After being told to be assertive – and then being told not be assertive – to be a successful woman in financial services, Soranno Keating decided to just be herself, advice she gives to other women wanting to make a mark in the industry.

"Early in my career, people told me that I needed to act more like a man if I wanted to succeed," she says. "Later, people told me to be careful not to be too assertive - since assertive men were recognized as strong leaders while assertive women were considered aggressive."

Soranno Keating, who was previously recognized in American Banker Magazine's Most Powerful Women in Finance, has been the CEO of Barclaycard for nearly five years. She leads more than 11,000 colleagues and serves more than 34 million consumers and 300,000 businesses worldwide. Barclaycard is the eighth-largest consumer payments business globally. In 2013, the company processed more than 250 billion pounds in payments.

"But allied to this, I believe it's important to avoid the temptation to hire in your own image," Soranno Keating says. "The collective perspective of a diverse team leads to more balanced and innovative decisions."

After being appointed to the Barclays Group Executive Committee in October 2012, the scope of Soranno Keating's role at Barclays grew substantially as she was placed in an energizing environment of diversity and gained insight on the company's growth strategy.

"These days, the consumer payments industry is much broader than just credit cards–we are really talking about cashless transactions in the broadest sense," says Soranno Keating. "While credit cards are still important, customers are looking for new ways to pay online and via mobile. In turn, retailers are looking for new ways to engage customers in-store and online."

In an effort to respond to the trends and keep up with new entrants, Barclaycard has driven growth in contactless payment technology. The business pioneered the Barclaycard PayTag, a Near Field Communication-enabled sticker for mobile devices that can be used at McDonald's and a handful of other retailers. A related product, called PayBand, is a wristband for making payments.

Soranno Keating is also a member of the Group Treasury Committee at Barclays, chairman of the board of Barclays Bank of Delaware, a member of the board of directors and executive committee of Visa Europe and has accountability for shaping payment activities globally as the chair of Barclay's Group Payments Council.

"We've seen strong female leaders emerge in all areas of modern life in recent years, creating inspirational role models for the generations that follow," says Soranno Keating. "This pattern has been repeated within Barclaycard where, at the end of 2013, 31% of directors/managing directors were female, up from 27% a year earlier," she says.

Looking ahead, Soranno Keating sees retail as a serious focus for Barclaycard.

"Market participants will have to offer a broad range of simple digital solutions—not necessarily ties to their existing bank," she says. "This breaking-down of traditional structures will potentially be good news for smaller businesses and start-ups who will be able to partner with established players, benefiting from existing networks and customer bases and thereby achieving critical mass more easily than would otherwise be the case."

See the full list of honorees for this year's Most Influential Women in Payments.

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