Since becoming the CEO of Creditcall in 2014, Lars D. Pedersen has been on point to drive the global payment company’s expansion in the United States. Pedersen recently shared with PYMNTS some of his observations related to that ongoing process – what’s working, what still needs to change – as well as personal insights into the day-to-day experience of leading Creditcall into the future.
What does a day in the life of a Chief Executive Officer look like?
A good day is one where there is time to interact with the organization, which allows me to stay abreast of the internal pulse of the company as well as interact with external stakeholders in order to gain perspective on market developments, competitive action, new opportunities, etc. Obviously it is difficult to do all of that in one day and as such activity planning has to be along the lines of each of the elements of a "good day," with a balance between interacting with the company organization and time spent on analysis, and study of external factors.
A perfect day is one where you see clear evidence of the strategy working, leading to not only engaged and motivated employees but satisfied customers.
What is the most difficult part of your job and why?
Clearly it is intrinsically hard to predict the future, but the good news is that it is not always necessary to do so, or at least you don’t have to set sail to ideas that carry you too far out into the future in order to be successful. It is important to gather thoughts and ideas from several sources, internal and external, and you need to have procedures and structures in place that allow you to make decisions on the fly; even if such decisions take you in a different direction than what was originally envisaged in the strategic plan.
At Creditcall we do this in a bi-weekly meeting where activity, proposals and ideas are considered in three different categories; customer driven, market driven and "lottery tickets." Customer driven is activity directly motivated by key customers. In some cases this may steer the company in a different direction but as long as it is not entirely in conflict with the strategic objectives then it is perfectly natural and value creating. Market driven is where the company is planning to enter a new vertical or geography and where business cases for doing so are presented. These are typically in more or less perfect alignment with the set strategy but there are exceptions. Finally we also consider so-called "lottery tickets" which are projects that typically cannot be justified in their own right but where portfolio thinking across several such lottery tickets makes it make sense inasmuch as any one lottery ticket can lead to substantial growth or a significant strengthening of the strategic position of the company.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
The world is a big place and the sources of information and perspective are endless. Therefore there is always an intrinsic shortage of time spent on absorbing and reflecting on market developments, trends, competitive moves, etc.
What is the most important strategic consideration for CEOs in payments and commerce today and why?
There are two key sides to a CEO's role in our industry. Firstly, it is about customer and market immersion — to stay sufficiently close to the customer base, current and future, to gain perspective and to capture ideas. You normally say that new technology ideas originate with the end-user in 90 percent of the cases. This means that you cannot spend too much time in the "ivory tower" to try to "dream up" the future. It is out there and it is now. Therefore, we need to engage and get out into the mix of things in order to continue to stay ahead of the pack. Secondly, any company is only as good as its ability to execute and implement a strategy. As a consequence, a CEO needs to pay equal attention to the internal aspects of company operation, in order to understand it adequately, speak the "language" and to be able to gauge, on a continuous basis, where there are opportunities to be leveraged.
Currently some of the key themes Creditcall is following closely are omnichannel, convenience of payment, data analytics, security and core partnerships.
Strategy is only as good as its execution. What do you do in order to ensure that your ideas don’t collect dust on the virtual bookshelves of executive management?
Creditcall is soon launching a companywide Innovation Initiative, focusing on learning, knowledge management, idea generation, customer immersion and strategy. This activity will be anchored in cross-functional teams at all levels of the company and the initiative will last for 3-4 months. After this, a new strategy will be launched and its implications will be employed in a new structure, new procedures and ongoing workshops to carry on the momentum and to ensure alignment and execution. Furthermore, the company is launching a new set of metrics and KPIs that will be made available to all employees, allowing everyone to see how the company activity and performance is aligned with strategic objectives.
What is the biggest strategic blunder you’ve observed over the years and what would you have done if you were in charge?
Creditcall has done a fantastic job at growing the business in a balanced way with strong attention to customer satisfaction and company reputation. As a result, Creditcall enjoys a very solid market standing, which is one of our core strengths. What the company has not done is balance that with a more aggressive expansion strategy. Had that been the case, Creditcall could have been significantly larger today. Additionally, in the past, the company has not focused sufficiently on leadership by data Creditcall operates in a sector that is very rich with data. As such, leadership through data analytics makes a lot of sense for Creditcall and together with innovation, it is one of the main themes for the company as we move forward.
What is the most strategic decision you’ve made today?
The key strategic decision today has been about our future organization. In order to continue the development of the company, which is undergoing aggressive growth, we need to make some structural changes. Some of these alterations will allow senior personnel more time on crucial and value creating business development activities, and others are aimed at increasing our addressable market by optimizing the certification function.
About Lars Pedersen, CEO, Creditcall
Lars Pedersen joined Creditcall as CEO in 2014 and is responsible for the company’s global initiatives, continued growth in the U.S. and reinforcing its mission to serve as the Heart of Payments.
He has led and grown technology companies around the world, from California to Copenhagen, and has more than 20 years of experience across the fintech, wireless, telecommunications, management consulting, and offshore sonar equipment industries.
Prior to joining Creditcall, Lars has held senior leadership roles serving as CEO of InnovFocus, a New York based management consulting and M&A firm; CEO of RESON Inc., a California based sonar equipment company; President of the Anritsu Instruments Group based in New York; and Deputy CEO at NetTest A/S. Currently he is also Chairman of the board of Xena Networks A/S, and Director of Creditcall Ltd and CardLab A/S.
Originally from Dybvad, Denmark, Dr. Pedersen holds a PhD in Photonics and a Master's of Science in Electrical Engineering both from the Technical University of Denmark. He is also a proud father of five and holds patents in optical test equipment and in sonar equipment.