Sabrina Chin, who has been working in the payments industry for 17 years, is into a little bit of everything. She cooks. She oil paints. She runs in relay races. She does ballet.
Chin is a hard worker, a trait she picked up from her father, who moved to New York City from China when he was 20 and had only $10 to his name.
Her ability to juggle multiple opportunities has made her a stand-out force in the ever-changing payments industry. Today, she is senior director of payment services for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In this role, which she's held for two years, Chin oversees payment acceptance for the retailer's businesses in India, China and Japan.
"Walmart is exciting for a number of different reasons one is based on scale. At a Fortune 500 company, every business decision is very important," says Chin. "Plus some of the things we're doing in the payments industry we're thought leaders in that regard."
Chin watched her mother, a New York native, return college to reinvent herself, and has used her mother's example as motivation in her career.
Walmart's payments initiatives include its Bluebird prepaid account, a collaboration between Walmart and American Express; and the Merchant Customer Exchange, a retailer-driven mobile wallet initiative which Walmart leads. Chin has worked with the Bluebird prepaid card team to make sure it can be accepted as tender at the point of sale and also works with MCX on an ad-hoc basis.
Related: Laura Kelly, an honoree from the 2013 Most Influential Women in Payments, tells the story of the Bluebird card from American Express' perspective.
"Given the increasingly complex nature of payments, any role on our team requires not only subject matter expertise in payments itself but also the ability to navigate and understand the regulatory and legislative environment, identify consumer trends, and make sense of the technological landscape," Chin says.
This is especially important for her team, which focuses on three Asian markets that together contain more than 850 Walmart locations and have payment infrastructures that are vastly different.
"The payment strategy is consistent between Walmart's U.S. and global business innovate in payment acceptance to make sure that people get through the checkout line faster, either in-store or online," Chin says.
There are interesting aspects of each country's payment schemes, she says. For example, the Reserve Bank of India mandates chip-and-PIN EMV card acceptance. In Japan retailers establish direct connection with multiple issuers to lower credit acceptance costs. And the People's Bank of China regulates interchange fees for the country, setting rates that vary by industry.
Understanding regulatory and legal issues for each region is increasingly important for everyone in the payments industry, especially women who have not traditionally flocked towards these areas of expertise, Chin says.
Many women entering the payments industry find themselves at more traditional institutions, such as banks and the card networks, she says.
"To ensure that the pipeline continues to be filled with the right talent, we have to take a broader perspective to our educational system and encourage the young to focus on the primary areas that will shape our industry: technology, mathematics and legal," she says. "Given the evolution of the industry, these areas have already become 'must-haves' for those seeking to change the ecosystem."
Prior to her current role, Chin managed U.S. acceptance of non-traditional payment methods for Walmart, including Electronic Benefits Transfer, which includes the food stamp program, and Walmart's closed-loop gift card platform. She also managed Walmart's associate card program.
Chin also spent several years with Citibank as the relationship manager for high-tech companies for global merchant services. And she worked with HSBC and Sagence, an information management and data analytics company.
The world has changed greatly since Chin began her career, and more change is coming, she says.
"The most interesting thing happening today is the merchant lawsuit against the Federal Reserve challenging Regulation II," Chin says. The lawsuit is a response to a court ruling that states the Fed must reevaluate how it came to determine its debit interchange fee caps and debit routing rules under the mandate of the Durbin amendment.
"The case highlights the structural issues endemic in the legacy card payment infrastructure and brings to light the fact that industry competition has positive externalities," Chin says. "According to a new study from the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, free checking became more widely available to consumers after the implementation of the Regulation II. For merchants, the ability to have dual routing has started to level the playing field. If the district court is upheld on appeal, a significant change will be on the horizon for the industry and consumers will stand to benefit even more."
And in five years, the most important change will have to do with the fight for mobile wallets and payments methods. While many banks and other companies are trying to move in between the merchant and customer, "the solution that will prevail, however, is the one that preserves the merchant/customer relationship," Chin says.
A successful mobile payment system will also need to improve on the inefficiencies of legacy payment systems and decide on common standards for protecting sensitive information, she says. MCX is one of the initiatives in the market that covers all these features, she says.
See the full list of honorees for this year's Most Influential Women in Payments.