Talbott Roche, Blackhawk Network

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As CEO and president of Blackhawk Network, Talbott Roche has presided over some significant changes in the industry, notably the growth of third-party retailing of gift cards, but this wasn’t necessarily an easy sale to skeptical retailers.

And brands didn't want to relinquish a portion of their gift card revenues in exchange for distributing cards through a wider network.

“We started with just seven card partners and one distribution partner in the U.S.,” Roche said. “Today, Blackhawk is one of the largest third-party distributors of gift cards in the world based on the value of funds loaded on the cards we distribute. Our retail channels accounted for over $14.5 billion in transaction dollar volume during fiscal 2016."

While Blackhawk’s presence has historically been focused on the U.S., international partnerships have been growing, notably through a pact with China’s Alipay. According to research from Alipay, approximately 4 million Chinese tourists visit the U.S annually. Blackhawk will be working to expand Alipay’s mobile payment acceptance and engagement offerings to participating U.S. retailers.

“The adoption of mobile payments and wallets has been slower than initially forecasted,” Roche said. “However, we are seeing recent expansion of international and Chinese mobile wallets into the U.S. as an exciting industry development.”

Roche has been a vocal advocate for women in payments through a number of initiatives that Blackhawk has been involved with.

Blackhawk is a sponsor of Wnet (Women’s Network in Electronic Transactions), a professional organization that provides personal enrichment through its world-class national and regional programming, networking opportunities and mentorship programs.

Blackhawk is also a founding sponsor of the Women in Payments Global Mentorship Program, which pairs mentors and mentees in the payments industry with the goal of fostering the career development of women payments professionals around the globe. Finally, for the past three years, Blackhawk has been a sponsor of the Northern California chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), which works to attract, retain and advance women in the retail and consumer products industry.

“I recognize the importance of female mentorship, and have pushed for Blackhawk to be involved in organizations supporting the advancement women in our industry,” Roche said.

Roche has some advice for other women who want to advance their careers in the payments industry.

“While it sounds cliché, I encourage women to 'lean in' and seek opportunities for increased responsibility, advocate for themselves and be deliberate about their career choices to prepare themselves for leadership roles," she said. "I acknowledge that not every woman is seeking a leadership position; however, a supportive work environment can nurture that instinct and create opportunities for advancement. Finally, effort is the ultimate equalizer. What will create the most opportunity for someone is their level of effort and commitment to their work. Passion is key."

READ MORE: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2018

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Prepaid cards Retailers Blackhawk Network Women in Payments