Taira Hall, Visa
Understanding how the payments ecosystem works is a basic tenet for anyone aspiring to work in the industry. Visa's Taira Hall has that understanding, and she possesses a trait many others may not have — she has experienced what happens when there is no accessible payments system in place.
"My passion for the payments ecosystem was ignited early in childhood, as I spent several formative years in Malawi, Africa, one of the poorest countries in the world," said Hall, the vice president of U.S. partnerships and new initiatives for Visa Business Solutions. "There, I witnessed firsthand the multiple adverse impacts of no standardized financial system."
It was a crash course in how people struggled to meet even basic needs when unbanked or lacking access to credit.
"The toll was exacted most heavily on women who then and now did the main planting, harvesting and marketing of agricultural products — the mainstay of that economy," said Hall, one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2019.
The initial exposure to this type of poverty drove Hall to work in the financial sector, and pursue economics and finance studies. "Payments is a conduit to empower women and their families worldwide," she said.
Fast forward to 2019, and Hall finds herself in her fourth year at Visa, and her third in her current role.
"I thrive on bringing innovation to and around the payments ecosystem, particularly within established companies," Hall said. Part of that process has been her creation of an entirely new B2B fintech team at Visa. This team works to mobilize new partners to design services and improve the payment experience for all users.
"At its core, my strongest desire for this industry truly lies in broadening financial inclusion, because payments impact daily lives, regardless of language spoken or on which continent you reside," she added.
Hall carried that mantra in her past work as well. Hall worked at Citigroup as the vice president and North America product manager for commercial cards for Citi Transaction Services, and as director of North America commercial cards market management for Citi Treasury. She has also held management roles at Deloitte and American Express.
Hall graduated with a BA conferred with distinction in economics from Stanford in 2001, and received an MBA in international business marketing from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
For the past 13 years, she has been an active board member for One Acre Fund, a nonprofit that supplies farmers of small properties with the financing and training they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty.
In her role at Visa, Hall has put an emphasis on diverse team building and ensuring everyone is working toward a shared goal.
"I invest substantial time in team building, which I believe creates a foundation of trust and respect," she said. "Mapping the work back to everyone's unique skill is imperative to finding success holistically."
She encourages women to bring fresh ideas to their work, believing that such an approach is most vital in fintech because of "women's innate ability to relate to consumer and business needs closely, and to understand how to approach and address or solve critical pain points."
In her four years at Visa, Hall said she has learned much from payments veteran Ellen Richey, the company's chief risk officer and vice chairman.
"What makes her an admirable leader is that she openly shares her own career experiences, including those periods in which she faced substantial challenges and great uncertainty," Hall said. "She never paints an unrealistic picture of a career path or how it may evolve over time."
Richey was most inspiring during challenging times because of her ability to remain focused and "reducing external noise" to pursue a multi-pronged plan that would instill confidence in her team, Hall added.
Hall says the national #MeToo movement has helped "intensify actions to ensure women's voices are being sought and heard, and that they have an equal seat at every table."
"Most importantly, I think the #MeToo movement has highlighted the imperative for men and women to be able to come together in dialogue to ensure that each of us feels heard and understood," Hall said.