Meet Alok Bhanot, EVP and Chief Technology Officer at Verifone. Having more than 20 years of experience driving new ideas for global technology organizations, he knows what he’s talking about when he talks innovation. And that’s just what he did with PYMNTS, as part of the ongoing Commanders in Chief Series. Taking us through his day to-day role overseeing (among other things) the end-to delivery of the company’s hardware, software and supply chain functions, Bhanot opened up about what innovation means to him – both personally and professionally.
[pullquote]The majority of my time is spent directing Verifone’s enormous amount of energy and global talent towards conceptualizing, designing and delivering innovative products to market quickly.[/pullquote]
Q: What does a day in the life of a Chief Technology Officer look like?
A: As Chief Technology Officer, I’m responsible for Global Technology and Operations, the largest organization within Verifone consisting of more than 40 percent of the company’s global workforce. In this role, I oversee — among other things — everything from terminal hardware management to service delivery, from software development to supply chain management, as well as managing the final phase of application development and solutions delivery. My teams around the world are responsible for the technology platform that services retailers and financial institutions across 150 countries around the world. The majority of my time is spent directing Verifone’s enormous amount of energy and global talent toward conceptualizing, designing and delivering innovative products to market quickly, while also ensuring their quality, reliability and security, as well as operating a global supply chain across six continents that fulfills our customers’ needs efficiently and predictably. As a result, each day is considerably different from the next.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job and why?
A: I would rather use the term “challenging” than “difficult.” The payments industry is undergoing an exciting and significant change as technology, consumer behavior and business models continue to rapidly evolve, creating new opportunities to enable commerce across the ecosystem. We want to help our merchants to not just securely accept payments, but to attract customers and grow sales. What is challenging is absorbing all of the ideas, information and industry trends from clients and partners around the world, and taking a step back to envision what will best meet their needs in a scalable and extensible solution. Fortunately, I don’t have to do this alone.
In just one year, Verifone has undergone a remarkable company-wide transformation where we’ve re-engineered our R&D department to focus more resources on our clients’ most pressing needs and our highest priority growth areas. A major part of this transformation was consolidating our R&D footprint into global centers of excellence, to achieve critical mass and scale and leverage our global talent pool more effectively.
I am supported by a brilliant and balanced team of experts in device engineering, security, user experience, process engineering, payments and commerce, who bring their ingenuity and innovation to help define the future of payments and commerce.
This is a challenging and rewarding responsibility, especially during a time where more is going to happen in the next year of payments than has perhaps happened in the last decade.
Q: What do you wish you had more time to do?
A: I wish I had more time to meet with our clients and partners in all of our established and emerging markets around the world. Unfortunately, time and distance get in the way of doing so on a regular basis. Nonetheless, our company-wide transformation is enabling us to listen to our clients and partners and deliver on what they want and need. For instance, we are driving a global product management discipline to focus on our product roadmaps, improve our delivery times, enhance our software, and accelerate the pace of our innovation.
[pullquote]Innovation to me and to Verifone as a whole means listening to our clients and developing products that are not just creative, but are also valuable and timely.[/pullquote]
Q: What does innovation mean to you?
A: Innovation to me and to Verifone as a whole means listening to our clients and developing products that are not just creative, but are also valuable and timely. At Verifone we prefer the term “ingenuity” – innovation that is not just a shiny object, but rather meets the clients’ needs and helps them grow their business.
When you distill the thousands of client conversations we have each year, you get to three common themes that are keeping our clients up at night:
The first is security; merchants and financial institutions are concerned about their ability to protect against escalating fraud and cybercrime and keeping pace with evolving security standards. Put simply, they don’t want to be the next headline.
The second is innovation; with all of the new payment types, form factors, and channels, our clients want to know which technologies and solutions are the most flexible and extensible investments, provide the most delightful and frictionless consumer experiences, and give them the best value for their money.
The third is growth; our clients want to know how to best leverage their data and consumer connectivity to finally close the loop on marketing spend to more effectively attract new customers and drive sales.
To continue addressing these needs, we’re rolling out our next generation platform and architecture, which will enable our clients and partners to more effectively and securely accept all forms of payment while also getting closer to their customers, and finding new opportunities to drive sales growth. This architecture will also be open to developers, giving them the ability to join in furthering innovation at the point of sale and beyond.
Q: Speaking specifically of the payments and commerce space, what in your opinion is the most impactful innovation in that realm in the last five years?
A: There hasn’t been a dull moment in payments and commerce in the last decade. The combination of smart devices, the cloud and mobile commerce has had the most impact on payments over the last five years. Without it, we wouldn’t be seeing the convergence of digital payments and commerce in the online and offline worlds that is taking place today.
Q: Any recent success stories you would like to share with us?
A: I’d have to say that the company-wide transformation Verifone has seen in just one short year is a remarkable success. This is demonstrated by how we’ve come out with a number of new products that show we’re more focused on our clients and partners today, than perhaps ever before. For instance, our clients told us they wanted mobile terminals that are more flexible, future-proof, and operate at a lower cost of ownership. And, just a few months ago, we demonstrated several new products, including a new mobile terminal solution that is capable of integrating with ANY consumer tablet or smartphone. Our engineers successfully broke the mold by developing this sleek, integrated terminal that is no longer married to the form factor or operating system of a particular device such as an iPhone or an Android tablet.
This will be further validated when we unveil our next-generation of terminals that go beyond securely accepting payments and serve as network endpoints that help merchants attract consumers and sell more; an endpoint that connects to all commerce activity with the merchant—whether it’s done on their website, through the phone channel, or in the store; an endpoint that accepts any payment form factor, any currency, any transfer of value; an endpoint that is as good at transmitting marketing and loyalty to a consumers’ smartphone, as it is accepting a payment.
EVP & Chief Technology Officer, Verifone
Alok Bhanot was appointed EVP and Chief Technology Officer of Verifone in December 2013. He is responsible for leading Verifone’s global operations and technology, including end-to-end delivery of the company’s hardware, software and supply chain functions. Alok has more than 20 years of experience in driving innovation and disciplined execution in global operations and technology organizations. Previously, he served as the founder and CEO of Inkiru, a next generation predictive analytics platform for merchants and financial institutions. Prior to Inkiru, Alok held senior technology and finance positions at PayPal, eBay, and Visa, in addition to providing executive leadership across various Silicon Valley technology startups.
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