Maintaining legacy payment systems is costly for banks, especially with continual changes in the regulatory framework. What if this could be outsourced to a company that handles all that for you, providing access to an always-on, always up-to-date payments system through cloud- and API-based services? Jessica Letterman, Chief Customer Officer at Form3, has the answers.
You had an interesting and varied career path prior to joining Form3. Could you give us an overview of your career to date? What have been some of the major milestones for you?
I started my career in technology when joining the Australian Federal Government, championing a team to manage sophisticated computer technology to fight payment fraud in a politically driven environment for a major project called ‘Australians Working Together’. In 2008 I moved back to the Netherlands to join a flourishing ACI Worldwide, where I advanced my career by leading international teams across the globe under various channels. During my 13 years at ACI, I covered a range of solutions from omni-channel e-commerce retail propositions to core banking engines and real-time cross-border payments. Some of the major milestones include collaborating and enabling payments ecosystems to expand cross-border, empowering end consumers to complete transactions in a fast and efficient way.
Could you tell us something about your new role as Chief Customer Officer at Form3? What are your responsibilities?
My role is an exciting one as we reshape the landscape of payments, connecting systems globally, enabling our customers to reach markets they could not engage with before. My responsibility is to ensure the continual global development and growth strategy across the key markets, as well as driving sales and marketing activities in these geographies as Form3 expands its footprint.
How do you see your role at the company developing in the future? Do you have any specific objectives in your sights?
I see my role as fundamental to the ambitions of Form3, not only as a female leader in fintech, but engaging in the market in a meaningful way. My objectives are for everyone in the world to be financially included, no matter where they live, and payments ecosystems are the backbone to this. Nothing has accelerated digital payments as much as COVID, which has increased the urgency for businesses to think faster and adapt to a cashless society. My objective is to ensure that banks and financial institutions can service their customers in the way that connects them and, ultimately, the end customer to be a part of this.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges that lie ahead for Form3 and for you personally?
The biggest challenge with such dynamic growth is keeping up with the demand on resources and capacity to develop as we continually expand in the markets. When scaling with such velocity, we must be agile in every aspect in how we run the business. Through flexible working methods, we can scale like no one else; it’s a very powerful place to be! For me personally, it is about people and enabling their success for personal growth to be the best version of themselves for the ultimate job satisfaction. It’s important to love what you do and thrive.
What are you most excited about for the future?
The ever-changing landscape of technology, payments, open banking and new value-added services that are being connected at such a tempo are transforming how we do business. In essence, the payment becomes invisible and it’s more about an experience. Take Uber, for example. You order it, get in, rate your driver, decide if you want to tip and then get out at your destination. You know what you would pay upfront, and this is going to be more typical of the buyer experiences in the future. Global platforms like this need to support all types of payments at the speed of light; we are the technology that makes the money move at this pace.
Like many other sectors, financial services have traditionally been a male-dominated arena. How would you characterise the current situation in the industry in terms of progress towards achieving an equitable gender balance? Are you optimistic?
I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion and super-excited to join my female C-level senior executives Bonnie Mitchell (Chief Financial Officer) and Eimear O’Connor (Chief Operating Officer) on the Executive Leadership team. At Form3, we have some serious targets when it comes to inclusion and diversity and addressing the gender balance. We are progressing well in redressing the balance at all levels of the company but are not there yet. I think, overall, the industry is in a much better place than a decade ago. Progress is being made and there are some great initiatives out there to encourage more girls to consider studying software engineering and technology subjects at school level.
So, YES, I am optimistic and the attitude at Form3 on this topic is one that every fintech should be embracing.
What do you see as the main challenges faced by women today embarking on careers in financial services? What advice would you give them?
During my time in GSMA’s fraud and securities group, I led the diversity and inclusion group as we identified a gap in terms of not only women but younger talent, which prompted a series of debates over succession planning to ensure longevity of the skills, knowledge and continuity of services. For women, I think the challenge in a male-dominated industry is the unconscious bias, and addressing this. We noticed that women candidates who were suitably qualified did not apply for the roles, leaving again a male-dominated pool of candidates. This has a lot to do with women’s desire to be perfectionists and, to some extent having some insecurities and fear.
I recently read a compelling statistic in a Harvard Business Review blog recently that women will only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the criteria, while men pursue it if they only have 60%.
Ultimately, it’s about confidence and taking down those invisible barriers we put up for ourselves – having the courage to step out of your comfort zone with a determination to succeed.
What qualities do you see as being the most important in a leader?
When I was younger, a framed picture of the most magnificent wandering albatross in full flight was hanging in my manager’s office. Under it was a quote which stated, “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that effects your altitude.” This still rings true today. Great leaders have the right attitude, determination and lead by example, with courage and command of the message. It also helps if they are great storytellers and can take you on a journey while inspiring you to join them.
Would you say it’s important for there to be female role models in the industry? Do you see a role for yourself in this regard?
I think women can certainly inspire each other and it’s wonderful to see so many communities of support and encouragement. Never have there been so many organisations like EWNP, WIN and Women in Tech, etc. This helps take away the barriers and enables women to empower themselves using these networks. I certainly see myself as an enabler and inspirational leader for those wishing to spread their wings to reach the highest altitudes.
Could you tell us something about Form3 as a brand? What does it represent?
Form3 represents an innovative approach to payment technology, one that is cloud-based and API-led, which is fit for the future of digital banking. Historically, banking leaders believed that infrastructure technologies were an asset for their financial institution because they were managed locally and could be customised. Form3 is flipping this model on its head and offering an outsourced approach that is fully managed to lower costs across operations, infrastructure, security, upgrades and change management.
This means that Form3 represents a proven alternative which is simpler, more efficient and economical to run than keeping ‘the status quo’. We have demonstrated to FIs that we can handle large payment volumes and scale dynamically without a heavy infrastructure burden.
Could you give us an overview of the services and solutions offered by Form3? Who are the customers and how might they benefit?
Form3 help corporate and retail banks orchestrate their payments business in a secure, scalable and cost-effective way through an API-first, cloud-native platform, and deliver it as an always-on, fully managed service.
This means that banks can outsource their entire core payments infrastructure to us for a fixed fee, and all the necessary scheme and regulatory changes are built in, along with a host of tracking, monitoring and reporting services as standard.
We insulate customers from the changing payments landscape and alleviate the burden of inflexible and unscalable technologies that restrict growth and opportunity.
Scaling to handle growing payment volumes but without rising costs is important to banks, and at Form3 our platform scales automatically as capacity demands. The beauty of our managed service is that you can access the full spectrum of payment schemes and future-proof against scheme and regulatory changes, as this is baked into the platform.
What would you say distinguishes Form3 from other companies in the same industry?
As a completely cloud-native platform, we are not restricted by the limitations of older legacy technology. The platform was designed, from inception, to be highly scalable, adaptable and resilient. We didn’t start small with the goal of potentially growing larger; from day one, we designed a platform that is capable of handling large volumes of payments.
We organise ourselves using an embedded DevOps model. Our multifunctional, self-contained teams own the entire service from end to end. Testing is automated, dynamic and continuous. We can deliver multiple releases per day, whereas other competitors might release one major upgrade every few months.
Form3 offer a simpler alternative – a fixed price, single shared-platform model. There is no customisation; everyone gets the same access to our services, which they choose to use or not. Other companies offer multiple integrations and greater customisation, which is not only costly but also locks the customer in.
Our technology enables customers to innovate and build value-added propositions on top.
At Form3, we continuously innovate and learn from our community and our customers, and build outcomes that deliver true, lasting value to financial institutions and their end clients.
Finally, do you have any message of motivation for future and aspiring leaders?
Be yourself, keep learning and developing and have the courage to take the leap of faith towards your own transformation. The power is within you; you can do anything you set your mind to, and sometimes this means being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just remember to have a picture of success and a plan to get there, and do not give up.
Jessica Letterman accelerated her career in technology when joining the Australian Federal Government championing a team to manage sophisticated computer technology to fight payment fraud in a politically driven environment.
In 2008 she made the move back to her homeland, The Netherlands, to join a flourishing ACI Worldwide where she advanced her career by leading international teams across the globe under various channels. During her time at ACI she covered a range of solutions from omni-channel e-commerce retail propositions to core banking engines and real-time cross-border payments.
Known to be a ‘positive troublemaker’ she was nominated for #EWNP award for Women in Payments in 2018. Further to this she championed inclusivity and diversity supporting GSMA’s FASG group.
Based in Amsterdam Jessica and her team are responsible for high growth Sales and Marketing activities for International markets. Jessica has a Marketing background is a Certified Surf Life Saver, Advanced Open Water Diver and avid horse rider.