Innovation Project Best In Show — Payments Style

Before Innovation Project 2015 wrapped up on the evening of March 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there was one key event left to do: honor the innovators.

After all, without the innovators in payments, there wouldn’t be the Innovation Project and there wouldn’t be the same opportunity for global payments luminaries and c-suite executives to come together under one roof and discuss, debate and bring about conversations that have the power to shape innovation for years to come.

And to honor those who have shaped the industry, PYMNTS hosted the 2015 PYMNTS Innovation Awards, which paid homage to those who are the best and brightest at what they do for the payments industry. This means honoring the spirit of the entrepreneur, the CEO who built a tech startup into a million dollar industry, or the leader who makes the products, services and companies that merchants, business owners and consumers rely on to make their lives a little bit easier to conduct business, send and receive payments, and conduct their everyday tasks.

2015 is an important year for payments, as these innovators work to break the mold of how things have always been done. Innovation is at the forefront of what the payments industry has become.

“More is going to happen in payments than has perhaps happened in the last decade,” said Verifone CEO Paul Galant, who gave the opening remarks of the awards dinner via video.

This means innovation in security framework, cybercrime, tokenization and authorization. This means avoiding “being the next headline,” of companies that got breaches and it means leveraging the best data the industry can to assist merchants and consumers in having a frictionless experience.

“Innovation means a lot of things to a lot of people, but for us it means helping our customers be successful,” said Galant, who noted the longevity of the POS terminal has shown how one innovation can stick for decades.

The Innovation Awards for many (at least for the spirited leaders at the event), is like the Oscars for payments. Sure, there wasn’t a red carpet, paparazzi, and no one asked anyone “who are you wearing?” But there was music, lights, applause, speeches and even some entertainment — like payments bingo and even some photobombing. You just had to be there….

What makes the PYMNTS Awards both special and unique is how the winners are chosen. Submissions are received by and reviewed by a panel of judges who are experts in innovation. They select five finalists for each category and that field is then presented to the PYMNTS community. Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists are awarded. This year more than 600 submissions were received and 10,000 votes tallied.

Besides the 2015 PYMNTS Innovator Awards for the “best of” in their respective categories (listed in the chart below), the following individuals were also honored by PYMNTS. This included two new members to the Payments Hall Of Fame — Phil Tomlinson, CEO of Total System Services (TSYS), and Michael Joseph, CEO of Safaricom.

The Michael P. Duffy Leadership Award was given to Henry Helgeson, CEO of Cayan, a leading provider of payment technologies. The award honors the entrepreneurial and leadership spirit of the late Chase Paymentech executive Mike Duffy who passed away in 2013, shortly before the first Innovation Project.

The Women To Watch award was given to Carey Kolaja, VP Of Global Consumer Products for PayPal, and the Women Driving Innovation in Payments Award was given to Perse Faily, CEO of Tillster, by last year’s recipient, WEX CEO Melissa Smith.

The prestigious Catalyst Award is given to innovators who live up to to the truest spirit of innovation — those who create value by eliminating the friction between trading partners and create ignition. That award was given to Apple.

“Apple with Apple Pay has created a roadmap for the industry, a roadmap that some will follow,” MPD CEO Karen Webster said during the awards ceremony. “Others will create their own…[Apple] certainly gave our industry the catalyst that was needed for it to get serious about making mobile payments a reality for merchants and consumers.”

And the 2015 PYMNTS Award for Most Innovative Company? Apple, which took home the Gold Medal in that category. The Silver Medal was awarded to Network Tokenization and the Bronze was given to LoopPay.  See the full list of winners here.