Carolyn Homberger, ACI Worldwide

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The payments industry is a complex ecosystem, one that Carolyn Homberger is happy to navigate.

And she's not kidding. As president of global sales for ACI the past seven years, Homberger views the payments industry as akin to "a supersonic airline driven by some of the most skilled pilots in the business."

Fueled by advancing technology, payments have the potential to "connect people to places they never dreamed of visiting," said Homberger, who considers that type of setting as providing "a truly rewarding 12-plus years career for me."

Such high praise for her industry comes as no surprise from Homberger, who is one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2019. She has been a key member of ACI's executive leadership team, guiding the company's global sales organization of more than 200 payments professionals operating across all global regions.

Her previous roles — including vice president of financial planning and analysis, and vice president of programs and initiatives — groomed her such worldwide responsibilities. Homberger has also been a senior vice president of customer management and group president of ACI On-Demand.

"At the heart of nearly every transaction lies a payment," Homberger said. "With several million transactions taking place every second, there are a variety of business challenges that elevate the industry."

The "jet fuel" in that equation is always technology, she added. "It is the real power by behind payments and there is no question that the convergence of digital payments and customer experience have changed how consumers and businesses interact with each other."

It's that understanding of technology and how it plays on a global stage that allows Homberger to envision what could happen in the future.

She has a strong desire to see social media and payments continue to integrate because this levels the playing field for all payments companies, while driving a lot of innovation and disruption in the industry.

In the hypothetical circumstance that she could someday start a new company, Homberger knows exactly what that company would provide.

"I would create a platform that connects care providers with the seniors and elderly in America," she said. "As 70-plus million baby boomers move into retirement, America's system for caring for the elderly faces a major crisis."

Payments can help resolve that crisis, or at least ease the burden of that transition, Homberger said.

"I believe digitization, in particular the payments experience, presents incredible opportunities to drive improvements in caretaking as well as efficiency of the work itself," she added. "This also gives women, who dominate the caretaking profession, more control over how they approach this responsibility."

But to get to the next steps in payments, strong leaders must continue to emerge.

For her personally as a leader, nothing has been more rewarding than "bringing together a group of highly talented people and transforming them into a winning team."

She points to three main ingredients in that recipe — diversity, creating an environment of "radical candor and acceptance," and investing heavily in team development.

"When team members are at their best as individuals and rely on the team to accomplish their best work, the 'magic' is fully realized," Homberger said.

A leader has to have a mentor or shining example to follow, and Homberger's was Amala Duggirala, the chief information officer of Regions Bank. She worked with Duggirala for many years at ACI Worldwide when Duggirala led a global software development team of more than 2,000 people.

"Amala's ability to build and deliver world-class payments technology is the best in the industry in my opinion," Homberger said. "I am honored to call her a friend, colleague and role model in the payments industry."

With that type of dynamic leader as a role model, Homberger figures nothing should hold women back from coming to the forefront of payments in the future.

"There is an opportunity for women to bring the 'female mindset' and experience to payments," she said. "It is no secret that women are under-represented in the fintech industry. It is important that we contribute our unique perspective in product development and how we lead our companies to better serve the female end-consumer."

READ MORE: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN PAYMENTS, 2019

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