Don’t for a minute think that having completed the integration of a new payments platform at Visa Europe, CIO Steve Chambers has been taking it easy. As he updates us on his strategy and role at the financial services firm, it’s clear that technology continues to reshape the way Visa services are used and how the organisation operates.
“We’re a payments business,” the company states clearly on its corporate website. “We are not a bank and we don’t issue cards. Nor are we a credit card company, so we don’t lend or set the fees that the consumers pay. In fact, more than 70 per cent of Visa’s payment transactions in Europe are on debit cards.” In every essence Visa Europe is a financial services company providing a core transactional process to banks and retailers that then offer that service to their customers.
Having completed the integration of a major payment processing system at Visa Europe, the pace of change at the London- and Reading-based organisation has, if anything, quickened. The payments processing system was, in effect, a new foundational base for the organisation.
Chambers and his team spent three years developing the European-wide platform with a budget of €0.5bn, and another three building new value add services. The system provides European banks with a compliant authorisation and clearing settlement platform that has the speed and agility to react to changing consumer and business demands.
“The authentication and payments platform was a single accountable mission, my mission,” says Chambers. “Today, instead of three or four big things going on as part of that, it’s now chock-a-block as we introduce new technologies to different business layers.
“Take away the Visa brand and we are a technology services firm. I’m roughly half of the business, providing service management and customer relationship support,” he explains.
“Now the whole company has transformed on the back of the technology so that now it is a services organisation.”
This move has meant a higher focus on the services Chambers and his team deliver to the Visa Europe business.
“As you grow your platform and organisation, new capabilities need to be developed. We built the core platform and that was the first challenge, then we had to put a lot of effort into our run side of the organisation, because running our own systems was more than we did before.
“Payment platforms typically have a long life and if you want to stay relevant you need to be able to change and grow continuously. We knew we needed to keep the platform simple to minimise risk and cost and to promote reuse, so we had to put in good governance so our architecture became the key, as we didn’t want to end up with silos. We are an architecture-led organisation that builds once, uses many and focuses on scalability and reuse.
“We do portfolio governance to help the organisation get the right projects done. So we link and engage with the organisation as the best things are when they are done in partnership,” he says.
“I’m trying to get my prototype team into place so that we can try things and fail at some things, but fail fast, bin a project if it’s not working and move on.”
Returning to the processing platform, Chambers explains how the richness of data within Visa Europe is delivering business benefits. “All the data we have has really excited our members. We have 25 billion transactions in a database of activity in the last two years,” he says.