If money is power, speeding up access to funds is one way to empower millions of struggling consumers, according to Cecilia Frew.

As senior vice president and head of North America Push Payments for Visa Inc., Frew plays a vital role in improving consumers’ financial lives by leading the payment network’s strategy for faster payment delivery through Visa Direct, its platform for push payments to cardholders.

“I believe we can solve many financial problems for both consumers and small businesses with business-oriented solutions,” said Frew.

Cecilia Frew, Senior Vice President, Head of North America Push Payments, Visa
Cecilia Frew, Senior Vice President and Head of North America Push Payments, Visa

Frew may not be directly involved in Visa’s financial inclusion initiatives in emerging nations and in low-income sectors of the U.S., but her job supports those missions.

“In my current work, this manifests as people getting faster access to their money. With faster access, consumers might be able to pay a bill without a late fee, or a small business may have more working capital to grow their business.”

For nearly a decade Frew focused on prepaid cards, first at PNC Bank then at Visa, which she joined in 2014. Two years ago Frew advanced to her current position at Visa, where she oversees a broader sector of domestic card payments. This year she joins PaymentsSource's list of the Most Influential Women in Payments.

In college, Frew studied economics and political science but she admits she’s always been a closet accountant. “I’m a bit of a finance and accounting geek, because I love doing journal entries and watching how everything balances,” she said.

Understanding balance sheets has also helped advance her career, Frew believes.

“Every business leader should be thinking about how what they’re doing will eventually impact financial statements,” she said.

Frew began her career in sales at Eastman Kodak and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. before moving into her first financial institution job at National City Bank directing corporate banking policy. One of the thrills of her career has been seeing progress in the global move to faster payments.

But she admits to feeling impatient at times.

“It’s frustrating when the pace of results is slow, but I remind myself that human nature requires a certain amount of time, meetings and debate to bring a set of people together and make sure everyone is comfortable with moving forward,” she said.

With a laser focus on faster push payments at Visa, it’s no surprise Frew is always on the lookout for quicker ways to get everything else done.

“My younger colleagues always seem to know the latest apps. If they share apps that can make me more efficient on a daily basis, then I get super excited,” she said.