and talk through a process to bring them to the attention of the appropriate people.

"Women are helping other women by sharing how to balance daily demands, while lending an ear for a distressed colleague, or celebrating someone's personal accomplishment," Parsons said.

"All without adding another thing to do to the agenda," she added.


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