Hannah Fitzsimons, Elavon Merchant Services, Europe
There’s still a gender gap in financial services, though Hannah Fitzsimons says there’s reason to be optimistic.
“We’re seeing increasing numbers of young women studying mathematics, computer science and engineering at universities, which is encouraging undergraduates to pursue careers in financial services and expand the visibility of women at entry-level,” said Fitzsimons, the president and general manager of Elavon Merchant Services in Europe, and one of PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments for 2020.
But there’s more room for improvement. Businesses are making progress on overcoming barriers that stop women from progressing past a mid-career level or dropping out entirely.
Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020
“I am often the only woman executive or one of few women leaders at industry meetings and events, which is sadly common in financial services,” she said.
The payments industry is being shaped by innovations, new business models, expanding markets and influences from outside the traditional financial services, payment processing and retail industries. There’s a lot of professional opportunity, as new companies enter the industry and existing companies retool.
“Working in an industry as fast-moving as payments means that there are plenty of opportunities for senior women to progress to the top spots but unfortunately, a lack of confidence can discourage them from putting themselves forward," Fitzsimons said. “I get concerned when I hear women ruling themselves out of a job because they don’t feel ready.”
Fitzsimons’ work to increase gender parity includes serving as a mentor for the Women in Payments Network. She has also served as a board member of the UK Finance sub-committee and is currently a member of Visa’s UK Council.
A graduate of London Metropolitan University with degrees in economics and politics, Fitzsimons has been in her current job since October 2017, and has risen through the ranks at Elavon over her 14 year tenure. She started as head of international corporate sales in 2005, becoming head of sales in Europe in 2012 and managing director of U.K. & International Corporate in 2016.
Fitzsimons says she’s benefited from a strong class of women leaders at U.S. Bank and Elavon, which is U.S. Bank’s payment processing operation. Fitzsimons launched the European Women Business Resource Group at U.S. Bank and Elavon in the past year.
“There are so many things that can help,” said Fitzsimons, adding flexible working, unconscious-bias training, hiring schemes to bring women on after career breaks, succession planning, development opportunities and diversity, equity and inclusion programs play important roles. “It’s been shown that diversity can make companies more profitable. Incorporating different experiences, backgrounds and talent can bubble up the best ideas forward.”
There’s a premium on the best ideas, as competition in the payments industry has heated up. Elavon has made a series of partnerships and acquisitions that came as the larger payment processing industry has been upended by a series of multi-billion-dollar mergers.
One of those deals was Elavon's agreement to acquire Sage Pay, a Dublin fintech that will allow Elavon to boost payment gateways and international processing.
"We saw clear synergies and how we could hammer out mutual benefit," Fitzsimons said. "I am keen to see this fantastic technology company in Europe grow and mature as part of Elavon. It’s an exciting time to lead the business."
In her current job, Fitzsimons is responsible for boosting revenue across Europe, where Elavon has 4,300 employees spread across the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Spain.
“The most valuable way to progress is to ensure that you constantly challenge yourself to broaden your skills and grow,” Fitzsimons said. “It’s important to remain curious and open to new ideas. Try new and different assignments that may seem out of your initial comfort zone.”