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Payments, Digital and Transaction Services

The evolving global payments & transaction services business

Global Payments, Digital and Transaction Services (GPD&TS) is a dynamic and increasingly sophisticated and innovative business segment. It encompasses a range of industry sectors and business lines that facilitate and support the secure and timely transmission of complex data, communication, and information-driven transactions.
This unique practice group was initially designed and built by EMA Partners to support clients within traditional payments and data transaction service businesses including, but not limited to, retail and commercial lending, credit and debit card issuance, payment networks and schemes, merchant acquiring, payment processing, card & POS solution providers and loyalty & rewards.

The increasing focus on digital and mobile payments has stimulated the expansion of our unique GPD&TS practice group. Like the Payments sector, the telecommunications industry has undergone a transformation, with the increasing adoption of mobile devices and smartphones and the proliferation of applications that allow consumers to do far more with their phones than simply make a call. In response to the moves made by the MNOs (mobile network operators) to compete in the payments business, the traditional payments ecosystem and its participants are forced to respond and react, and the ecosystem continues to become further disrupted by the increasing interest of retailers and technology companies (including a slew of start-ups) that are all jostling for a place in the payments market.

The race to launch the optimal mobile payment product is underway, and the "winning" solution must not only entice and attract early adopters but, must also be a sustainable, secure and profitable solution that gains broad acceptance with consumers and merchants. However, a safe and reliable payment transaction cannot exist without the ecosystem to support it, and this ecosystem requires regulatory oversight and a technology infrastructure that can protect both the consumer, the merchant and the payment provider.

The ability to monetise the payment vehicle or service is also posing a challenge for the newer payment start-up business models that initially "hook" a consumer with features that are free, but that often requires a return to a more traditional payment system or infrastructure that enables the payment to be securely and efficiently processed and reconciled.

As a result of the increasingly sophisticated advancements in technology and the converging dynamics of both traditional and new payments business models, the payments and transaction services industry is an exciting and evolving field, and the need for talent is at an all-time high. Over the past five years, we have witnessed a significant cross-pollination of talent across core traditional payments companies, the retailers, MNOs and the technology sectors, particularly in the areas of Product, Digital, Innovation, Technology and Sales.

The retail payments ecosystem has undeniably expanded and as new and innovative companies begin to enter and disrupt the payments market, the landscape shifts, and our practice group evolves. Across the globe, we are committed to supporting the ongoing demands of our clients, in both the traditional and start-up field, and remain in alignment with changing customer behaviour while keeping pace with today's digital and mobile environment.

In line with the evolution taking place and the growing importance of digital and mobile channels, the GPD&TS practice is focused on identifying talented leaders who have a thorough understanding of emerging and disruptive payment technologies. Increasingly our clients are seeking expertise in the areas of Digital & Mobile Payments, M-Commerce, Geo-Location, NFC, Beacon Technology, M2M or the Internet of Things (IoT), Digital Identity & Security, Tokenisation, HCE and Biometrics. We are also seeing greater attention towards the role of Digital and Crypto Currencies.

As the leading players of the legacy or traditional payment industry look to adapt to a shifting landscape, they must examine the potential risk or threat of dis-intermediation or diminishing consumer or client engagement. Rather than being fearful of change, traditional payments organisations must embrace the new world and understand their place within it. Newer entrants must also jostle for position, recognising that a secure payment transaction will struggle to exist without the collaboration of established parties.

Regardless of how innovative or technologically savvy a new payment solution may be, it will always be subject to regulation, compliance and controls, which requires knowledge of existing payment infrastructures & networks, technologies and governance. Rather than competing with one another, the old world and the new world of payments need to understand how to co-exist, collaborate and partner with one another, and not lose sight of the goal to provide customers with a convenient and reliable way to purchase goods and services.

The Payments sector is ultimately about connectivity and EMA's search practitioners have a proven track record of success partnering with clients from both the traditional and emerging players. With extensive exposure to the diversity and vitality of today's global payments and transaction services business, EMA is the only search firm to have developed a global practice to support this dynamic area.

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EMA Partners GPD&TS Practice

As one of EMA's most comprehensive areas of specialisation, our GPD&TS practice group has been strategically designed to support our clients across all functional areas, including, but not limited to Sales & Marketing, Technology & Operations, Product, Digital, Innovation & Development, and Analytics & Finance.
Our strategy is simple; we believe that becoming an authority in a specific area allows us to conduct searches more efficiently and permits us to react quickly to industry trends and changing market climates. EMA's Partners and Associates have deep expertise in the GPD&TS area, and many have worked in the sector. Their knowledge, coupled with years of search experience ensures that our search practitioners can provide unparalleled value, wisdom and support to our clients.

As a result of our firm's extensive payments knowledge, we are constantly active in the market, conducting search work across all critical functional areas. Our clients can be assured that each of our firm's practitioners has strong relationships with a remarkably comprehensive and high calibre pool of qualified and dedicated Payments and Transactional Services executives.

Our clients often seek to expand, develop, and in some cases, reinvent new payment or digital product lines, channels and technologies. As such, our firm is acutely aware of our client's enhanced interest in the areas of innovation, technology, product and process re-engineering. The market for specialised talent in this field is extremely competitive, as the pool is lean and requires a strong network of trusted contacts and an intimate understanding of the market, both locally and abroad. The need to source for external payments and transactions services talent is a global requirement, and competition to secure premium talented executives who have a proven track record of success and an ability to manage through change continues to intensify.

Our GPD&TS practice is an area of hyper-speciality and one in which our firm is passionately committed to. We believe that it is one of the most exciting and growing global market segments, and our practice has been specifically developed to support this niche industry around the world. Our practice comprises of six core global offices and each office is responsible for managing a specific region. In addition, we have consultants in other regions that support the GPD&TS practice

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Our Lines of Business

Global Debit Card or "bank card" usage and transactional volume have increased substantially over the past three years. This growth is due largely in response to the tightening global credit economy and as a result of deepening acceptance in the online payments and micro-payments environment.

In order to support our clients in this space, EMA Partners has developed strong relationships with both debit network providers and banking institutions to support this specific line of business.

Our search practitioners can leverage their insightful and sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the unique differences that exist across each country's debit network environment, switching infrastructure and technology platforms. They are well positioned to support our clients with their growth and expansion initiatives.

In short, we can provide access to the global talent pool, which is necessary to ensure that our client's debit card issuance business remains secure, compliant and profitable from risk and fraud, product and marketing, operations and relationship management perspective.

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In order to fully support and provide intensively targeted value to our clients, EMA Partners has developed a deep wealth of knowledge and experience to support our clients in the following areas of specialisation

Loyalty & Rewards programs are predominantly run by retailers, travel & hospitality organisations and services industries, such as restaurants, entertainment providers and sports & fitness facilities. These programs offer consumers an incentive to shop at specific stores, venues or service providers.

Similarly banks and retailers issue credit cards with an associated loyalty and rewards program which are specifically designed to promote and stimulate spends on a particular card.

In addition to the loyalty programs themselves, there exists an evolving and growing business line that is dedicated to the collection and analysis of market data and consumer spend intelligence. The information and data that is captured during each payment transaction, not only provides the retailer and issuing bank with information pertaining to their existing loyalty program's performance but can help assist the retailer in gaining a far deeper understanding of their customers' specific spending behaviour, preferences and habits.

The transactional details that are retrieved are also of vital relevance and importance to the issuing banks, as they provide valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of new and existing loyalty programs and enables the issuer and/or the merchant to devise highly targeted marketing campaigns aimed towards a consumer's unique and individual interests and shopping patterns.

As Loyalty programs increase in traction and popularity across the globe, consumers are consistently demanding more customisable and tailor-made rewards models and programs, which can provide them with enhanced control and benefits over the type of rewards that they may redeem. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to have a deeper understanding of their consumer data so that they provide reward schemes that will entice, compel and ultimately retain their customers' loyalty.

The most mature and sophisticated loyalty markets are found in the UK, Australia and North America. As a result of their increasing popularity and the increasingly complex and integrated technology and infrastructural environment required to support these programs. The industry is witnessing a growing need for loyalty programs to outsource many of the strategic and operational components of their programs.

However, recognising the importance and sensitivity of this type of data and the importance of retaining and housing this competitive intelligence internally, our clients are frequently seeking talent with a strong marketing analytics background and a proven track record of success in the creation and implementation of data-driven loyalty and rewards programs.

Other functional areas that would be of keen interest would be technology (particularly platform and system integration), project management, marketing, product development and product management.

Find a Consultant

Managing Director

Johannesburg

Dick Sbarbaro - VP Business Development & Professional Standards

Senior Partner, Global Practice Leader, Education

Chicago

K Sudarshan - Managing Director, Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru

Managing Director

Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru