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U.S. Bank Alum Pamela Joseph Has Big Plans for TSYS

Retirement was good for Pamela Joseph, former head of U.S. Bank's Elavon business, but not enough to overcome the lure of a high-level executive role at Total System Services, a company rapidly transitioning into a new age of digital payments.

"Everybody thinks they want to retire. I had a wonderful 10-month stretch of fun and travel, but [TSYS CEO M. Troy Woods] was pretty focused on meeting with me … and this will be a great opportunity and one that I couldn't pass up," said Joseph, who retired from U.S. Bank in 2015.

Joseph will join TSYS on May 1 as the Columbus, Ga., processor's president and chief operating officer. She will immediately join TSYS' board of directors. Her work over 10 years at U.S. Bank earned her repeated honors such as being named among American Banker Magazine's Most Powerful Women in Banking and PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments.

Joseph served as vice chair of U.S. Bank's payments division from December 2004, and also served as chair and CEO of Elavon, U.S. Bank's processing arm. She had responsibility for all electronic payment lines across a wide range of card types, experience that positions her well to tackle the challenges facing TSYS.

"I was a customer of TSYS for many years," Joseph said. "They have diversity across business lines and a wonderful international footprint that drew me. It's similar to the kind of business that I was accustomed to at U.S. Bank."

The roles of president and COO were left open after Woods took over as CEO, following the retirement of longtime TSYS CEO Philip W. Tomlinson in mid-2014. Tomlinson had been with the company since 1974, about a decade before TSYS was spun off in 1983 by Columbus Bank and Trust Co.

In her role, Joseph will help drive the company's innovation strategy as well as improve its speed to market—an important attribute given the shortening development cycles in payments technology.

"There are opportunities around innovation and speed to market, and TSYS has a great platform and there are opportunities around selective M&A and building out some of their mobile innovation to bring more solutions to existing customers," Joseph said.

Like most older payment processors, TSYS is rapidly adding new technology and services to accommodate mobile payments, digital wallets and other innovations.

TSYS can also build on its prepaid business, Joseph said. TSYS bought the prepaid card marketer NetSpend, its first consumer-facing line of business, in 2013 for $1.4 billion.

Strategic acquisitions are a key part of the processor's strategy to improve its speed to market. The company is paying $2.35 billion to acquire Transfirst to bolster its ability to offer cross-channel services.

"There are a lot of nice one off companies out there that may provide some opportunity as well as partnerships along those lines," Joseph said. Acquisitions could benefit work TSYS is doing in areas such as rewards programs and digital currencies, she said.

TSYS, which has also updated its chip card technology and launched a data analytics tool to attract financial institutions, faces plenty of competition.

First Data, for example, is upgrading its architecture to support omnichannel payments. And Global Payments is buying Heartland Payment Systems to tap international markets and add heft to small-business payments technology.

"TSYS has done a great job from a platform standpoint," Joseph said. "They have also brought in a new CIO [former Brinks exec Patty Watson] and I'm very much looking forward to collaborating and addressing some areas where we can do more."

At U.S. Bank, Joseph had a front-row seat to the many innovations driving payments automation today. U.S. Bank was an early adopter of mobile payments, digital watermarks and voice recognition technology. In her role, Joseph helped lead the bank's response to the third-party wallets such as Apple Pay.

There has never been a more dynamic moment in the payments industry than now, and every company needs to be thinking about where their organizations choose to compete and where they will not compete, said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

"Pam Joseph brings leadership, vision and a career's worth of experience to TSYS," Peterson said. "Talent is a differentiator in this environment and I can't think of anyone better than Pam Joseph to assume this role for TSYS."

Her experience has made Joseph respected name in financial services and a mentor to younger executives. Her brand of experience and skill will be in increasing demand as payments companies look to serve multiple channels and payment experiences across mobile, in-store and Web-connected devices.

"Omnichannel is hard. A secure and compliant omnichannel is harder," said Tim Sloane, vice president of payment innovation at Mercator Advisory Group. "While there is no shortage of mobile or omnichannel technologists, finding technologists with commensurate security and regulatory experience is harder. Add that to the experience of interacting with the senior management of a large financial institution and the pool gets very small indeed."

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