Innovation is as critical to payments as oxygen. And in our most recent Commanders in Chief installment, innovation was among the chief points of discussion for Marqeta CTO Tony Ford. As the executive told PYMNTS, tokenization heralds sweeping change across several fronts.
PYMNTS: 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?
TF: For payment card issuing, it’s tokenization, bar none. The vision for tokenization and the Internet of Things makes for a secure, frictionless way to add payments to every device that we interact with.
Today it’s our phone and maybe our watch. Tomorrow it’s our cars making payments in a fast food drive thru, a ring on our finger and the wave of our hand to hop on the subway or our refrigerators intelligently ordering more groceries from Instacart.
In the future, we will be living in a world where the payment disappears because it’s ubiquitous and secure, so you don’t have to worry about it.
PYMNTS: What does innovation mean to you?
TF: Innovation needs to speak for itself. It’s about looking at the world as it is and figuring out what else can be done — what else can be better. I don’t want to spend my time taking something someone else built and tweaking it or maintaining it. I want to create something new that solves a problem for someone where there’s significant new value on the other side. At Marqeta, I am grateful that we have been able to invent some really valuable products.
Take what we did with JIT Funding, for example. Marqeta provides modern and open access to payment card issuing, and for the first time companies get the control and insight of an issuer processor without the complexity.
PYMNTS: What does a day in the life of a chief technology officer look like?
TF: As the CTO, I have the opportunity to both lead technology at Marqeta and drive the strategic direction of the company along with the executive team. As an executive, I participate in our weekly Monday morning meeting, where we review our key business metrics, discuss relevant topics for the week and strategize around how to grow the company and the business. As a technology leader, I’m focused on cultivating leaders within the team, recruiting new talent, communicating the vision for where we’re headed and working closely with the product team on the roadmap.
I also think a lot about technical design, architecture and ensuring our team of 51 is focused on the right things and engaged with challenging work.
PYMNTS: What is the most difficult part of your job and why?
TF: Recruiting top technical talent, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marqeta is a technology company; we invest in people to build our products, so we need really talented people on board. We have an incredible team, and we’ve done a great job with this, but ask any technology leader and they’ll tell you it is something they’re constantly challenged by and focused on.
PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do?
TF: I have been really focused on building our platform, building our team and scaling our capabilities. With this growth and new leaders stepping up, I’m hoping to spend more time engaging in the broader tech and FinTech communities. This means writing a few blog posts, maybe some speaking, spending time with other CTOs, visiting and gathering feedback from developers and our customers.
I want to get out of the building more often.
PYMNTS: Any recent success stories you would like to share with us?
TF: Lately, we have been doing some really exciting and groundbreaking things with digital payment cards.
Last year, we launched Apple Pay in-app provisioning. This is an important feature where a card can be instantly issued into Apple Wallet and can be used for payment right away, versus waiting for a physical card in the mail and then snapping a photo of it in Apple Wallet later. There are really exciting B2C and B2B use cases this will open up for our customers.
Further, we just released Marqeta.js, which makes it easy and secure for our customers to present virtual cards in their web or mobile applications without the extra burden of complex card security requirements.
There are a wide variety of B2C and B2B use cases for virtual cards, and Marqeta.js is our way to make it quick and easy for our customers to deliver that capability securely. We believe strongly that tokenization and especially instant issuance into … digital wallets is the future for payments issuing, but we have seen a lot of demand for traditional virtual card presentment, so we are supporting our customers with a secure solution.
And, of course, there is the recent announcement about our global partnership with Visa. The vision for this partnership is broad and exciting. We see increased innovation in B2B payments infrastructure for years to come. We are only at the beginning of this cycle, and it feels like there are no limits to what we can accomplish together.