Challenging the financial services status quo
Claire Gates, CEO of Paysafe Pay Later, on her perception of the fintech space and her career story so far.
Who are you and what do you do exactly?
I am Claire Gates, the CEO of payolution which provides retailers with white label 'pay later' solutions to provide a seamless customer experience at the check-out. The company is part of Paysafe. I have over 20 years' experience in the consumer finance space, specifically around developing and launching consumer-centric credit solutions. I live in London with my family but thanks to my new role I travel to Vienna and other parts of the world on a regular basis.
How did you first start out in the banking and payments industry?
Having consulted at Roland Berger for a number of European airlines, I joined American Express to head up the company's European airline and car rental business, where I was primarily responsible for the roll out of card payment acceptance. While I was there I witnessed first-hand the growing shift towards card payments by both consumers and merchants.
When did you hear the word “FinTech” for the first time?
It's difficult to say, but it would have to be pre-2005 - I spent some time in the Middle East setting up joint ventures for GE Money and I came across a number of financial technology companies which were challenging the traditional banking status quo, and I ended up working with a number of them.
How would you define “FinTech”?
FinTech can be an overused word - some companies use it to describe their business, product or processes to make them sound more current. For me, FinTech is about leveraging technology to challenge the norm with respect to financial services and products. It has such a broad definition that it can encompass a financial product which offers micro loans via a mobile app to the under banked, right through to a platform which allows online cryptocurrency trading. The founders of payolution definitely had financial technology at the heart of their proposition – enabling merchants and customers to use secure pay later solutions at point of checkout. We have stayed true to this approach as we enhance our product offering.
What puts more established financial companies in a stronger position than FinTechs?
Established companies are not better in every respect - in some cases, legacy technology systems and infrastructure can slow companies down when it comes to addressing evolving customer needs. But they do have business longevity, consumer awareness and trust on their side. Paysafe is in a strong position; across our portfolio we have established brands and global infrastructure but we also have growing innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit, which ensures we are never complacent and never stand still.
What can enterprises learn from smaller FinTech companies?
User experience has become a key differentiating factor in how or where consumers choose to pay, overtaking even price as a motivator in some cases. With conversion or cart abandonment rates having a significant impact on any merchant, a smooth checkout experience is critical and there is much to learn from how FinTechs have embraced UX and put the customer at the heart of the experience.
Why do some established companies face difficulties when it comes to digital adoption?
In my experience it is often legacy infrastructure which presents the biggest challenge for established companies which want to adopt new digital approaches. However, these legacy systems are often what provides stability. On the flipside, FinTechs are often faced with challenges in infrastructure when trying to scale rapidly.
If you weren’t working in the banking and payments industry, what would you be doing?
I trained as a Chemical Engineer and when oil prices suffered a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to do some work in the oil and gas sector. It was fascinating. Oil and gas has such a fundamental impact on all our lives but it’s not a field which you hear much about at school and girls often aren’t encouraged to embark on a career in this space. I’d probably like to do something in that area. I can’t think of another company I’d like to work for today than Paysafe though. If I did, I’d be there. With the company’s recent acquisition by CVC/Blackstone, our senior management team and the people we have in the organization, Paysafe is a really rewarding, forward-thinking business with an exciting future ahead.