Juan Benitez, the new chief technology officer of Braintree Inc., expects to play a key role in the continued growth of the online and mobile payments provider.

After all, less than a year ago the Chicago-based company cited its technology expertise as a key factor in its rapid growth in processing online and mobile payments.

In less than two years, Braintree, a registered independent sales organization and member service provider of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., has been processing more than $4 billion in online transactions annually for more than 2,000 online merchants through its cloud-based system.

Benitez comes to Braintree from Yahoo Inc., where he served as vice president of engineering and vice president of search advertising. Prior to his nine years at Yahoo, Benitez had key engineering roles at Seven Networks and Healtheon/WebMD.

In an interview with PaymentsSource, Benitez spoke about the technology challenges facing the payments industry and, in particular, technology officers during a time of rapid growth and changes.

PaymentsSource: How do you know what you need to get your arms wrapped around immediately, and what can wait for future development?
Benitez: You have to know what you know, and know what you don't know. I have 15 years of experience in the Silicon Valley with startups, enterprise messaging, the health sector and with Yahoo engineering. I have a lot of different perspectives, and you accumulate the experience and use it to determine solutions for the problems your clients are addressing.

PS: With all of that background, is there a specific experience that stands out?
Benitez:
A key area of my background is in platform operations, so I have a good sense for those types of challenges.

PS: What is the biggest technology threat facing the online and mobile payments industry?
Benitez:
The rate of change in the industry is a major challenge. It coincides with rapid change in customer behavior, rapid change in mobile devices, and the interaction between consumers and those devices. The amount of information now available through different methodologies is challenging for both consumers and technology developers.

PS: How do you address that?
Benitez: Managing that rate of change and understanding how the consumers will adopt a technology is the key. Online or mobile payments have to be a really clean and simple experience for merchants and consumers. Without that, it will be very difficult to expand a business.

PS: This has to be the renaissance era for payments technology. Would you agree?
Benitez: Technology-wise, this has been a tremendous evolution, unlike anything we have seen in the last decade. We are experiencing the peak of technological change in this industry. Braintree has advanced the simplicity of online payments, and we work with some of the best developers in this industry. They are driving this innovation, driving new ways of working and driving early-adopter consumers. From here, they will move it forward to broader acceptance by general consumers.

PS: Any mention of online or mobile payments almost always circles back to security issues, or at least consumer perception that it is not a secure way to shop. Has online security advanced enough to ease consumer fears?
Benitez: With the proliferation of online commerce, I believe that the perception of insecurity may be behind us. I have more trust in online transactions through companies that are PCI compliant than I do at a point of sale with paper receipts flying around, and where you have no idea where those receipts will end up or who will see them.

PS: How about in mobile payments?
Benitez: Creating simplicity in the mobile commerce is likely a bigger issue than security (for consumers). We have to streamline that process [of paying for online purchases through a mobile device] for consumers. Overall, however, consumer comfort level with mobile commerce because of security efforts is getting better.

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