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Executive Interview Series: Jodie Kelley, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association

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The Executive Interview Series  provides readers exclusive insights from movers and shakers in the payments industry. The Payments Industry is under continuous transformation. This series offers diverse perspectives on everything from strategy to payments technology and the industry’s future.

In this interview, TSG Marketing team member Rachel Hartley spoke with Jodie Kelley, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), to discuss the upcoming TRANSACT conference, how the association is growing and supporting its members, and legislation shaping the industry.

Jodie Kelley is the CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), where she directs the international public policy, industry affairs, and educational activities of the payments technology industry. With over 25 years of experience managing and providing strategic guidance to large organizations, Jodie served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for BSA | The Software Alliance and Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Fannie Mae.

Q: Rachel H.

Looking at your history in executive roles at companies like BSA and Fannie Mae, how have those experiences shaped how you approach your work at ETA? 

A: Jodie K.

During my career, I’ve worked in very different capacities in very different industries. I’ve learned from every experience, and a few things really stand out and, I believe, serve me well in my current role. 

The first is the importance of developing a true partnership with the people and industry you work with and support. That means listening and understanding what they care about and need. When your business partners know you understand them and genuinely have their back, you have lasting professional relationships. And when your colleagues know you care about them and are working hard to position them for success, they lean in, and everyone is better and stronger. 

My experience has also cultivated an obsession with looking forward — understanding trends and being ahead of what’s next. We succeed when we provide value and anticipate what will be needed and position to give even more weight in the future.

Finally, I’ve followed the advice of my very first mentor, who told me to do what I love even if it leads me down an otherwise non-traditional path. I’ve done that and have loved every job I’ve had. And that enthusiasm gives me energy and a genuine drive to succeed. 

Q: Rachel H.

Tell me about your experience as a woman leader in the payments space. What advice would you give other women in this industry? 

A: Jodie K.

I would say that all women – whether in payments or otherwise – should lead with confidence and conviction. When I joined ETA, I was so excited by the opportunity I saw in this organization and the possibilities to support this industry as it grows. The payments industry and our terrific Board of Directors leaned in and supported me as I drove toward those opportunities (with a wrinkle thrown in by the pandemic). There are certainly times when I am the only woman in the room. The advice I would give is to be energized by the opportunity that provides. The industry needs women and the diverse perspectives they bring.  

  • Find opportunities to offer your perspective and abilities. Don’t wait to be asked – volunteer for an existing project or submit your own. Confidently demonstrate what you can do, and new opportunities will follow. 
  • Actively seek mentors and, in turn, mentor others. If you ask, you’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help. And you, in turn, have so much to offer others. 
Q: Rachel H.

What are some of ETA’s growth initiatives for 2023? 

A: Jodie K.

As payments systems grow in size and complexity, ETA’s role is more critical than ever. And our team is excited to play an increasing role in shaping the future of payments and supporting our members. Specific big bets ETA is making in 2023 include:

We have expanded our resources on public policy and are now actively advocating in all 50 states. The need is clear – every day state legislatures are introducing legislation that could affect our industry. Thus far, in 2023 alone, we are tracking and advocating on a total of over 720 individual bills. That’s in addition to our already robust programs at the federal level and in Canada. We are also expanding the issues in which we engage deeply and have added BNPL and Crypto Working Groups to our already expansive list. These give our members a bigger voice in creating a positive policy environment before policymakers in DC, the states, and Canada.

Given the intensity of the regulatory environment, we are also expanding the compliance services we provide to our members. The rules governing our industry are complex and getting them wrong can be devastating. Given that, in 2022, ETA launched its Payments Compliance Conference, and this year, we are growing it significantly to include entry-level education in addition to advanced sessions led by experts and sessions led by regulators, including the CFPB and the FTC. Additionally, because parties in the ecosystem also need to comply with payments network rules, we will host dedicated sessions on those rules.

We also know that the payments ecosystem is complex. As our industry grows, we are excited to launch new educational programming that will provide payment knowledge to individuals entering the industry. Initial offerings will be in the market soon. This is a program we plan to scale, so stay tuned for more exciting news on this front. 

Q: Rachel H.

Becoming a member of ETA opens doors to many new opportunities within the payments space. What unique benefits is ETA working on for those looking to join?

A: Jodie K.

ETA is the place where the industry convenes. Becoming a member gives participants instant access to the breadth of the sector. We are constantly developing new benefits and have some members-only benefits we are rolling out that I’m excited about. For example, in addition to our signature events, ETA has launched a series of member-only executive roundtables that will bring the industry’s leaders together to engage on cutting-edge topics with strategic implications for their businesses. 

Our Industry Affairs committees also convene our members to engage in robust conversations around the industry’s typical challenges, providing a forum to share best practices, demonstrate thought leadership, and network with peers. In 2023 we are providing broader opportunities for committee members and are expanding the number of committees to include topics of current interest. We recently, for example, added the Bank, Crypto, and Communications Committees. We’re getting great feedback on these programs. 

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Q: Rachel H

With TRANSACT right around the corner, what changes can past attendees expect this year? What are you most excited about? 

A: Jodie K.

There is so much I am excited about this year!

First, of course, we are very excited about hosting the show in Atlanta. Atlanta is a payments and fintech hub, and it is going to be amazing to convene the industry there. The show itself is going to be terrific, and there will be some exciting after-hours opportunities at venues, including the Aquarium and the Tabernacle. 

I’m also excited at the way we are expanding to align with the ways in which the payments ecosystem is evolving. Expect to see familiar faces and the addition of new players in the ecosystem. We’re really welcoming both the present and the future of payments to the show.

That’s true of the content as well. In our stages, we will be discussing the opportunities, innovations, and transformations that are taking place in payments, including embedded payments. Our speakers are those who are leading the charge. If it’s important for the business of payments, it will be discussed at TRANSACT.

I’m also excited about the ways we’ve evolved the show to create more opportunities for networking. Whether it is during programmed Deep Dive sessions and meet-ups, or networking lounges right on the show floor, attendees will have plenty of opportunities to meet and carry on their conversations without having to leave the show floor.

Finally, I am particularly excited by our EMPOW(H)ER program. This is a new program that reflects my own commitment to promoting women in payments. In doing so, we make the industry stronger. We have a content track, networking opportunities, and will also host the first of what will be a year-long series of mentoring sessions. This is the first step in what I know will be a vibrant and important part of what we do. 

Q: Rachel H

With software companies being a big focus at TRANSACT, what should attendees be looking forward to?

A: Jodie K.

Embedded finance – including embedded payments – is changing the way merchants and other businesses operate. We are all in on embedded payments at TRANSACT. The Transformation track features a full day of programming on all things embedded – including the use cases, where it is catching on, and what this means for the future of payments. We’ve also added an award category, where we recognize the Top 10 Payments ISVs and how they change the dynamics. And a section of the show floor — the ISV Village – is dedicated to showcasing the innovations of those groundbreaking companies.

Q: Rachel H.

From gun-tracking to bank collapses, 2023 has already been filled with hot topics. As the leading trade association for payments, how does ETA work with its members to navigate these topics?

A: Jodie K.

It’s all about partnership, trust, and a relentless focus on being solutions-oriented. We constantly engage with our members – our Board, with our government relations leadership councils, issue-specific working groups, our industry affairs committees, and informally – to understand their businesses and what they need to thrive. This close partnership allows us not only to identify issues that matter today but to anticipate the issues that will arise in the future and get out in front of them.

On the policy side, we use our councils and working groups to shape our priorities and our positions. Our close partnerships allow us to be nimble. We set our priorities at the beginning of the year, but politics obviously doesn’t stand still. As the political situation shifts, in consultation with our members, we quickly shift with it. Our goal is always to find the solution that best positions our members and our industry.

Q: Rachel H.

As rules and legislation continue to shape our industry, what federal or state legislation is coming down the pike that ETA members should be aware of?

A: Jodie K.

An appropriate policy framework can help spur growth and innovation. Conversely, if done poorly, innovation can be squelched to the detriment of businesses, consumers, and the overall economy. Legislative activity in the states provides a concrete example. In this highly charged political environment, we see states taking action on topics including ESG and MCCs that are frequently contradictory and could lead to negative outcomes. Our industry is getting caught in the middle of these political disagreements.

The states are also moving on issues of deep importance to the industry, including privacy. ETA has worked in years past with state legislatures as they introduce privacy legislation; we are currently tracking 13 privacy bills in 8 states. A significant focus for us is ensuring that any legislation includes language that allows for the use of data to continue to fight fraud. I’m proud to say that we have ensured that it is included in every bill that has passed to date. ETA is also advocating for a model law to harmonize state Money Services Business (MSB) laws across the country. Harmonization would make it easier and more predictable for consumers and ETA members who are MSBs.  Eleven states have enacted the model law since February 2023, with bills pending in an additional 14 states.

At the federal level, most of what is happening is occurring on the regulatory front. The CFPB, for example, continues to focus on fintech and payments, including BNPL, fees, and open banking, among others. ETA continues to engage deeply with the CFPB, as their decisions could have a meaningful impact on our member companies. ETA is also active in Canada and is working on several policy areas in Ottawa, including the creation of a policy framework for Open Banking and implementing the regulations for fintech to be regulated by the Bank of Canada as Payment Service Providers and Real-Time Payments. 

This is certainly not a comprehensive list. Given the breadth of legislative and regulatory activity at the federal level, in the states, and in Canada, ETA is increasing our resources and redoubling our efforts. Getting the policy environment right is critical if our industry is to reach its full potential.