Discovering the smooth operations behind seamless payments

Discovering the smooth operations behind seamless payments

Karoline Kane, Cards & Payments COO, Barclays


With international responsibility for card technology, contact centres, merchant services and fraud management, Karoline explains how friction is being removed from all aspects of payments

I am lucky that I’ve found my perfect job. As Steve Jobs said, ‘the only way to do great work is to love what you do’ and as Cards & Payments COO at Barclays, I am able to combine my passions for digital technology and operations to help improve customer experiences and drive businesses forward. It’s also a matter of being in the right place at the right time and at the moment there couldn’t be a better time to be working within the cards and payments space as areas such as invisible payments become a reality.

The payments industry is in the middle of disruption

We are seeing an unprecedented rate of change fuelled by new entrants, regulation and innovative technology, which in turn are driving changes in consumer behaviour. There are new players entering the market from fintechs to big tech organisations, both of which we collaborate and compete with making it a very dynamic ecosystem. New regulation is coming through with the objective to open up the banking sector and this will provide a real opportunity to create even better propositions for consumers.

Then there are the new technologies that are changing how payments themselves are taking place – contactless, mobile and increasingly seamless payments. Consumers demand convenience and are quick to adopt them. According to UK Finance, contactless now accounts for more than 40 per cent of all card transactions in the UK and as the world goes digital, cards are giving way to mobile payments whether it uses QR technology favoured in the East or digital wallets in the West. Invisible payments are also gaining traction, where you go in to a shop, grab what you want and walk out – the checkout process happens automatically all through an app.

Digital operations

The direction of travel for payments is all about customer centricity who are looking to make transactions simple and convenient. The same applies to the operations behind the magic and ensuring that the frictionless theme continues no matter where the customer touch points are. And that’s where my world comes in. With global responsibility for card technology, contact centres and fraud, my role is complex but exciting as I get to look after both technology and operations.

There are fantastic new technologies available such as machine learning, biometrics and cloud native applications and we are constantly reviewing how we can use the latest tech to improve our infrastructure whether that be in our contact centres, fraud operations or elsewhere across our business.

State-of-the-art contact centres

For example, in our US, UK and German client contact centres we use state-of-the art technology so our agents have the right desktops and toolsets to help answer customer calls efficiently and effectively. It’s important that they are empowered to help our customers every day and that the technology enables them to do so.

As an international organisation, the ability to collaborate is essential so we make sure we have the right working spaces and technologies, like video conferencing capabilities, to make it easy for colleagues to talk to multiple locations around the world. The ability to collaborate is pervasive and you see a real buzz that ultimately leads to innovation.

Levering technology for fraud management

The tech operations behind our fraud prevention management is another key area of focus. Although customers want convenience when it comes to paying they also want the peace of mind that their transaction is secure. It comes down to needing to authenticate customers in a seamless way and this is where we can leverage technology like biometrics either through fingerprints on your mobile phone or through voice. It’s a real opportunity as well as a challenge to make sure that technology is used to enhance the customer experience while meeting the necessary controls.

The human touch

Although the world is moving into a much more technical and digital place, it’s still very much driven by the human touch and I am passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I am a firm believer that we need to bring our whole selves to work to perform at our best.

We need people to feel comfortable in the work environment and we need to hear disparate voices around the table. It’s about listening to those different perspectives and adjusting a business where appropriate. This is what drives innovation, makes a stronger and more resilient organisation and gets you to where you want to go faster. It’s just the right thing to do as a company and as individuals.

Being part of the journey

With over 20 years of operations and technology experience within financial services, I have seen significant changes in technology to enhance the customer experience and I believe there are even more opportunities available as digital innovation accelerates. I think transformation in the payments space will be incredibly seamless for customers and merchants and to me that’s really exciting. Because if a customer has money in their bank account, they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get it to where it needs to go. We’ve come a long way, but we still have further to go and professionally I want to be part of taking customers on that journey.