Vickie Brown became First Data's chief operating officer of merchant processing this year, and she predicts her role will be exciting because of the fast-approaching deadline for adopting EMV-chip cards in the U.S.

"The industry has its eye on securing transactions and data especially in light of the high profile data breaches at big box retailers like Target," says Brown. "EMV adoption will mean that millions of POS terminals will be replaced between now and the end of 2014."

Merchants are trying to figure out how new payment methods will work and how their systems will comply with the new standard, which is meant to improve security over the aging magnetic-stripe cards used throughout the U.S. today.

The security of data and transactions will remain an important topic, especially as it relates to mobile payments, the "newest transaction form," she says.

In her role at First Data, Brown will manage many merchant operational teams, such as compliance, settlement and the operations organizations, including ones that support prepaid. She will also continue to manage the company's relationship with Walmart.

Since starting at First Data in 1979, Brown has held many positions, including treasurer for Concord EFS Inc., which influenced her career greatly. First Data bought Concord EFS in 2004, giving First Data ownership of the Star debit network.

Brown's group started EFS National Bank, which led her from a debit and check cashing environment to the credit card world.

"It was a turning point in my career to start a bank from scratch. We were a small company at the time and I had the chance to learn a lot at the ground level including all the unique rules for running a bank," Brown says. "This experience set me up to advance my career and prepared me to be in a position to take advantage of another pivotal point in my career later in 2005. This is when I took over the Walmart relationship and to this day, I am learning from the biggest retailer in the world."

While the payment industry has come a long way in promoting women to executive roles, Brown says there's still work to be done in getting women into the most senior positions. 

But she's proud that First Data developed the Women's Leadership Council, a program designed to promote the advancement of women across the company.

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

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