Amy Parsons, Discover

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In a 26-year career at Discover Financial Services, it would seem that Amy Parsons has earned the title of a "doctor" of payments.

Her longtime interest in science and biology had her thinking at one time about becoming a doctor, even a neurology surgeon. As the senior vice president of global acceptance, Parsons says she often feels like those worlds collided: "Here I am, saving the world of payments."

Parsons, an honoree among Payments Source's Most Influential Women in Payments this year, began her long career with Discover in 1992, holding 10 different positions since then. The most dramatic change came when Parsons took a phone call from Discover in 2008, offering a new position as a senior vice president for Pulse and head of global ATM expansion.

She went home that night, contemplating whether to take on the new role. "This will either be the smartest thing I have ever done, or it will not go well," Parsons recalled thinking.

In that role, she would be tasked with building a global ATM network from scratch within a year to serve Discover's acquisition of Diners Club International. Some people considered this an impossible task, but Parsons knew it was within her grasp.

"From that first phone call, I knew this project was going to be a defining moment in my career," she added. "In the end, it turned out to be the best career move, leading to international opportunities and continued growth within the company."

Parsons oversaw a project that ultimately delivered cash access at more than 1.9 million ATMs linked to the Discover Network in more than 125 countries.

"This role also jettisoned me into an international role and was the catalyst for taking an overseas assignment and moving to the United Kingdom," Parsons said. "Living outside my home country and working with business partners around the world has given me a new perspective on life by expanding my horizons and exposing me to so many different ways of thinking, culture and experiences."

Parsons loathes a "drawn out process," and would rather see a faster embrace of new technology.

"A recent example is the elimination of signatures on receipts when checking out," Parsons said. "A number of digital authentication technologies such as tokenization, multi-factor authentication, and biometrics — all of which are more secure than requiring a signature and provide a more seamless payment transaction — have existed for some time."

Discover was one of the first major U.S. card networks to announce it would no longer require merchants to obtain a signature at the point of sale, she added.

At some point, Parsons may bring her interest in science and biology back to the forefront, based on her current fascination with augmented and mixed reality.

But that fascination "goes beyond just payments" because the technology will have a role in how people interact in personal and professional lives, much in the same way computers did in the 1980s, Parsons said.

"For payments, these augmented reality technologies will be initiated and tied to the ever-changing commerce and shopping experiences that are starting to appear through certain retailers," Parsons added. "As of today, the payment experience defaults to the standard online shopping cart solution — but with the tech talent and great idea generators we have in the industry, it will be just a matter of time before this changes."

Parsons considers her mother as a major inspiration who cheered her on through every facet of her youth and adult life.

"She was always there with a word of advice or encouragement or small comments that helped push me to find the right answer for myself," she said. "I am very appreciative of still being able to call her today and say, 'hey Mom,' and know that she will provide the direction and inspiration I need to do the right thing."

READ MORE: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2018

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