The pace of payments-executive recruitment is increasing again after a long lull caused by the economic downturn and overall industry uncertainty, according to top payments executive recruiters.

Several top payments companies in recent months relaunched executive-search efforts, seeking managers with deep credentials in international operations and payments-technology innovation, including mobile payments.

“We saw a real slowdown in payments-executive hiring in 2008 and 2009, as companies held off on making decisions while they waited to see where the economy was heading,” Curt Hensley, CEO of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based tells Impact Payments Recruiting, tells PaymentsSource. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, most of which went into effect in February, also put a damper on hiring.

 “Within the last six months, we’ve seen senior-level executive hiring rebound,” Hensley says, noting that during the depths of the recession through mid-2009 companies tended to fill vacancies by turning to existing employees and by promoting from within. He did not disclose which companies recently relaunched hiring efforts.

Besides mobile payments, new alternative-payment schemes and payment-security technology are fueling interest from deep-pocketed venture capitalists, which are hunting for executives with innovation skills and payments knowledge, says Mitch Feldman, president of A.E. Feldman Associates. “Technology is driving a lot of the executive searches we see in the payments industry as companies search for people who can turn ideas into successful products.”

Risk management, another basic payments-industry skill, also is driving recruitment efforts, Feldman says. “Credit-risk management is a growing area for most payments companies, and its science is constantly changing,” he says.

The search for talented payments-industry executives is growing more intense as competition heats up and possible consolidations loom, experts say.

The rapidly evolving payments industry demands individuals with specific skills, dedication and an ability to adapt easily to change, says Chuck Fillinger, a senior associate with The Strawhecker Group, an Omaha, Neb.-based payments consultancy. “Payments executives have to be high-energy, smart, able to think on a number of dimensions and, most of all, they must be able to react to incremental changes in payment trends that could have big significance to the bottom line.”

First Data Corp. is seeking that type of executive as it goes through a series of management changes, possibly to position itself for a possible initial public offering, Fillinger suggests (see story) .

When Joe Forehand, former Accenture chief, in April took over as First Data’s interim CEO, within a month he oversaw the departure of three top executives, including Chief Financial Officer W. Patrick Shannon, hired barely seven months earlier.

“First Data, like a lot of other payments companies, sees revolutionary changes happening in the payments industry as profits come under pressure and more transactions shift from credit to debit. Now the company is seeking leaders who can take the company to profitability whether it goes public or remains private,” Fillinger says.

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