Martina King, Featurespace

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There used to be an odd, almost inexplicable market gap in the U.K. that helped Martina King’s career — something that had little to do with financial services, fintech or fraud prevention.

“In the U.S., radio has always been a medium that’s enjoyed a good commercial reputation. But that’s not true in the U.K.” said King, who has been CEO of Featurespace since 2012, a role she came to after a winding career path that included a stop as sales director in London for Capital Radio. Before King became one of fintech’s top fraud fighters, she won marketers over to radio advertising in the U.K., where the gap between listeners and advertising share was quite large.

Well over 90% of U.K. residents regularly listen to the radio, a level that's been steady for decades. But for some reason most companies did not advertise in the late 1990s, with radio only getting a 2% share of advertising revenue in the U.K. “There’s a disconnect between the audience and the advertising spend,” said King.

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

With King’s help, advertisers woke up to radio, and advertising revenue for radio has been increasing since. “Our task was to inspire advertisers in Britain to embrace radio, which we were able to do,” King said. “It was great fun and I had a great team of people to work with,” King said.

That’s where King made another discovery that’s shaped her career. The jump into leadership at radio for King was the same challenge that many people face when becoming a leader for the first time.

“In my experience, moving into the early stages of management can be more difficult than moving into the highest levels of management,” said King, who has also worked as a managing director at augmented reality company Aurasma and Yahoo in Europe.

Martina King, CEO, Featurespace
Martina King, CEO, Featurespace

At Featurespace, King’s leadership has been instrumental in drawing investors for an expansion beyond its traditional client base of banks and transaction processors to reach retail, gaming and insurance. The company’s also diversified geographically, opening an office in Atlanta and pursuing business in new markets across the globe. The battle against fraud isn’t going anywhere, and Featurespace’s role in risk management has helped King become one of PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments for 2020.

When you’re the general manager at a radio station, you quickly learn to identify people who are skilled at specialized tasks — and to be ready to deploy those people where needed, she said.

“There are people who are better at doing certain things than you will ever be,” King said. “If the radio loses power, I’m not going to be the one making those repairs. You learn to find people you can rely on.”

Featurespace is a good distance from terrestrial radio, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to spot new fraud risks, which are then incorporated directly into the user’s systems.

King’s continued to use her experience spotting expertise, finding partners such as Emailage to combat crooks who use stolen credentials to apply for cards or bank accounts using the victim’s names. The partnership allows Featurespace to use Emailage’s database of email addresses, domain names and phone numbers to mitigate fraud.

“Fraud is consistently the largest issue facing the payments industry, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Kind said, adding over the next five years there will likely be a new form of fraud that will be highly evolved and difficult to detect and prevent. “The payments industry is slowly learning that it is not enough to constantly be playing catch-up to new advancements in criminal activity.”

There are also challenges inside organizations, with corporate culture problems that will linger, such as unconscious bias and micro-aggression.

“Unconscious bias is sadly something that continues to persist in many workplaces. I don’t believe that men actively campaign to keep women down, but I do think that some men are hesitant to embrace and effect change,” King said, adding there is reason for unconscious bias to hold women back. “Women must continue to show that organizations are stronger with them than without them. Never allow unconscious bias to be the reason you don’t get something you deserve — know your worth and fight for a seat at the table because no one is going to do it for you.”

In terms of microaggressions in the workplace, King said it’s best to avoid anger, and to calmly communicate with the aggressor.

“Often, the aggression is unintentional and can be eliminated from a simple, private conversation,” King said. “Of course, if it happens again, don’t be afraid to bring the issue to HR or higher management. Everyone has the right to a work environment in which they are treated with respect.”

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