Daniela Mielke, North American CEO of RS2 | Episode 21

Greg: Now on to episode 21 of the Leaders in Payments podcast, my special guest this week is Daniella Mielke the North American CEO for RS2. RS2 offers a global cloud-based API enabled omni channel payment platform in the U.S. they target ISOs, ISVs and payment facilitators, and are now expanding into acquiring. RS2 has a very comprehensive and flexible platform that is really replacing or rewiring the traditional spaghetti platforms that exist today and putting in one global omni-channel platform. Daniela grew up in a very small town in Germany. The day after her high school graduation she left Germany for Switzerland, or she went to college and business school. After 15 years in Switzerland, she moved to the Bay Area in California, where she currently resides. Daniela is passionate about creating technology to improve people’s lives and on a personal level, she trains horses for endurance horseback competitions – a fascinating passion indeed. We’ve got a great show this week, so let’s get started.

Greg:

Hi Daniela, thank you for being here and welcome to the Leaders in Payments podcast.

Daniela:

Thank you for having me, Greg.

Greg:

Absolutely. So let’s dive right in. Tell our audience a little bit about yourself, maybe where you’re from, where you grew up, where you currently live a few things like that.

Daniela:

So I grew up in a very small town in Germany, I guess you can tell from my accent, I can’t, I can’t really hide that. My dad was a college professor and an entrepreneur, and I think those aspects have always defined me in a certain way because I always enjoy problem solving and the big, hairy problems. I also have an entrepreneurial streak. I left Germany pretty early on in my life, literally the day after my high school graduation. And I went to Switzerland where I went to college and university and business school. After almost 15 years in Switzerland, I came to California to the Bay area and that is where I live right now.

Greg:

Okay, great. So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about RS2. So tell audience what RS2 does.

Daniela:

So ours too is a very interesting company and I would say one of the best kept secrets in payment. We offer a global cloud-based API enabled omni-channel payment platform. I know that’s a mouthful, but it is really a payment platform. And when I say that, I don’t just mean card payments. We can process any form of payments card, crypto, account to account, push and pull, issuer, acquirer, processing all on the same platform globally. And that is also what differentiates us at highest level. So we use the same technology, the same platform globally, and the platform is very comprehensive. We have all kinds of payment types and value added services and a very, very robust backend on the same platform. So a customer with one integration can access to all of this and can expand that global business with that platform.

Greg:

And who are your target customers?

Daniela:

So traditionally we actually sold licenses to some of the largest acquirers in the world. We actually literally power some of the largest acquiring businesses in the world. And now we have a few years ago, we have changed our business model and we are offering processing services. And with that, we are actually targeting in the U.S. we are targeting ISOs and ISV and payment facilitators. And then we are now expanding into acquiring.

Greg:

I saw an interesting phrase or term on your website, and I wanted to ask you about it, but really it said rewiring the payments ecosystem. So maybe explain what that means. I think it’s real interesting and unique and saying that because most traditional payment companies wouldn’t so maybe talk about what that really means a little bit.

Daniela:

Yeah. I mean, if you look at the payment system, especially here in the U.S. it’s pretty messy, right? It has all these different legacy platforms, all kind of purpose, built platforms, all different technologies along the value chain. It’s, it’s a really complex, messy spaghetti technology in a way. And with our platform, this can actually be replaced because our platform is so comprehensive and so flexible. A lot of these fragmented platforms are not needed anymore. So in that sense, we are rewiring it. We’re taking out the spaghetti code, we’re taking out the spaghetti platforms and putting in one clean platform.

Greg:

Okay, great. Makes a lot of sense. So you talked a little bit about differentiation, but maybe dig a little deeper in what truly does make RS2 different.

Daniela:

Yeah. So first of all, again, I have to continually saying this one global platform, one global technology, and this technology is omni-channel, it’s not just a CNP platform or a card present platform that is trying to add the other payments. From the get go we were in omni-channel platform with very comprehensive services, features and functionalities. And the platform is very configurable. So most of what our customers need we have on the platform. So we don’t have to develop it. We just can configure it for the customer. The platform is also very data rich, literally every single data element on our platform can be reported on, which is becoming more and more interesting for, for instance, software companies that are now developing new database services. We can provide that data. And then on top of this, we are very customer focused. So we provide white glove services and a fresh approach compared to the legacy players.

Greg:

Okay. Okay, great. So you’ve mentioned how it’s been brought to the U.S. so maybe talk about, is it a European company or where’s the origination of the company?

Daniela:

So it is a European company and it was actually founded almost 30 years ago, over 30 years ago, by two technology executives from Chase and Amex who were fed up with how inefficient to payment systems were in payment platforms. So, and then they wanted to create the perfect payment platform. That’s how they architected RS2. And most of our customers are in Europe and Latin America, some in Asia and the U.S. was, or North America was really the one continent that the company had never touched. So hence the decision to move in here.

Greg:

Ah, okay. Makes perfect sense. So tell us your views on where you think the payments industry is headed over, say the next two to three years.

Daniela:

That’s interesting. Two to three years is nothing in payments. We all know that any, any trend takes a long time to take hold, but I think that the current Corona crisis is accelerating all the trends that we have been talking about for the past 15 years, right. I mean, obviously contactless will accelerate and that means that we are moving away from cash and check. But now also from card, because now card, it’s like an old payment form on, right. So who wants to touch anything? So contactless, for sure. I think there will also be more cloud based solutions. Of course, NFC is great at the point of sale, but it still needs all these hardware solutions to work together. And I think we will see more cloud based solutions like text to pay or just even P2P being used for real payments. I think payments will become more embedded into technology and that can mean very different things.

I think we often say, well, this means that payments will go away that they are invisible and for consumer payments. I think that makes a lot of sense. The best payment experience is the one that the consumer doesn’t even have, but for business payment it might means the opposite. So being embedded for business payment might actually mean that you can follow the transactions step by step by step and know at every point where the transaction is. So I think deeply embedding payments for the purpose of the use case will also be a big next trend. And then I think the other one is plug and play, right? All the customers probably don’t want to become payment experts. They want to be able to plug into a platform as payment as a service platform that takes the complexity away from them. So I think we will see more of these plug and play payment platforms with easy integrations and comprehensive services in the background.

Greg:

Sure. Want to take a shot at maybe 10 years out?

Daniela:

It always feels so crazy, right? Because we don’t know what technology innovation will happen, but on the other end 10 years is nothing in payments. And I think in 10 years, I would say it’s actually something I’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s a real disruption that we can happen that suddenly companies, technology systems like, like Apple and Amazon and Google are taking a more serious bite out of the system. They have certainly put the building blocks in place to become serious payment players. And not just at the interface, at a consumer and business interface, but also sort of at the guts of the system. And I don’t know if you look at a market cap of Mastercard, Amex and Visa, I think they’re combined market cap is now at 800 billion and that becomes pretty significant. And I could imagine that this becomes actually an interesting pie also for the large tech companies, as they think of where they want to go next and how they grow. So I think these ecosystem disruption that we have been talking about within the next 10 years, we will see more of that.

Greg:

Yeah, I would agree with you there, that’s a, that’s a pretty common view for out 10 years. You’re, you’re not the first CEO who has mentioned that as a, you know, a possibility those big tech players definitely getting into payments at a much higher level. So I think a lot of people are, are seeing that. Let’s talk a little bit about sort of what’s going on in the world today with the COVID-19 and maybe how that’s affected your business, whether positively negatively or, you know, from an employee perspective, or even from your customer perspective, sort of how has that affected did RS2?

Daniela:

And, you know, I mean, payment companies kind of follow the, the economy. So we have partners that are in verticals that are heavily affected and other partners in verticals that are positively affected. So as a payment company that is working and not as a direct merchant interface, but a little bit further removed in the value chain, we are seeing all of it right now. Of course in general, transaction volume is going down. But as a payment company, we are pretty resilient. Our partners are continuing all their discussions. I mean, here in the U.S. we are involved in a lot of discussions with targets, pipeline, potential customers, and all those discussions are moving forward. So I think that’s good news on the employee side, I’m focusing on the U.S. business. We were already pretty decentralized. Half of our employees were already working from home offices.

So we were used to working remotely via video. So we haven’t felt a big change in that routine. Our office team is working from home now, but they were used to working with people who were remote. So no big change there. What I would say in general, this is a very stressful time for everyone. And even if our employees are safe and our customers are safe at home, I think what’s going on in the world even beyond COVID-19 right now, of course, the political situation that we have here, everyone is stressed. And I just think as an employer, we have to have a lot of empathy for that. And also not forget that behind every customer, every business, there are just people, everyone, we are all just people. And we’re all living through this in different ways and have different stresses on us. For one, it might be the dog barking in the background for the other one, the kids playing and for the third one, that’s the husband or family member who is sick or out of a job. Right. So just stress us all very different. And I think we just have to keep this in mind and anything we do we’ll right now.

Greg:

Yeah. I would agree a hundred percent. I think you said that very well. Well, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about you. So tell us about your journey to your role there as the CEO of North America for RS2.

Daniela:

Well started my career in Switzerland, which is a wonderful country, and I was very fortunate throughout my career to have learned from the best. So I started after college, I worked for Nestle the food company for five years, and that is an amazingly well run company. And for them, I work literally in 30 different countries along the entire value chain. And I just learned so much about business and people and functions and cultural changes. So after Nestle, I went to business school and after business school, I joined a global consulting firm and they, again, I worked with the best in all around the world, working on really hard issues, hard problems. It felt like the first 10 years of my career were all about learning. And from there, I jumped into payments and my formative years in payments where with Visa and PayPal, and again, I consider Visa and PayPal, and then Vantiv as the best in what they do as they’re part of the value chain, which, which was fantastic. It’s a learning experience when the opportunity for RS2 came along. I just thought it would be a great challenge to bring a superior platform into the U.S. and I, we all know that it’s not just about the technology, technology’s important, but in payments there’s so much more that has to come fall into place than technology. It’s a challenge, but I just love challenges. I love building teams. So I built a team here in the U.S. and I really enjoy what I’m doing right now.

Greg:

That’s great. That’s great. So let’s talk about something you’re passionate about. So maybe something work-related and something personal.

Daniela:

Well, you know, when it comes to work, I’m really passionate about using technology to improve people’s lives. I really felt when I was at eBay and PayPal, that we were focusing on that, that we use these new payment systems to actually help people create businesses and be independent. And I really am passionate about that. And I’m also on the board of a not-for-profit thinker. We are using market based solutions and technology to microfinance technologies and social enterprise to improve standard of living of low income families and communities in emerging countries. And again, it’s using technology and to skill set that go around this to make lives for people better. That’s what I’m really passionate about in my private life. I have a lot of passions, frankly. I love to travel and I love art and music, but my main passion is really endurance, horseback riding. So I race and train and condition horses for, for long distance competitions, which I, I love.

Greg:

Oh, wow. That’s interesting. So long distance. So what does that mean? Tell, tell us, I mean, I, that’s a passion that I haven’t heard of, so I’m intrigued, so maybe, maybe tell us a minute or two about what, what that’s about.

Daniela:

Yeah. So this is about doing 50 or a hundred mile rides. I mean, these are timed events, so they are racist, but you don’t race a horse 400 miles. It’s very strategic on how you work the terrain with your horse. And I mean, a lot of these rides are in the mountains. So you go out and you are on the horse, I’m on the horse sometimes for 20 hours. And the horse has to be very fit of course, but also very well trained to navigate all these different terrains and challenges and mountains. And the rider has to be pretty fit as well. I just love that challenge. It’s a long-term challenge. You have to work with a horse for at least two years for it to be ready to go on a competition like that.

Greg:

So do they have those in California?

Daniela:

Yes. We have many. We have some of the best in of worlds in California. Absolutely.

Greg:

Oh, wow. That’s fascinating. I just didn’t even really know that existed, to be honest with you, but that’s a, that’s a neat hobby or passion, so that that’s really cool. So when I started in payments 15 years ago, people didn’t really start their careers saying, you know, Hey, I want to be in payments. I think that’s changed. I think with the money that’s been invested in this industry, the word FinTech is kind of a new, sexy term. I think people are wanting to start a career in payments. So what would be your advice to someone just starting out in payments maybe right out of college or maybe they even are changing from a different industry, but coming into payments, what would your advice be to them?

Daniela:

Yeah, I mean, I always think that at the beginning of a career, and that might be a career transition or a new career, the most important thing is not to think about the career and career progression, but to learn as much as possible early on. And that means taking on different roles, working for different companies, maybe spending a year or two at the customer with a merchant, or was a distributor. And then also working with the best. I think you learn from the best people and the best companies. And there’s always can be small companies or large companies, right. But the people who really do the best because that’s gives you kind of a framework to fall back on for your entire life and your entire career. If I would do my career payments again, I would actually start in product management. I think product management is just great function and role to dive deep into a product, understand the market, understand the technology, and develop all these leadership skills that you need to really have a career like listening and communicating and collaborating all those things. I, I think product management roles are an amazing start for newcomers to the industry. So I certainly haven’t followed all these rules, but the one rule I did follow is that I moved from different companies along the payment value chain. And I learned from the best I think. So that would be my advice.

Greg:

Yeah. I think learning from the best is some really good advice. Well, we’re about to wrap up here. So anything else you want to add? Let the audience know about whether that’s about RS2 or yourself.

Daniela:

You know what I would say about payments in general? I mean, we should never just think about payments. Payments is at the heart of commerce. We should broaden conversations. When we talk about, I always felt like I’m in a commerce professional and not a payments professional. And I think if people takes that mindset, we automatically think broader and it gives careers ultimately, more avenues and more options. So the one thing I always try is to have a conversation about commerce. I guess that will be my last one. Let’s think about commerce, not payments.

Greg:

Yeah. I think that’s, that’s great. We probably don’t do that enough. That’s for sure. Well okay, great Danielle. We’re about to wrap up. Is there anything else that you want to add?

Daniela:

No, I think I’m good. It was a pleasure.

Greg:

Yeah, no, I really appreciate your time. I know your time’s incredibly valuable. So thank you so much for being here.

Daniela:

Thank you, Greg.

Greg:

And to all you listeners out there, thank you for your time as well. And until the next story…

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