June Felix has been waiting patiently for the perfect storm to hit. In fact, the President of Verifone Europe and Russia wants nothing more than to be right in the thick of it.
Blowing in from one side is the launch of the General Data Protection Regulation, aimed at simplifying international business and easing data privacy laws to protect European Union citizens, while blustering in from the other is the next round of Public Service Cards. Both these dramatic regulatory changes, requiring cutting-edge technology, have provided the opportunity for Verifone to unleash its latest innovations.
“Everybody’s business models are being totally disrupted or changed,” June explains. “Verifone is in a good position to help because we understand the disruption and have the advantage of introducing our vast resources developed not only within the European region, but at our headquarters in Silicon Valley, where a lot of our competitors come from.
We have a deep understanding of both the European and US markets.”
Providing electronic payment systems and value-added services at point of sale, Verifone facilitates more than five billion transactions a year through 30 million point-of-sale payment devices installed in more than 150 countries. At the helm of the company’s second-largest region and leading more than 2,000 employees, June has responsibility for Verifone’s full suite of card-based, mobile and online payment and commerce enablement solutions across Europe, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Her track record in successful executive management roles is impressive. She’s held senior positions in multinational companies including Citibank, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Booz Allen Hamilton and, four years ago, recognising a “massive opportunity” for Verifone to build on its in-store leadership, she left her role as managing director of Citi Enterprise Payments.
June’s passion for innovation and industry transformation
Verifone was founded by William “Bill” Melton in Hawaii in 1981 and is named after its first product, Verification telephone.
“Verifone clients were all transitioning to serve their consumers across mobile,” she explains. “I was excited because it happened at the same time as the banking industry and acquirers were going through massive transformation themselves. And I love that. I love being in a position where we can help shape the direction of the industry, particularly with the growth opportunities across Europe where so much more structural change is on the way.”
There’s no doubting June’s passion for innovation; indeed, she has a raft of awards to prove it. In 2006, she was inducted into the Innovators Hall of Fame for Banking Systems and Technology and cited in of the top 10 leading innovators by Banking Technology News. She was also named one of the Most Influential Women in Banking by American Banker.
In 2013, she was honoured with the Edison Award for Innovation and recognised by American Banker as one of the top innovators of the year for her work in digitising healthcare payments. Three years later, June was honoured as one of the Most Influential Women in Payments by PaymentsSource.
A frequently featured speaker at client and industry events, June attributes much of her success to her engineering background. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Pre-Med qualification from the University of Pittsburgh, she regards engineering as the perfect trigger to inspire thinking outside the square.
June regards engineering as the perfect trigger to inspire thinking outside the square.
“You’re not scared by complexity, you solve problems logically and systematically, and in financial services that’s a really critical skill set,” she explains. “As a chemical engineer, you always work from the end point backwards and I find it exciting to take different pieces of information, synthesise and analyse them and come up with solutions. It’s very satisfying in such an incredibly dynamic and constantly changing industry.
“What we’re seeing here in Europe, in particular, are not only changes to technology through innovation and disruption, but consumers changing as well. Businesses have higher expectations; they are savvier.”
“What we’re seeing here in Europe, in particular, are not only changes to technology through innovation and disruption, but consumers changing as well.”
Security a priority
Along with the accelerating transformation around electronic payments, security is paramount. June admits it’s an aspect most businesses find not only a little onerous but also shocking in its complexity.
“Security is not very sexy, until it goes wrong” she admits. “That’s when people understand how crucial it is. Many of the big names, even in Silicon Valley, are stunned by how difficult it is. They are like, ‘Really? We have to do that for payment?’ But security is in our DNA. It’s something that makes us, not necessarily different from established players, but certainly a highly trusted player offering a great business model that can be relied on.”
“Security is not very sexy, until it goes wrong. That’s when people understand how crucial it is.”
The launch earlier this year of Verifone Connect has enabled businesses to achieve more than just accepting payments. It is a secure and fully integrated global product, including payment services, estate management, business solutions with merchant and consumer-facing apps and the ability to easily purchase connect solutions.
While inspired by ongoing transformation and recognising the potential it offers, June is still very conscious of the complications growth can trigger.
“While the technology is all there, you need the people dimension,” she says. “That means getting the right talent, effectively globalising teams of people to be agile enough to respond to the market change.”
A philosophy for partnership
Productive partnerships are another priority, a relationship June describes as the core philosophy she has lived by throughout her career and one which “requires no explanation”. “When you’ve worked with the same people for a long time, you can talk in code,” she explains. “You don’t need to have long emails with repetitious explanations. These are partnerships that work really well, where this is regular contact and it’s all very seamless. Our distributors are part of our organisation and we have a dedicated team working closely with our partners to ensure it’s not just a vendor–supplier relationship but a joint solution plan.
“When you’ve worked with people for a long time, you can talk in code. You don’t need to have long emails with repetitious explanations.”
“We open up partnerships so all of our creativity and potential exists globally,” says June. “These are partnerships that are a win–win, where we identify a complementary capability as opposed to owning and controlling everything. Partners bring different skills to the table allowing us to identify new opportunities together. We’re not duplicating each other’s work, or doing anything that’s redundant or wasteful, it’s collaborative. And of course, that drives better margins for both of us.
“No-one can do it all. For everyone participating in this ecosystem of technology, partnerships are more important than ever before. It’s a mental mindset, but also really important.”
June sees Europe at the forefront of Verifone, especially in the Nordic region, which she describes as very digitally advanced, particularly in the race to become completely cashless.
In April this year, it was announced that Francisco Partners, a leading technology-focused private equity firm, would acquire Verifone for US$3.4 billion, offering Verifone stockholders US$23.04 for each share held. The transaction, undertaken in partnership with British Columbia Investment Management Company, included Verifone’s net debt.
“We have such a strong franchise there,” she says. “We are already doing things in Scandinavia that many other countries have not yet thought about. And while Norway and Sweden compete to become totally digital, to become the first to go totally cashless, our headquarters in Silicon Valley gives us that globally innovative hotspot. We play an important role in that unique position.
“We have so much presence, we have a philosophy for partnership and we have technology platforms in which we’ve invested enormously over the years. These open platforms allow innovation to occur very quickly. All the ideas our clients have for creating apps and services to help customers are all possible now. It’s a super exciting opportunity to unleash innovation for our clients to service their customers better than ever before.”
It really is the perfect storm.