Julie Pukas, TD Bank
Julie Pukas can blame her innate curiosity about people for her success in the payments industry, where she’s used her keen listening and networking skills to help solve one gnarly problem after another at large organizations.
Armed with a degree in psychology, Pukas was hired to handle product marketing at several smaller banks before beginning a rapid rise as a payments executive. Over more than two decades at Citi and now at TD Bank, Pukas has held many pivotal roles at large organizations, and this year she's also honored as one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2019.
Pukas, now TD's head of commercial product and merchant solutions, believes payments is the most exciting place to be in financial services.
“Payments is a rapidly evolving space that touches every component of financial services, so the sky really is the limit,” she said, pointing to the central role payments plays in business and consumers’ daily lives.
“Technology is changing the way consumers interact with payments, and innovation will create more disruption over the next few years than we have seen in generations,” Pukas said.
The internet of things, for example, is fueling Pukas’ imagination for the many ways payments will drive new capabilities and services.
“The lines are blurring and it will require the payments industry to move away from existing channel designations and more towards true integration in consumers’ lives to ensure we meet people along their purchase path,” she said.
Key jobs at large companies gave Pukas insight into how payment technology solves market problems. Before joining TD Bank five years ago, Pukas spent more than 17 years at Citi in executive positions with global oversight for commercial payments and network relations. Her roles included president of Citi’s Diners Club International before its acquisition by Discover Financial Services; global head of new-product development and managing director of Citi Commerce Services.
A key to Pukas’ success has been bringing the right people together on a team to tackle a problem, and she said women typically bring unique perspectives to payments technology that are valuable in developing products and solutions.
“Women tend to be very curious and prescriptive when it comes to problem-solving; they want concrete examples, particularly in areas of user design and experience. They ask, How can I use this? What problem are we solving?” Pukas said.
It’s never wise to surround yourself with clones or rivals, according to Pukas.
“To create a great team, first acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, and hire the very best people to complement what you bring to the table, and people who play to your strengths,” she said.
Pukas takes an active role in mentoring other women in payments on her teams and within the industry as a whole.
“It’s important to not only provide support and encouragement to other women in payments, but to create opportunities for others to succeed by increasing their exposure to various parts of the business, building professional networks or simply listening and learning more about colleagues’ goals and aspirations,” she said.
Pukas is an executive member of TD's Women in Leadership resource group; she also founded the Philadelphia chapter of Women’s Network in Electronic Transactions (Wnet).
One thing to keep in mind is that you never know who’s watching you, Pukas said.
Over the years, Pukas learned from a variety of female mentors who didn’t necessarily know how much she was learning from them. Examples include Diane Offereins, Discover’s executive vice president of payment services, and longtime Elevon President Pam Joseph.
“Both Diane and Pam paved the way for women in payments today by demonstrating what success looks like—with grace, humility and confidence,” she said.