The rapid advancements to technology and payments are more than skin deep.

"Just [recently], a Swedish company has come up with a new swipe system to let its employees access their building by a chip implanted under their skin, the implant can pay for coffee and lunch in the employee cafe as well," said Virginia Curnal, chief of staff for Bank of America Merchant  Services.

A large part of Curnal's job is navigating the ongoing technology revolution. She must develop near-term strategies to respond to products like Apple Pay while keeping an eye on frontier technologies such as chip implants.

"Clients need to be able to accommodate the next technology breakthrough even before it occurs. As an industry, we need to shepherd clients through the EMV transition and make sure every business owner has a digital presence that allows him or her to be visible – and therefore compete," Curnal said.

Curnal's taking on a broader leadership role as the unit transitions to a management team headed by Tim Tynan, Bank of America Merchant Services' new chief executive.

"The new regime brought a grass-roots client focus, encouraging our evolution from sales to business consultants," Curnal said. "Because the new CEO is focused on this transformation, and needs support in doing so, I've been invited closer in to oversee a far broader and deeper role, with both strategic and tactical requirements.  These changes are important because it reflects the direction our organization is going,  that everyone – from CEO to junior business consultant – is accountable for service to our clients."

Curnal, who has spent 30 years in the financial services industry, plans to start a women's leadership forum that will focus on developing female talent through a company's executive ranks.

"Women have not reached the most senior levels as much as they should. This isn't specific to our industry; it's prevalent across the corporate world," Curnal said. "It's difficult to pinpoint why – rather, it's likely a host of reasons. Women have a proclivity to downplay our capabilities. I think a fear of failure can sometimes steer us away from challenges. Maybe we overthink, or maybe we don’t think enough of our capabilities."

Women also face corporate cultural challenges as they advance their careers, a phenomenon Curnal has seen firsthand.

"I started in sales, and was always a strong sales leader – won the awards, had the assertiveness, hustled, pulled myself up by the bootstraps – and this was applauded," Curnal said. "However, when I got to a position at a more senior manager level, I found that the same characteristics that drove my focus and determination needed to be toned down, or I risked threatening others around the table. I think women still have to continue to play a game, a personality game, to soften themselves – but we can do so in a way that erases stereotypes and drives us forward."

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