As competition in the payments industry intensifies, especially in the related cryptocurrency and blockchain areas, companies are arming themselves with new talent.
Recruiters said a tsunami of new hires and C-suite appointments would emerge in the first couple of months of this year, and now the new top brass is showing up in appointment announcements.
The demand for payments professionals has risen as a digital revolution, egged on by the pandemic's e-commerce boom, boosted business across the traditional payments ecosystem. In addition, record venture capital flowing to payments-related fintechs is prompting those startups to seek more seasoned leaders, too.
Those trends have been building for a few years, but what's different now is that companies outside of the payments realm, whether in insurance, healthcare or technology, are building out their own payments divisions, Heidrick & Struggles Partner David Richardson said in an interview.
He declined to name any specific company hires, but one example is Alphabet’s Google luring Arnold Goldberg from PayPal to run its payments division, as reported by Bloomberg last month.
Other recent moves generally in the field include virtual card company Marqeta hiring Visa veteran Mike Milotich as its new chief financial officer and card company American Express poaching Ravi Radhakrishnan from Wells Fargo to become its new chief information officer.
Meanwhile, cost-sharing fintech Splitit appointed Nandan Sheth as its new CEO, drawing him from mega-processor Fiserv, where he had headed the digital commerce division. Fiserv also lost Jim Lester, who was hired by crypto payments provider BitPay last month.
Richardson, who has spent his career in financial services and co-leads that executive search firm’s crypto and data assets sector in the Americas, said he has never before witnessed so much executive recruitment activity as he has in late 2021 and early 2002.
Cryptocurrency companies and those related to blockchain technology, the digital ledger that supports many cryptos, are generating a lot of the movement as their businesses become more credible in the marketplace, Richardson said. He finds the crypto advertising during the Super Bowl a bellwether of sorts, signaling acceptance of the industry. When his firm began offering services in the sector four years ago, people were skeptical, but not now.
"What people see now, with companies going public, raising a lot of money, with large institutions embracing this technology and these assets, is that it's really kind of validated a lot of the investment thesis and made this a real career destination," Richardson said.
Recruiters in the industry have said companies in the overall payments sphere are boosting compensation, both to lure new top professionals and to retain them. Some pay packages being floated are 30% to 40% higher than current compensation, they say.
To be sure, some executives are staying put, occasionally with the incentive of a promotion. Atlanta processor Fidelity National Information Services, aka FIS, last week promoted Stephanie Ferris to president. She replaced Bruce Lowthers, who exited in January after less than a year in the No. 2 post.
Retaining executives is an important part of keeping costs down in the talent battle and recruiters have said they expect rival enticements will keep the pressure on employers this year.