Elavon, a prominent global payments company, is under the ownership of U.S. Bank and boasts extensive expertise across various sectors, including airlines, hospitality, retail, mass transport, and fuel. Notably, Elavon recently achieved the prestigious title of Acquirer of the Year at the Merchant Payment Ecosystem Awards in 2023.
Elavon offers businesses of all sizes cutting-edge technology and robust support to facilitate payment acceptance according to their customers’ preferences, whether it be in physical stores, at home, or on the move. With Elavon’s services, businesses gain the capability to process payments in excess of 130 currencies, with funds swiftly deposited into their accounts the following day. The company prides itself on its award-winning customer service, accessible in over 10 European languages, and it provides around-the-clock technical support.
Thriving in the Payments Industry
Hemlata Narasimhan currently holds the position of President at Elavon Merchant Services in Europe, where she manages a team of approximately 1000 employees and oversees a revenue of $400 million. Her professional journey did not initially begin in the payments industry. However, with over 15 years of experience in the field, she has found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling industry.
Hemlata’s career has afforded her opportunities to work in various parts of the world, spanning from India to Australia, and she has assumed significant responsibilities in the United States and the United Kingdom, particularly within the European context. Before joining Elavon, she had gained valuable experience at Visa and American Express in both New York and London. Preceding this, she enjoyed a successful stint in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group. Notably, Hemlata had a prior association with Elavon while spearheading the development of the merchant and acquiring business for Visa across Europe. During her tenure in 2019, she received a nomination for the Asian Woman of Achievement in Business award.
Prioritizing Skill Acquisition and Mentorship in Career Decisions
Hemlata emphasizes the significant impact of her mentors on her career decisions. These influential figures guided her to prioritize skill acquisition and view them as vital stepping stones rather than fixating solely on career advancements and titles. She underscores the importance of timing when seeking mentors. Hemlata believes that finding mentors too early in one’s career may be less effective, as it’s essential first to gain maturity in a role, identify skills gaps, and then seek guidance to address them.
An enduring lesson Hemlata learned early in her career is the value of including individuals who have contributed to the work in senior meetings. Whether it’s an intern or someone in the early stages of their career, she believes that exposing them to C-suite interactions and showcasing the impact of their work is beneficial. This practice not only benefits the junior team members but also fosters a strong connection between the C-suite and the entire team.
Regarding her journey as a successful woman leader, a pivotal moment for Hemlata was receiving a promotion shortly before taking a three-month maternity leave. This experience stands out as a significant symbol of support, demonstrating an approach that is vital in the pursuit of genuine equality in the workplace.
Receiving Advice to Be More Assertive Without Clear Understanding
In the early stages of Hemlata’s career, there existed an expectation for her to conform to a particular behavioral norm. She often received advice to be ‘more assertive’ without a clear understanding of why, despite consistently delivering high-quality work.
During those initial phases, the lack of confidence and experience made it challenging to question or resist such advice. However, as time passed and her knowledge and maturity grew, Hemlata began to assert herself, express dissent when necessary, and evolve into the type of leader she aspired to be.
In hindsight, Hemlata acknowledges the value of feedback in shaping her leadership style. However, she also emphasizes the significance of having the confidence to stay true to one’s authentic self. For Hemlata, this means being a considerate and thoughtful individual who presents perspectives influenced by a diverse range of viewpoints.
Maintaining Composure In High-Pressure SituationsTop of Form
From Hemlata’s perspective, leadership is fundamentally rooted in empathy, with an emphasis on followership rather than one’s ego. Effective leadership entails conducting oneself in a manner that facilitates the optimal performance of those in one’s sphere of influence. While pursuing personal objectives is essential, it is equally critical to grasp the perspectives and requirements of those in the surrounding environment. Recognizing one’s role as a leader in cultivating a conducive culture is paramount.
Furthermore, Hemlata underscores the significance of maintaining composure in high-pressure situations as another crucial attribute. A successful leader must strike a delicate balance between short-term considerations and long-term planning. It entails the ability to allocate attention between immediate business operations and addressing pressing challenges, all while simultaneously focusing on sustainability and strategizing for the business’s trajectory over the next three years.
Navigating and Balancing Disruptive Payments Technology
Hemlata recognizes that Payments technology is among the disruptive innovations in the industry. In just a short span, the transition from manual carbon-paper card imprints to digital and contactless payments on mobile devices has been remarkable. However, she acknowledges that this rapid evolution also brings challenges. Being in the financial technology sector means that each step forward can potentially expose businesses to increased risks, more fraudulent activities, and cyberattacks.
Hemlata emphasizes the need for a risk-based approach to managing the business, with an unwavering focus on the impact on customers. It includes considerations for customer convenience, security, and overall stability.
She also highlights the importance of agility in this dynamic field. In contrast to fixed plans, a readiness to adapt and make necessary course corrections is essential. In the world of disruptive technology, collaboration is paramount, as going it alone is rarely a viable option. Building partnerships is a fundamental aspect of success. As a leader, Hemlata places a strong emphasis on the competition for talent in this fast-paced environment. Team members have greater mobility today, making it imperative to engage and retain employees effectively. Recognizing the diverse needs and aspirations of the team members across different areas is crucial. It entails adopting innovative communication methods and ensuring that traditional formats like town hall meetings and weekly emails are both valuable and relevant, encouraging teams to invest their time in them.
Charting a Path for Continued Industry Excellence
Elavon holds a prominent position as a market leader in a dynamic industry, with a commitment to maintaining its forefront position. The payments industry is a fundamental pillar shaping global commerce and everyday life interactions. It not only sustains itself but also significantly enhances how people engage with each other. Elavon has already established its leadership in the airline sector and possesses a plethora of impressive capabilities poised for further expansion and growth.
Emphasizing Support in Career Navigation
Hemlata offers advice on self-discovery and self-confidence. She emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s identity and having the confidence to embrace it. Furthermore, Hemlata stresses the value of seeking support from mentors, sponsors, and colleagues, recognizing that navigating one’s career journey alone can be challenging. In her perspective, career success transcends mere promotions and titles; it involves the continuous development of skills and the accumulation of diverse experiences. She advocates for a proactive approach involving self-assessment to identify areas for improvement and the effective communication of one’s unique story.
Quote: “The payments industry is a cornerstone for how the world does business and how we live our lives every day – so it’s not just a sustainable sector but one that adds real value to how we interact with one another.”
Management: Hemlata Narasimhan, President, Elavon Merchant Services