The U.S. shift to EMV-chip card payments will consume much of Kara Kazazean's attention this year. As the director of credit, debit and finance for Walmart, Kazazean finds herself embedded in a major shift in technology, security and consumer payment habits.
"While this technology is not new to the world, EMV will be a very different experience for U.S. customers," Kazazean said. "It will require them to think more about payments and how payments experiences will vary across different merchants and different cards in their wallet."
The shift comes at a time when Walmart is working to advance an entirely different payment technology through the development of the Merchant Customer Exchange's CurrentC wallet. In its planned form, CurrentC will enable payments by displaying a QR code on a mobile phone's screen, though the MCX participants have expressed an interest in using other technologies to adapt to consumer demand.
"The overall speed of change has accelerated over the last year, so being nimble and adaptable in the face of change became an even more important skill in my job," said Kazazean.
Because Walmart pays more than $1.2 billion annually in the U.S. to accept card payments, the company is always looking for new innovations, Kazazean said.
"Today, payments companies are all around us," she added. "Retailers have come together to create a mobile payments company and regional debit networks are expanding capabilities to support a wider variety of transactions to attempt to compete with traditional credit networks."
Kazazean joined Walmart in 2011, spending her first two years as the company's global gift card manager. In that role she focused on enabling in-store acceptance of e-gift cards and expanding the concept globally.
She has held her current role for the past two years, during which time she installed a second acquirer at Walmart to connect to the company's 5,000 U.S. stores. All of the stores now have access to either acquirer, and transactions can be migrated instantly for load-balancing, processing lags or to address outages.
She played a role in implementation of EMV credit card acceptance, allowing Walmart to become the first major retailer certified for the new technology.
Prior to joining Walmart, Kazazean deployed point of sale systems for Radiant Systems, which is now a part of NCR. She also spent eight years at RaceTrac Petroleum, leading the company's electronic payments team and overseeing its Triple-DES ATM upgrades.
Women are accomplishing "amazing things" in the payments industry today, Kazazean said. "I think women in all industries need to continue to overcome internal obstacles to be recognized at the top ranks, including setting bold goals without fearing success or failure, finding our voices and taking non-traditional career paths."