Innovation — Don’t Just ‘Check The Box’

Peoples Card Services Peter Read

Innovation shouldn’t be just another item on the to-do list. Peter Read, president of Peoples Card Services, says that the true path to innovation is about solving real problems and making sure that that problem-solving focus never fades.

In a payments landscape that is ever-changing and rapidly growing, having a focus on innovation that takes that same approach is significant. As Peter Read, President of Peoples Card Services, recently pointed out to PYMNTS, needs are never static, and neither should the payments innovation aimed at addressing them.

Even in a highly regulated industry such as payments, there is room for innovation to flourish in order to solve real problems, but Read says the key is staying persistent and focused on making that innovation count.

PYMNTS: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?

PR: Customer-centric, but stakeholder-driven. Peoples Trust Company is a customer-centric organization that listens to, and works hard to exceed the expectations of, our partners.

Most new product and service innovations are driven by front-line customer interactions and feedback and by staying in close touch with market developments. We also believe that project leaders with a true passion for the problem and “skin in the game” should lead innovation teams to ensure we stay focused on the original problem. Innovation isn’t something you do and check the box; it’s evolutionary and progresses through perpetual problem solving. Our services and customer needs are never static, nor should our innovation be. We must continually innovate to grow.

As a boutique financial institution, I think the Peoples’ team has a better opportunity to be innovative because we are more nimble than larger organizations and benefit from depth of team knowledge and lack of bureaucracy.

PYMNTS: What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market, and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target? 

PR: Peoples has been recognized repeatedly for our innovative advancement of prepaid payments applications across the business and consumer markets in Canada. This is due, in large part, to our pioneering partnerships with FinTech companies and card program managers. We’ve used prepaid payments technology as a means to improve financial inclusion for consumers, removed friction and cost from business-to-business payments and implemented more secure ways to distribute funds where and when people need them.

Delivering on these promises, Peoples Trust was the first to market prepaid cards that were NFC- and EMV-enabled in Canada, the first to offer a real-time instant issuance of a prepaid MasterCard and the first contactless PayPass prepaid program in Canada, as well as the first chip-and-PIN prepaid travel card in foreign currencies. We were also the first to introduce a virtual Visa consumer prepaid card that was used exclusively for more secure online purchasing. Most recently, via our partnership with Koho, a Vancouver-based FinTech, we will be among the first to offer millennials a new way to manage their money through a general purpose reloadable (GPR) Visa card and mobile app (launching mid-2016).

PYMNTS: Where do you look for innovative ideas, and why?

PR: First, we look in our own backyard. Canada is one of the fastest-growing prepaid and FinTech markets in the world, thanks, in part, to a rise in the millennial workforce and FinTech hubs, like Vancouver and Toronto, which are at the forefront of payments innovation. With new use cases and emerging entrants, prepaid card transaction volume is growing at a rapid rate.

We look closely at the industry verticals we serve, at current clients and partners and, of course, to their end users. Original ideas are few and far between, but innovative improvements or adaptations of existing ideas are plentiful.

We also look outside of payments. People are innovating in every sector, and you miss opportunities to apply new lessons if you don’t look outside your own industry. The application of prepaid appears to be a neverending mine of opportunity. One simply has to look where others have not or where others have looked but in a different manner.

PYMNTS: What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?

PR: By far, it is the regulatory requirements that companies must navigate to enter a new market. The Canadian prepaid laws and regulations, for example, are different than American regulations. It’s important, when entering the Canadian market, for companies to work with an expert that can navigate an entirely new regulatory system and have a full understanding of how to implement a program in the context of the federal and provincial nuances that go with it.

When done right, Canada is the most addressable prepaid market for U.S. companies looking to expand outside the U.S. I look at Peoples as a facilitator of ideas and a resource that helps to craft a product to fit not only the market niche but Canada’s regulatory framework.

PYMNTS: What person or company do you think “gets” innovation, and why? And conversely, who or what has missed it, and why?

PR: “Gets” it? … Most recently, Koho, because of the way they are using prepaid to meet the needs and preferences of millennials with a GPR card with mobile account services and budgeting tools.

“Missing it?” … Playing my optimist and diplomacy cards at the same time, “missing it” is only another step on the way to success. Payments is evolving too quickly to count anyone out, and the smartest competitors should continue to assume that everyone has another play in the works. A “miss” I name today may very well show us all how much they “get it” tomorrow.

PYMNTS: What advice would you give a young innovator in this space?

PR: Forget about innovation for the sake of innovation. Instead, focus on how you can innovate to solve real problems for real customers. Most of all, do not give up. The real stars fall down and get right back up again; they are not easily discouraged. Learn from the missteps, and consider all steps as learnings to reach the first success. Further success will follow. Simple advice, repeated by many: “Never give up.”