Recently named one of the most influential women in payments, Shazia Manus, CEO of TMG sat down for an interview with Paymentgal where she shared her thoughts on topics as diverse as call centers, maintaining a focused corporate culture, artificial intelligence and how her experience as a woman in a male-dominated culture has shaped her outlook on business.
If you had the freedom to add one entirely new feature to a credit card that doesn’t exist today, what would it be?
Hyper-personalization is becoming a key differentiator for brands across all industries. Within financial services, we see consumers looking to their credit unions and banks for optimal experiences custom-tailored to their specific needs. It’s why technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming so important to the industry’s leading banking and payments companies.
Given this hyper-personalization as a backdrop, I would like to see an AI solution layered on top of an issuer’s credit card product suite. It would determine, based on what it learns from a blending of cardholder data from multiple sources, the features and benefits that would be of greatest value to the cardholder. It would then alert the cardholder – and the issuer – to those changes, automating them whenever possible to make the experience seamless.
There are some features beginning to emerge that come close. Take “DIY rewards,” for instance, which allow consumers to choose the loyalty program that’s right for them. At least one study showed 70 percent of consumers (75 percent of Millennials) would accept such an offer from a credit card issuer.
Credit card growth trends are picking up post-recession, but younger consumers are more skeptical of debt. How do you see this dynamic playing out in the market? Is there a new market opening up for transaction-based credit for example or unsecured personal loans? What about debt management tools – will these be a table-stakes service in the future?
Millennials have saving for the future as a top-of-mind financial objective. Yet, many also understand the importance of owning a credit card to building a solid credit history – something that’s key to long-term financial health. One recent study found 62 percent of Millennials have at least one open credit card.
For those without credit cards, the majority did note their aversion to debt as a rationale. So the imperative for community financial institutions is to provide the right kind of products, education and service to draw out the positive benefits to credit card ownership.
Also important is understanding Millennials and younger generations are drawn to innovative product models. Issuers have to start thinking about evolving their payments strategies to go beyond the traditional. How can credit cards evolve to help Millennials give back to their communities, for instance? How can they be integrated with personal financial management tools that provide real-time, cognitive suggestions for finding bargains, saving money or making smart investments for the future? The key is to think holistically about the consumer’s entire financial picture as we innovate.
Your organization has been on the forefront of working with emerging payments technologies over the years. As you assess new companies today, has your evaluation criteria changed over time and what are some of the core characteristics you look for in a potential technology or services partner?
For TMG, payments are more than just transactions. They are a chance to stay at the industry’s forefront with convenient, personalized and streamlined experiences. The ever-evolving nature of the payments industry means any organization TMG partners with must share our commitment to quickly responding to changing consumer needs and market trends. Because we have an iterative product development culture, we look for partners who share some of the same vision, including agilty, ambidexterity – and, importantly, solid core values.
Beyond possessing a nimble nature, our partners are also driven by passion, imagination and innovation. Together, we leverage our core competencies while pushing for the discovery of new opportunities. Ultimately, the focus of any partnership should be on delivering real value to the end consumer. Without understanding consumers’ needs, behaviors and preferences, it is impossible to provide them with relevant innovations.
Call center services are a vital part of any card portfolio management strategy. What are the future opportunities you see for extending the value chain of call centers?
Today’s consumers expect convenience and speed when interacting with their financial institutions. Robust interactive voice response (IVR) technology is a must for any call center today, but it’s the technology we can layer on top of the IVR that holds the key to optimal contact center strategy. Speech recognition and analytics, for instance, can plug into an existing system to improve service, efficiency, consumer experience – and even fraud prevention. The data it captures can then be used to build predictive models capable of identifying trouble spots and opportunities right down to the individual cardholder level.
Of course, self-service has become table stakes for most financial services providers. Digital natives are not only comfortable with customer service from a chat bot or messaging app, some even prefer it. A majority of consumers across demographics and age groups are open to using this technology, and today, see it as an easy way to get simple questions answered.
Issuers will need to stay on top of the trends and technologies that will allow them to plug into the places financial consumers already are. This could be the mobile banking app; it could be Facebook; it could be a self-driving car that navigates itself to an interactive teller machine (ITM).
While demanding increased convenience from call centers, consumers also have a high expectation for security. Consumers want to see their financial institutions providing immediate, beneficial assistance without compromising the safety of their account information. A number of financial institutions are already using speech analytics to verify consumers’ identities. Beyond that, there is much potential for the technology to measure callers’ devices, locations, even emotions, to help identify fraudsters more quickly.
You regularly add talented resources to the TMG team. Beyond some of the obvious traits, like integrity and honesty, what are some of the specific personal characteristics you look for in potential recruits?
One of the things I value most about TMG is our commitment to maintaining our people-centric culture. The foundation of our organization is based on four key principles: people matter, collaborate for results, take an ownership perspective and embrace change. These principles shape every hiring decision we make. With every prospective employee, we ask ourselves, “How does this candidate align with our core values?”
With a history deeply rooted in the cooperative movement, TMG has taken the “people helping people” philosophy to heart. To us, ideal candidates are the ones who demonstrate a profound interest in helping improve the financial lives of consumers.
Being the leader of a large, diversified organization is never easy. What early lessons in life did you learn that have contributed to your ability to be a successful CEO now?
Spending my formative years in Bangladesh, where women are often relegated to second-class citizens, certainly had a tremendous impact on my career. I was told at a young age that I would never live up to the high academic standards of my older brother. He was considered the smart one, the star of my family. Instead of letting that perception hinder me, I discovered a competiveness in myself. I felt a drive to prove that I could accomplish everything my brother could, perhaps more.
Fortunately, my grandfather was a wonderful mentor and advocate for me. He moved mountains to ensure I had the same opportunities as his grandsons. Against immense pressures, he encouraged me to take challenging entrance exams, apply for highly competitive scholarships and even start a business at the age of 17. He fostered my tenacity and sowed seeds of confidence that have proved invaluable in developing my career. I’m blessed today to have recognized the call to put this same spirit of confidence and mentorship into action for others.
Shazia’s experience as a former credit union CEO gives her unique insight into the challenges and opportunities facing financial institutions. An entrepreneur since the age of 17, Shazia’s spirit of innovation drives TMG’s dedication to making life easier for financial institutions and their consumers.
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