Q&A: Mike Lee, Account Director NER, Merchant Services at Worldline
Mike Lee joined Worldline in February 2022 as an Account Director within the Grocery and QSR sector.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My name is Mike Lee and I have been working in the payments industry for about 17 years. I joined Worldline in February 2022 as an Account Director within the Grocery and QSR sector where I support a number of Tier 1 UK customers. Prior to that, I worked for one of the largest acquirers in the UK.
And what attracted you to Worldline?
Clearly, the payments world, technology, and indeed of course human behaviour have changed enormously from when I started in the sector, when it was very much about merchant services and acquiring. It is now much more about sitting within the gateway with transaction and acceptance services. When I was looking at roles, I felt that Worldline’s direction of travel was on the right track to help and support consumers and companies to accept payments. From Worldline’s point of view, they own the whole end to end payments ecosystem from the beginning when a card or other payment method has been accepted, all the way to when and where the money is to be settled. That was very interesting from my perspective as a next step career move.
Likewise, the fact that Worldline is clearly the European leader in the payments and transactional services space which together with its heritage and strong growth record was also a big draw. My challenge and that of the team is to embrace the brand and, in a fast-moving market, harness the opportunities out there.
How does Worldline’s approach and platform differ from other market players?
I think by being that single point of contact, and again through the years of how we’ve grown whether through acquisition or strategic direction, allows us to be the voice of the merchant and of the consumer. It’s not about necessarily dictating the market; it’s working closely with our customers and consumer base. In the retail space we’ve got a stable customer book, and it is using those strong relationships that allow for conversations to happen between both parties draw up a united strategy rather than dictating what the next big thing is. We only support what is relevant to our merchants
What advantages do Worldline’s products and services add for merchants?
We are trying to help our merchants support the change of behaviour of our end customer base, so having all the foundations in place, gives us stability, and therefore, our merchants have trust in us to want to try things, to see if they work.
Just having that clear understanding from a strategic point of view, from talking to our customers, from how they would like to see the future and then correlating that to our thinking as well. It helps massively to have those sort of discussions as opposed to – “we think this is the next stage of evolution of payments”. It’s a more consultative, partnership approach which really adds a lot of benefit and value for our customers. Some of the Worldline consultative selling approaches and the strategic selling programmes are very different to my previous roles, so I’m happy with the way that I’m learning, and I am still learning, even after 17 years.
What does implementation of a Worldline product or service look like and how do you measure success from that?
What happens is a total collaboration between all the project managers, the customer success managers and everyone who is customer facing to ensure that ultimately the customer is happy. There are metrics and mechanisms that we can use, such as CSAT and all those source surveys, etc., we can go out to, but ultimately, it’s just achieving, from a project point of view, that we’re on budget, on time, and it’s fulfilling all the customer needs.
There is an exceptional level of governance behind us, as well as strategic thinking and innovation, so we would always question and be able to challenge a customer to say, “have you thought about this……because it will help future proof for later” etc. So ultimately the question is, is the customer happy? Are they getting the returns on the investment that they invested – because these are ultimately long-term strategic partnerships as well?
How are retailers using your systems to gain that competitive advantage?
There are a lot of buzzwords and fads in the industry; things that are communicated through social media etc.. My role is to try and retain that relevance and focus for the customer to make sure that our solution works for them. At Worldline, we have recently opened our dedicated innovation centre in Paris and my role includes ensuring that our customers get access to this strategic thinking and ascertaining whether some of the new methodologies or alternative payment methods, or ways of working, would present them with an even greater economic advantage.
Are there any specific partners that enhance or assist with this system implementation?
When I first joined Worldline, there was a heavy focus was on online, due principally to the pandemic. So, we partnered with several suppliers to help give our customer-base the ability to effectively sell on social media or through whichever platform they wanted to do so. We are working with a few providers on loyalty programmes as well, which is something that’s key because there is a core group of our customers and our merchants that want to speak to their end-users and customers. I believe therefore that we will see a great shift in terms of how – grocery especially, and probably the quick service restaurants – are trying to reach out to their customer bases whether through a native app, or through a loyalty programme. So again, we’re pushing on that as well in terms of our strategy.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for retail for the rest of this year and beyond?
The current cost of living crisis and post pandemic environment has meant that a lot of my customers have had to think about systemic changes to their own infrastructure. I look after Grocery Retail and QSR (quick service restaurants) and a lot of the tech that they have is probably their last thought, because they’re concentrating on budgetary requirements and whether they can make some of the necessary changes. But there is a need for them to implement some change because consumers’ behaviour has changed. It’s about planning and putting that into place against a difficult backdrop of such economic forces where cost is key, and challenges abound.
Adding value as well for a retailer is quite challenging, especially with the supply chain issues, and we’re experiencing this from a Worldline perspective. Just to be able to get products to market in time is difficult, and therefore just, being relevant on the back of that is important, particularly when a merchant having to adopt an online payment methodology was probably not thought about until a couple of years ago.
How is Worldline addressing the challenges that retailers are facing and turning them into successes for merchants?
Innovation is always key. Engaging with Worldline and some of our tech need not necessarily involve a massive infrastructural change, but it’s just a change in the way of working and understanding that. You don’t necessarily have to change part A for part B, rather it’s about a different way of working and different way of engaging. My role is to demonstrate this and show the positive returns on investment. It’s quite a big thing, quite an emotional thing, for customers and merchants to be part of, but it just needs a bit of information and clarity.
We always try to find the evidence that sits behind our recommendations so they can make those important decisions. We want to be viewed as a trusted partner and as somebody of relevance to enable us sound advice and supportive evidence to enable them to decide what is best for their future.
What’s next for Worldline? What else is on the horizon?
It’s an exciting time at Worldline and in the marketplace in general. We have just come through some extensive structural changes and our strategy is now focused much more on our services elements across the UK. We have got the heritage, stability and the foundations to provide a service that will truly benefit a lot of companies out there. I’m really excited personally to be able to help deliver our improved technology and enhanced innovation and capabilities. I think they will help us to swiftly extend our footprint here in the UK.
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