In an environment that encourages one to chase the next shiny new object, mature organizations must learn how to innovate, but unless the creative process is enculturated that can be a tall order. My recent conversation with Mimi Hart, CEO of MagTek, offers an example of how innovation from the inside is nurtured and deep industry knowledge offers a stable rudder in times of market uncertainty.
We hear the word “innovation” thrown around quite a bit these days. In your opinion, what makes something truly innovative?
Necessity is the mother of innovation and it’s important not to think about it as one great big idea that is going to change the world, but instead as being in a constant state of improvement. This requires creativity and a willingness to make no detail too small. Ultimately then, innovation is found everywhere.
The source of innovative ideas is listening and paying attention. For example, we subscribe to a design criteria called “The Four S’s”. Simple, Safe, Speedy and Sensible. Does the innovation do something good and can we remove another level of complexity from what exists today? This has been our most successful approach over time.
I believe we need to get the payment process back to a SIMPLE state.
When you think about security, are there absolutes that exist regardless of the use case or do security needs materially change based on geographic segment, market stage of development, or market segment?
It’s maturity that brings ubiquity and that’s where you need stable security solutions that can scale to address fraudsters who want to go after the largest opportunity. I do believe there are different levels of security needs based on a market’s developmental stage. In general, the more mature the payment technology, the more sophisticated and independent standards are necessary.
How do you know when to begin making investments in new technologies? What are the early warning signs of sustainable change in a market?
We look into the cloudy crystal ball where trends exist and experienced individuals can sense change coming, but often it takes a catalyst to create momentum. For example, early smart cards presaged EMV by about 15 years. A recent example is NFC, which had anemic adoption in the US, but when Apple entered the market, NFC/contactless enthusiasm went crazy.
There’s all sort of ideas that bubble up and sometimes come to light, but our infrastructure is very slow to adopt. We are still dealing with standards that are bit-based. It’s hard to change the industry because it’s so entrenched.
What’s happening in the OEM market for payments? Are payments-enabled device types expanding and what does this say about the security of the Internet of Things?
There needs to be away of securely getting data into the system and the IoT requires that payment card data reside someplace in the cloud, enabling the payment in an invisible manner. Collecting the data is where the fail can and often does occur. Do I have a personal device that I wish to establish a digital security identity with and can we make that experience dynamic? The IoT that we’re going to see won’t require credential visibility, but data will have to be exchanged in the background and that’s where the primary security solution will live.
You’ve spoken of point of sale as a touch point. Can you elaborate on your definition and further, where is the next big change at the POS coming from?
Right now, in the traditional POS, we gather up our goods, wait on a line and checkout. The biggest change is in the creation of an untethered world where the payment device comes to the consumer. I call this the “comfort aspect of payments”. We already have the consumer using mobile devices to buy, and also untethered payment devices that look very different from what we have now and over time, these behaviors and technologies will become the norm when we are in a physical shopping environment.
You’ve spent the greater part of your professional career at MagTek. What is it about the company that you found irresistible?
It is about innovation and everyday something changes. MagTek has a history of firsts. It built the first swipe reader and authenticable cards and secure readers, among others.
I love the fact that MagTek has a long history of innovation and first-to-market products. The atmosphere here fosters flexibility and there is always room for lots of innovation. It’s a company that is willing to experiment and try things. Ultimately though, it’s that good feeling of coming to work every day and knowing that life isn’t’ static and work won’t be either.
Annmarie Hart, who is better known as Mimi, has 40 plus years of experience in the payments world. She has led MagTek, the world’s most prolific supplier of card reading solutions, for the last 14 years as its President, CEO and Chairman. She has been recognized three times by Source Media, the publisher of American Banker as one of the twenty Most Influential Women in Payments. She is passionate about Payment Security, was a founding member of the Secure Remote Payments Council and currently serves as its Chairperson. Recently, she joined the Security taskforce of the Federal Reserve Faster Payments initiative. She has been a strong supporter of the Merchant community, as well as ANSI and ISO Standards groups. Mimi holds numerous patents related to payment security. She is a graduate of Boston College with degrees in Political Science and Speech Communications.
Learn more about MagTek here.