Developing a payments strategy

An evolving market 

In early 2012, Square has successfully changed how bankers thought about payments, Stripe had launched a compelling new vision of eCommerce solutions and a series of mobile wallets had been launched around the world with varying degrees of success. This created an environment of uncertainty in an international financial institution, Bank, where the senior management needed to align and discuss their future strategies for how to be competitive in the face of all these changes.

They tasked a senior business leader, Mike, who had demonstrated a capable vision in his payments intensive business line and an ability to collaborate with the other thought leaders in payments within the Bank team. Mike worked with his team to bring in his thought leaders towards this new responsibility.

Enabling a conversation

The key challenge that Mike keyed in on was that the Bank leadership was well positioned to realize opportunities in different forms across the markets where the Bank had presence, and that what was required was to provide this team with an analysis of current strategies with the impacts of foreseen market trends.

Discussion and research

Different leaders in Bank had each foreseen the trends that were affecting their business lines and had provided their plans to achieve success. Given that there were diverse visions and some overlapping responsibilities, a key aspect of presenting a cohesive vision for the senior management team involved understanding not just the changes that were happening in the market, but also the changes that were planned internal to the Bank.

Directing a large multinational financial institution is more akin to driving a large ship than it is a high performance race car. Forecasting and understanding the momentum behind the strategies currently at play was key to ensuring that any newly proposed strategies that required collective action would be adopted.

Apart from the strategies employed within Bank, there were many regulatory groups, including Visa, MasterCard, and the Canadian Payment Association, and many consulting groups, including the Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, Deloitte and BCG, who all presented a compelling vision of where the payment industry was headed. A review of these visions, when combined with interviews of business leaders internal and external to Bank, gave Mike and his team a clear sense of all the key factors needed for a collaborative strategy to be developed.

Presentation and iteration

By using the understandings delivered in the current strategies across the different divisions in Bank, the leaders of those division saw how their current objectives tied into a larger vision for the direction of the bank. Now the vision that was presented initially, even with the information included from thoughts leaders internal and external to Bank, was not wholly adopted. Changes presented by the senior management team were readily adopted by Mike and his team to better create engagement in the collaborative strategy.

Effective governance

The strategy presented by Mike called for the strong adoption of the joint venture and other sponsorship models that leveraged the existing footprint and customer base of Bank and took advantage of the new technology offerings used by the new market entrants. It further called for Bank to leverage it’s international presence to negotiate directly with other participants in the payments ecosystem who provided service in each market where Bank operated, rather than have an agreement for each market.

These measures were adopted, along with the already planned streamlining and simplification of the Bank’s product offerings to have consistency in each market, over the subsequent three years.

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