There’s no substitute for standing in the other person’s shoes in a bank-customer encounter, says Heather Lamont.
Lamont has held several different senior-level jobs at different companies in her 15 years working in the payments industry, but at her first management job at the former MBNA Canada Bank, she picked up one of her most powerful insights.
Once a month, MBNA managers were required to work shifts on the bank’s front lines in customer service, telephone sales, collections and retail lending, giving Lamont an indelible lesson on the different perceptions managers and customers have of their interactions.
“I think it’s made me a better strategist, because I have the perspective of how the best plans made at headquarters can fail if the end-to-end process doesn’t work for customer touch-points,” Lamont said. “I can speak from a firsthand experience about the trials and tribulations of customer service, and at every subsequent company I’ve worked for, I’ve incorporated the voice of the customer—to one degree or another—with my teams.”
Lamont oversees BMO's full suite of commercial card products, including pioneering work in biometrics security, putting her among PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments in 2017.
One of Lamont’s daily frustrations is tempering her enthusiasm for innovative new payments technology versus the real constraints of funding and the slower pace of a traditional banking environment. “It’s difficult to be nimble and compete at times, especially with fintechs and startups that can be far more expedient than we can be, working for a major financial institution,” she said.
Living in Canada’s payments and fintech center, Toronto, is a daily inspiration for Lamont, and it fuels her passions inside and outside of work.
The influx of younger, more app-savvy employees at BMO keeps Lamont looking outside of the banking industry for ideas on how to do things better.
"I’m now looking at my personal experiences with new parking apps, online travel-booking tools, and crowd-sourced feedback programs like Waze for ideas and how these innovations influence our perception of customer service, convenience and value in the payments business," she said.
Lamont has also come to believe that maintaining an outstanding urban environment to help attract a diverse and vibrant workforce is crucial for Toronto to maintain its tech edge. Within the last year, Lamont became active in supporting local parks and recreation, chairing a successful fund-raising drive to improve facilities and get more citizens involved.
"I think strong, engaged and active community participation will be key to keeping Toronto one of the best places to live and work in the world,” she said.
Lamont keeps photos and other reminders of her husband and son nearby at work to keep her grounded. She hopes to demonstrate for her son the joy of being passionate about your work.
"It’s also important to me that he learns to appreciate the value of gender diversity in the workplace, especially in historically male-dominated industries,” she said.