Payment Expert’s ID Check: Payments Professionals offers insight from industry leaders and experts on how they got their start in the financial industry, from their early years in education, to how they have been able to climb the corporate ladder. 

This week, BlueSnap European CEO Brian Gaynor discussed with Payment Expert the valuable early years of working a part-time job and a studying for a degree, his important stint at JP Morgan and why the lead at a controversial airline has him striving for improvement. 

Brian Gaynor, EU CEO of BlueSnap

What impact did your university course have on your current journey?

I studied Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin. I studied for my degree in the evening, while also working as a trainee computer programmer in my first job in Irish Life Assurance. It was a great way to start a career, as Irish Life’s trainee programme was like an apprenticeship for mainframe programming while I also got the broader computer science perspective from my full degree at the same time. 

Studying part-time over four years taught me how to manage my time, and particularly to value my free time and manage work life balance. 

Were you part of any sports clubs or societies at university and has this influenced your educational and professional development?

Studying in the evenings, while working during the day didn’t leave me much time for clubs or societies! Later on though, I spent 10 years as a listening volunteer with the suicide prevention charity Samaritans. 

The training and experience with Samaritans really taught me to listen out for what others are feeling; and whatever the deadlines, targets and challenges of the day, we all need to look after each other. 

 Did you have any jobs outside of the industry before making your start in it and was this experience a motivation to get into the industry you aspired to be in?

My career has meandered through life assurance, online services, telecoms and now core payments. I’ve always had a background in technology, which has morphed into product. 

When I look back on my career, payments have always been involved: In my life assurance days I had the monthly task of uploading the direct debits to Bacstel, working for AOL it was how to authorise card payments more efficiently online, and then in telecoms how to provide buy online and pick up in store. All these times involved solving payments use cases. 

What was the first job you had in the industry and are there any lessons from this you still draw on?

My first job in core payments was with Chase Paymentech (now JP Morgan) in 2013. The big lessons here are formalised concepts of procedures and controls so that everyone knows how a process is supposed to work, and how you monitor to see it is working correctly. 

In many smaller or maturing companies, we stumble on these checks out of necessity after something breaks – JP Morgan taught me to identify and implement the indicators that something may break before it does. 

Who was your biggest role model outside of the payments industry who continues to inspire you in your current career?

Grudgingly, I am going to say Michael O’Leary of Ryanair – he runs a wonderfully efficient and successful organisation. His directness is not something I aspire to, but Ryanair’s relentless search for optimisation and improvement is something I try to do: always look to find an even better way for what we are doing. 

When was your first big break in the payments industry? Why was this such a significant moment for you?

Joining Chase Paymentech – their European CEO at the time recognised my product experience and how it could apply to payments, 

It was only when I started working in payments could I see the crossover from my industries – life assurance underwriting is the same as merchant underwriting; telecoms interconnect fees and charging is very similar to card interchange and processing fees. 

Was there a moment you faced in the industry that really challenged you? How did you overcome this?

Strong Customer Authentication in Europe was introduced as part of the PSD2 regulations. My challenge was understanding how the regulations would be implemented, and how to convey those changes to all the stakeholders – technology development, salespeople and, most importantly, merchants. 

Luckily, payments is an ecosystem that is well documented. It meant delving into the documentation from the regulatory technical standards on the EBA website, to the EMVCo 3DS standards and scheme bulletins. Within payments, there are well defined and documented standards – you just need to find them in the haystack!

Lastly, what is some advice you would give to an aspiring person looking to get a start in your respective industry?

We are all familiar with payments, because we all use payments everyday. It is an industry that has a wealth of opportunities for different roles from technology to operations and regulatory. 

Whatever your previous experience, you are likely to have skills applicable to payments.