Ask an Expert: Women in Payments and Other Financial Leadership Roles

Ask an Expert: Women in Payments and Other Financial Leadership Roles

The payments industry is rapidly changing, and behind this change is a force of strong leaders who just happen to be women. Twenty of these executives were honored last month by PaymentsSource as The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2015. (See the full list of winners here.)

To get an inside look at the significance of such a tribute, we sat down with Heather Stone, CSI’s global executive vice president.

What is the significance of recognizing ‘influential women in payments’?

There are a lot of great minds, achieving a lot of great work and exerting strong yet sometimes silent leadership that is advancing the payments industry.  I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all of the winners, all with impressive track records. They serve as wonderful role models for any young woman aspiring for leadership in the financial industry.

Heather, you’ve had a long career in this space – more than 25 years. How has the financial landscape changed for women?

In the world of finance, males have always dominated. Reuters reported recently that only about 11% of S&P 500-level CFOs are women, and yet this is a marked improvement over what I have observed throughout my 25+ years in the payments industry. Twenty years ago, there were days during our work throughout the U.S. and Latin America when it was a rare occurrence to see another female executive at the table.

So despite the current statistics, female success stories today are at least a little easier to find. We still have a big gap to close, but companies are slowly becoming more progressive. Also at play is the emerging importance of innovative technology within the payments space, which makes it an exciting time for accomplished female financial executives.

What do you think is key to success for women aspiring to financial leadership?

I would encourage women to not be intimidated when they’re the only one in the room wearing a skirt, and instead see their uniqueness as an opportunity to fill a gap that is needed in the industry. Women tend to be better listeners and more naturally fit into that advisory role that companies are seeking.  I believe this has been a key to my success: I listen, assess the problem/need, and combine my knowledge of both payments and technology to collaborate with my colleagues and/or clients on the development of a solution.

What is the single biggest challenge that the payments industry as a whole faces in the next 12 months?

With all the new technology emerging, it’s important that companies be open to innovation, but wise enough to properly vet where they’re entrusting their most important assets. There is a hotbed of innovation happening in this space and it’s exciting. But in the B2B space, we can’t lose sight of the importance of proven technology.

I expect that the new entrants will continue to flood the competitive landscape but in the B2B space, only those with a strong, proven foundation will thrive. It will not be easy to replicate the payment networks and infrastructures that support our economy’s financial resources.

Heather joined CSI Enterprises in 1989. Throughout her tenure, she has served as the global lead for all of CSI’s payment divisions, including global-fleet®, the CSI MasterCard® purchasing card, and most recently the globalVCard® virtual card division. Heather has driven the company into market-leading positions in many verticals including manufacturing, construction, energy, hospitality, healthcare, media, sports and entertainment. Heather was named Professional Woman of the Year in 2013 by NAPW and is an alumnus of Pepperdine University where she studied business and journalism.