Patty Watson admits she stays awake at night with thoughts of what, to TSYS and its clients, would be a true nightmare — a data breach.

But that fear keeps Watson focused on the task at hand of assuring such threats can be thwarted.

It's a driving force that has vaulted the 17-year payments industry veteran into the forefront of the Columbus, Ga.-based payments processor and technology company and earned her recognition among the Women in Payments honorees for 2016.

Watson came to her job at TSYS as senior executive president and chief information officer six months ago, after serving in various technology-related roles for The Brinks Co. and Bank of America.

A data breach can ruin a company and ruin lives, Watson said. "People are at the center of everything we do at TSYS and thinking about how real people would be affected by a data breach is a huge motivator to create strong programs to protect TSYS against cybercriminals."

In the coming year, Watson expects the payments industry to develop more products and services to meet consumers' desire for faster, easier and safer methods to make electronic payments.

"As technology continues to rapidly develop and change to meet consumers’ needs, we must be nimble and quick to adapt new processes while keeping data secure," Watson said. TSYS is evolving "from a transactions company to a solutions company" to better serve clients and work as partners to help them grow their businesses, she added.

Watson worked with Bank of America for more than 14 years in a number of technology positions, including as senior technology executive for the bank’s treasury, payments and credit area.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame in Indiana, and is also a graduate of the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she received her master of business administration. Watson spent 10 years serving in the United States Air Force as executive staff officer, flight commander and director of operations.

She hopes women continue to advance in the payments industry and take advantage of the various networking organizations available to do so, such as W.net.

"One of the biggest hurdles women face is self-doubt, and finding a group of women to lift you up and overcome those feelings is essential," Watson added.

Watson points to her five children as a signal of her success outside of payments. "To me, success is having children who become contributing members of society and make good choices."

As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, Watson became involved with the governor's committee on people with disabilities when living in Texas.

This article is part of PaymentsSource's 25 Most Influential Women in Payments feature. Follow these links to see a full list of all honorees or a slideshow of the featured executives.

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