In her role at American Express, Kelly's work transformed the company's approach to payments in the Americas.

There is currently a "perfect storm of innovation and access driven by rapidly evolving consumer expectations" in the industry, she says.

"Just a few years ago, consumers didn't expect to be able to handle financial transactions 24/7," she notes. "But now it's table stakes, due to widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones and the availability of financial services products at retail."

She predicts that digital access will become more important and prevalent than physical access.

"This will change the game for financial services," she says. "The consumer, especially the younger, tech-savvy consumer, will demand digital interaction for every type of financial transaction. Innovation will accelerate as access proliferates, which will drive new products, new channels, and new ways of delivering value to the consumer."

The biggest challenge for the industry's largest players is being relevant to consumers in a rapidly changing global economy.

"Borders as we now know them will become increasingly irrelevant," she says, adding that this will create "both increased complexity and exciting opportunity."

Meanwhile, technology will become even more critical to effectively deliver products and services across the world to a heterogeneous set of consumers with diverse needs, according to Kelly. That means financial institutions will need to have a "relentless focus on global consumer needs creating products and services that are affordable, safe and simple to use."

Kelly joined Amex in 2011 after six years at MasterCard Inc. where she ran the network's prepaid debit business.

Editor's Note: Subsequent to the compilation of this list, Kelly left American Express for a new job. She is currently chief global product officer at Dun and Bradstreet.

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