Ruth Fornell, ACI Worldwide

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At a certain level of influence, leaders are expected to do more than just perform their own jobs well. They have to become active coaches, rather than simply teaching by example.

“When I was chief of staff to a CEO a major company, he told me that I should worry less about my own work and focus more on guiding others,” said Ruth Fornell, executive vice president of retail/consumer payments and payments in public cloud for ACI Worldwide, and one of PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments for 2020. “He pointed out that I’d ably demonstrated that I could do good work, but the next challenge would be to set direction and lead teams to be successful.”

The advice has guided Fornell for the past twenty years, through a career that has included senior roles leading a more than $600 million business at NCR that focused on digital services and channel transformation for banking, retail, and other businesses, guiding 3,800 consultants in 58 countries on matters such as SaaS, cloud and systems integration for digital services.

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

For the past two years at ACI, Fornell has led a team of experts that develop and bring to market payment technology for banks and other financial intermediaries. That includes the launch of a public cloud program, a major tool for financial institutions that wish to adopt digital payments and other services quickly.

“When I find myself getting drawn into too much ‘doing,’ I step back and consider how I could instead be guiding and delegating. It’s an important lesson — and one that has allowed me to scale and lead large sales organizations,” Fornell said.

ACI has moved to stake its position as a diverse transaction technology provider. Its $750 million deal to acquire Speedpay from Western Union gives ACI scale and a presence in higher education and health care. It also added digital in-store payment capabilities in the past year to update its real-time cloud payments software.

Ruth Fornell, EVP, Retail/Consumer Payments & Payments in Public Cloud, ACI Worldwide
Ruth Fornell, EVP, Retail/Consumer Payments & Payments in Public Cloud, ACI Worldwide

Efforts such as these broaden ACI’s ability to allow more control, flexibility and risk management as companies move more services to the cloud for consumers that rely on mobile devices at the point of sale.

“The overarching story is the convergence of digital payments and customer experience,” Fornell said of the multitude of trends such as artificial intelligence, biometric authentication, internet of things, embedded and invisible payments and regulatory changes. “The way that consumers and businesses interact with each other is changing and there are more participants in this digital payments ecosystem than ever before.”

For example, a look at the explosive growth in internet and smartphone penetration in emerging markets such as India gives a sense of how many people will play a role in shaping digital payments, Fornell said, adding a more level and fair playing field for economic growth across the globe will result.

These changes are a clear opportunity for payment organizations, but are not without challenges.

“It will require diverse approaches to serve a hugely diverse global customer base,” she said. “This will push organizations to reflect that diversity within their own workforce; whether it’s women in the boardroom, inviting greater neurodiversity in the workplace, or ensuring that as a global company you have the geographic footprint to serve customers locally.”

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