By @SimonCocking. Great interview with the dynamic Louise Phelan whose own career path is a great inspiration to others looking to make their mark in fintech and financial payments.

Your background briefly?

I’m one of seventeen children born and raised in County Laois. Growing up in a large family makes you appreciative of diversity of thought. My father was self-employed and all of us worked on the farm at some stage during our childhood. When I went to college I studied nursing but I decided at 22 that it wasn’t for me and went in a totally different direction. I’ve never looked back. My first big job was working for Mars Ireland and I went on to work in GE Money. I was headhunted from there by PayPal and found myself at the cutting edge of a hugely exciting, fast-paced industry. I love working in PayPal – I get to work with talented people in a culture of collaboration, respect and innovation.

You mentioned training as a nurse before changing career path. It’s a great achievement. With hindsight does it all now seem like a logical progression?

To be honest it really was a logical progression. For as long as I can remember I wanted to work with people and I realised that following a career in the financial and technology world would allow me to do that. It certainly wasn’t the career path I planned, but for someone who is motivated by people, moving into the business environment was a logical progression. That’s often the way in life and it’s often the nature of building a career. Your perspectives change and your direction changes, but if you remain true to yourself, be flexible, work hard and act on your ambition, you’ll be able to realise your potential in whatever industry you choose to work in.

You mentioned having a great boss / mentor who saw your potential. How would you suggest other bosses similarly ‘pay it forward’, to help others achieve success like yours?

In one of my previous roles, I had a fantastic boss but he wasn’t going anywhere. There was no progression path within the company so he helped me look for opportunity elsewhere. Today, I’m in a position where I’m able to provide support and mentoring to other people starting out. That means leading them effectively and coaching them to realise their full potential. Outside of PayPal I’m a mentor to eight female entrepreneurs through the ‘Going for Growth’ programme – that’s my way of giving back. I would recommend other leaders make an effort to proactively coach and mentor those around them too.

In the banking / innovation / fintech world, what are you excited about?

The move to mobile is particularly exciting. There’s a mobile revolution taking place right now. The internet has transformed how people shop. More and more Irish consumers are choosing to shop online and on mobile because it’s convenient; and nowadays convenience is king. PayPal recently commissioned research with Ipsos MORI that shows that online spending by Irish shoppers grew to €4.3 billion in 2015 – that’s a 23% increase. We expect this to hit the €5 billion mark in 2016. People of all ages like the convenience of living in a swipe-the-screen world. It means they have infinite resources at their fingertips, in an instant. Developments like fingerprint technology are making it easier and faster for consumers to complete transactions on their mobile devices. PayPal is working with a number of smart phone providers on initiatives like this. Our vision is to continue to facilitate faster purchases, making it easier than ever to pay anytime, anywhere and on any type of device.

What’s the future looking like for PayPal? Where do you hope to take them?

Technology advancements have brought about a transformation in the way people manage and move their money. PayPal is at the centre of this change and we want to play our part in making society more inclusive and a place where people can manage and move their money as and when they want to. We’re committed to building financial products and services that enable everyone to connect and participate.

At PayPal, we believe now is the time to re-imagine money. It’s very exciting and rewarding to be leading a team of more than 2,500 people in Dublin and Dundalk who are at the heart of this exciting transformation.

If you could make everyone in Banking and payments do what you told them, what would you command them to do?

I would ask them to put people at the centre of their decisions. That means making policies ‘more human’ and it means becoming your customer’s champion. The only way to do that is to listen to the people who use your service and pre-empt their needs.

What are your thoughts on bitcoin? Will it achieve wider adoption or not? What are your thoughts on the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurrencies?

The idea of distributing trust via blockchain-based currencies like bitcoin is powerful but it’s still very early days. Braintree, PayPal’s mobile payments specialist, is already providing support for bitcoin via Coinbase, a Bitcoin Wallet provider.

Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?

Sheryl Sandberg. Her book Lean In and her TedTalks are inspiring. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at a PayPal event for our women’s group and she really blew me away.

You’re now much busier and in demand. How do you balance all your activities?

It’s so important to make time for yourself. I go for a run, or to the gym, every morning at 6.30am – that’s time for me and it’s precious. I believe that it’s up to each of us to manage our own work and life balance. To me, that’s all about time-management and prioritisation. Every decision is a trade-off and it’s up to each individual to make their own personal decision on every trade-off.


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