International women's day

International Women’s Day Part II: The women empowering customers to embrace the future

With payments fast evolving against the ever-shifting landscape, it is paramount we continue to draw on the expertise and experience of the greatest minds in our industry to navigate it. As women in Fintech play an integral role in shaping that path, innovation prevails as we enter a more agile, data-driven era of digital payments – with diversity and inclusion at its heart.

“Throughout COVID-19, I’ve seen the real power of coming together as a team, both to support each other, but also support our customers through this challenging time”, says Maise Wilkinson, Head of Strategy and Insights for Barclaycard Payments. With data proving the key to “unlocking further thinking and creativity on exploration”, Senior Data Product Manager Sarah Lycett says: “Our approach to the problem statement has been extremely agile following our ethos as a team to be hypothesis-driven, exploring the data and reflecting on what we can (or at times cannot) continue to learn.”

In part two of our International Women’s Day series, we speak to Sarah and Maise – both leaders within their field – about their journey so far, their predictions for the future, and how International Women’s Day may long continue to inspire a new generation of women in fintech.

Sarah Lycett: responding to consumer payment trends, including the move to subscription services

Sarah Lycett is a Senior Data Product Manager and Data Partner within the Barclaycard Payments team. Using a data-driven approach to developing recommendations for solutions, while identifying new areas of opportunity Sarah also ensures data controls are always considered and applied where required.

With the pandemic and lockdown measures keeping much of the UK at home, the rise of the ‘insperience economy’ thrives quietly behind closed doors, as boxsets and games consoles increase in popularity; so much so that digital subscription and electronics spend has witnessed growth of 31.5 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively, according to Barclaycard data. With dining out also postponed for now, online takeaway spend surged 49.1 per cent, as well as meal subscriptions (up 62.4 per cent) as hassle-free dinner options become a mainstay in many households.

“We are constantly evolving modelling capabilities to help identify emerging trends based on our customers’ behaviours to explore new product opportunities that will be engaging and valuable for our customers,” Sarah explains. “The pandemic has shown the resilience of merchants in the digital content and subscription sector where, throughout COVID, consumers have turned to streaming – whether that be for music, movies, fitness or the world of gaming.”

When asked whether these trends were here to stay, Sarah believes that the demand for such services will remain due to ease of usability. “This emerging product offering provides a massive variety for consumers; COVID was just a further trigger in the continued transition of the world becoming more digital.”

Maise Wilkinson: responding to COVID-19 impact across our clients, products and sectors

Maise Wilkinson is Head of Strategy and Insight, leading a team of analysts to provide data-driven insight across our Barclaycard Payments business. Hailing from a commercial finance background (as opposed to a traditional analytical discipline) Maise agrees that a “diversity of experiences enable differences in perspective when thinking through problems.”

From taking a new approach, to problem solving, or to finding flexible ways to communicate, Maise’s team continues to adapt to a new way of working. “This is also translated through my team’s ability to support the way we proactively and reactively communicate with our customers. We use data and analytics to design the right product packages for our customers, understand the industry-wide effect of various lockdowns, and the impact of changing the contactless limit from £30 to £45 on how payments are made.”

With the pandemic prompting the contactless limit to increase from £30 to £45, the average contactless transaction value has also increased from £9.28 to just under £14. Handling half of all contactless transactions in the UK, Barclaycard processed an astonishing seven million transactions within just one month of the adjustment last year, in a mission to combat the spread of COVID-19.

On leveraging data and analytics to help our customers, Maise adds: “We’ve supported our payments business to understand impacts through the changing landscape, and we’ve also surfaced insights to our customers and clients through webinars so as to share industry trends.

“I think data, analytics and insight will grow even more in demand and importance. We have seen data become front and centre of our business strategy.”

Power to International Women’s Day

With the dynamism and determination of Sarah and Maise - just two of many women driving financial innovation forward - International Women’s Day also represents hope as we begin to leave uncertainty behind. When asked what such a day represents for them personally, Sarah replied: “It’s a celebration of women and a recognition of the role that we play in society – as well as an opportunity to highlight a world (still) with a way to go when it comes to balance and equality. I see it as a day to celebrate the progress and achievements of women, as well as drive continued action.”

Reflecting on her role within the team, Maise adds: “Our team is made up of a diverse group of individuals who make it a fun and inclusive environment to work in that also creates learning experiences every day. International Women’s Day is a chance to highlight and celebrate the work that women are doing across a range of industries, and consider how we ensure everyone has equal opportunities irrespective of backgrounds.”

For women in the early stages of their financial careers or wishing to embark on a new chapter, it’s never too late to change the future. Sarah shared this pearl of wisdom: “Don’t give up, believe in yourself; nothing is impossible and with the right drive and determination, you can achieve anything. The trick is to not be afraid.”

“A career is not linear”, Maise adds. “Sometimes you may feel that you’re off course, but treat every role as a learning experience that builds on your skills and capabilities that you will draw on in years to come.”