The Executive Interview Series provides readers with exclusive insights from movers and shakers in the payments industry. The Payments Industry is under continuous transformation, as such this series provides diverse perspectives on everything from strategy to payments technology and to the future of the industry.
In this interview, TSG’s Consulting team-member Zach Spellman sat down with TSG’s Senior Associate Mark Waring to address areas of his expertise in payments and where he sees the industry heading.
Background: Mark Waring has over 30 years’ experience working in the payments industry and is a recognized leader for initiatives that improve customer profitability, development of innovative products, and launching in new markets. At TSG, Waring is involved in many areas, including product design and go-to-market plans, project management, international markets, global emerging markets, mobile network wallets, cross border and foreign exchange, as well as processor and payment facilitation expertise. Prior to joining TSG, Waring held executive positions at First Data and PayPal.
TSG’s Zach Spellman:Tell me more about your background. How did you get started in the payments industry?
A: Mark WaringI got my start in the payments industry with First Data all the way back in 1981. I worked as an Account Representative taking care of customer’s daily needs. Over the next few years, I took on more roles relating to business development and product management. I also spent three years with PayPal where I managed their products for global payments acceptance. Additionally, I had a leadership role in the creation of a payments and commerce app in East Africa. I then joined the TSG team in 2019.
Q: Zach SpellmanDuring the course of your career holding several leadership positions in the payments industry, what area or product offering do you believe has seen the most transformation and/or adoption? Adversely, is there an area or product offering that you believe has been underutilized?
A: Mark WaringThe most transformation in payments has been the interactions between buyers and sellers. When I got my start back in 1981, the typical transactions were in-store, paper tickets and voice authorizations. Now there are many different form factors including mobile, web, in-store, recurring, and digital wallets. This has complicated technology needed to support the transaction process, but on the other hand, has given consumers and merchants better ways to interact.B2B payments, until now, have been underutilized. That is changing, though. Historically I think this area has lagged when compared to B2C, since B2B transactions have not seen dramatic change like the B2C market. Mostly, B2B transactions prior to a few years ago were simple, done under a contract, and paid on an invoice. However newer technology has made B2B interactions more digitized, on the web, and mobile, which has influenced further payment transformation.
Q: Zach SpellmanWith your substantial background working internationally in emerging payment markets, which region or country do you believe proved to be the most receptive towards newer payment technologies and how did that influence your go-to-market strategy?
A: Mark WaringNo question, the place to be for payments and commerce, in general, is Africa. The market is huge, it is still in the early stages, and so many trends support huge growth. The lack of established payment rails (or at least the ones known in mature markets) is actually a benefit. Africans are embracing all things digital, including the way they buy and pay each other. The Mobile Network Operators can be credited with some of the adoption of digital payments, but even they are ripe for disruption. Africans will embrace the latest technology, and they will focus on what works for their market. They focus on problem-solving, not making things work within the confines of outdated technology.
Q: Zach SpellmanWith the continual emergence and adoption of newer payment technologies, in your opinion where do you see the industry heading in the next five to ten years?
A: Mark WaringThree things:1. Rapid digitization of the entire buyer-seller interaction. Not just at the moment of sale, but how the buyer and seller find each, how promotions are offered, and tailoring interactions based on past history and A.I.2. Mobile experiences. Again, not just payments and wallets, but using mobile as the prime digital means for customers and buyers to work together. Mobile is the consumer’s form factor of choice for living digitized lives, and merchants will need to adopt.3. The ecosystem will become more collaborative. Digital marketplaces will allow consumers and businesses to find the product and services they need. As buyers, they will demand easy to use systems, and the ability to buy as pre-vetted entities. That means some personal and business information will need to be saved and shared. This will ultimately require enhanced data security and strong authentication methods. The sharing of data can make commercial transactions easier, but buyers will want to be assured their data is not misused or compromised.
Q: Zach SpellmanSince joining TSG in late 2019, tell me about the type of project engagements you’re involved with and what typically gets you most excited to contribute towards?
A: Mark WaringI love all things related to payments because I am a payments geek. But I have enjoyed working with newer ISVs and SaaS companies monetize the payments in their ecosystems. They need to understand the value they bring by enabling commerce, and they deserve a share of the transaction revenue. It is now easier than ever for SaaS companies to create products using simple software tools and deploy them in the cloud. That means many more companies with innovative solutions. It also means the leaders of these companies are getting exposed to the payments ecosystem for the first time, and they need TSG’s expertise.
Q: Zach SpellmanSo far with your time at TSG, you have led several engagements on improving third party processing relationships for independent software vendors (ISVs). Can you briefly explain the importance of integrating payments and why this should be a key focus for ISVs as well as other payment providers?
A: Mark WaringI do believe in a payment-centric view of business. Any time a product is sold, a payment must be made. Buyers now expect that payment to be a seamless part of the experience. So, ISVs which help merchants digitize and automate basic business functions, across all verticals, have an opportunity to make payments a part of their solution. This also serves as an added benefit to the businesses that buy their solutions.
Q: Zach SpellmanWhat are some of the key areas you focus on when assessing a go-to-market strategy and how have you assisted payment firms with this process during your time at TSG?
A: Mark WaringThere are three main areas I look at during this process. First, understanding the value they bring to the buyer-seller transaction. Second, understanding how that can be simplified from a technical point of view, and lastly how that can be monetized.
Q: Zach SpellmanTell me about some of the recent involvement you’ve had with private equity groups. What should they prioritize when investing in the payments space?
A: Mark WaringPrivate equity firms know the value of payments and the ways in which monetizing payments creates a valuable, sellable asset. They want their portfolio companies to look at the ways in which SaaS companies can monetize the payments they create. I would suggest private equity firms look for companies that provide business automation to other businesses. B2B is a huge mostly untapped opportunity. Also, mobile solutions for anything related to commerce, cybersecurity, and authentication. Additionally, another area of focus should be marketplaces where consumers and businesses find products and solutions they need. Private equity firms should encourage their portfolio companies to create or at least be a part of such marketplaces.
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