As the Chief Growth Officer and Head of Professional Services at FIS, the world's largest global provider of financial technology solutions, Gautam Vyas has an important job that he takes seriously. “My mandate is growth,” he says, “and I have always believed that to grow you have to start from core beliefs, thinking big and bold, and moving decisively.” He is certainly working from a big platform. With over $9 billion in annual revenue at FIS, Gautam has a lot of people on his team, and many possibilities to consider. “I love my job,” he says, “and I try to do everything I can to make sure everyone around me loves their job as well. Our company is fifty years old and we intend to be a market leader for another fifty.”
Gautam was born in Anand, India, a part of northwestern India known for both its education institutions and its milk industry. His father worked for Amul, the largest milk producer in India, eventually becoming CEO. “My father was very focused on his work, very hard working,” he says. “So hard working, in fact, that when he had a stroke in the late 1980s it was a wakeup call for me,” Gautam says, “causing me to think really hard about what I wanted to do as a career.” Gautam had obtained an MS in Electronics from Sardar Patel University in Gujarat however then decided that he really wanted to focus on business instead.
“I applied for a student visa to study business in the US and was rejected twice,” he says. Annoyed, Gautam wrote a letter to the United States Ambassador to India politely expressing his frustration. After a few weeks he received a letter from the Ambassador asking him to come to the US Embassy in New Delhi. Gautam went there, the Ambassador’s letter in hand, and spoke with a number US officials. He was shortly given a visa. He obtained an MBA from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
After graduate school, Gautam lived in New Jersey for a while before moving to Boston for a job in management consulting working with firms likeMcKinsey & Company, Fidelity, HP and later moving to EY. “As a consultant I worked on growth in technology, healthcare, telecom and the financial industry,” he says, “but it was the financial industry that really captured my attention. At EY it really all came together in terms of knowledge and experience – how money moves and impact lives became intensely interesting to me.”
Gautam eventually left EY for Equifax to reengineer new product functions for the company and later creating new businesses there – essentially a similar role that he now has at FIS.
“People unfamiliar with FIS should think of the company as the connector for nearly all financial transactions,” Gautam says. “For example, 75% of all issuing settlement is through FIS. With the acquisition of Sungard in 2015 we also touch asset managers, traders, custodians, treasurers, third-party administrators and clearing agents around the world.” The Fortune 500 company is rightly positioned as the largest technology provider to the global financial industry.
“I’m fascinated by the changes occurring in the financial services industry,” says Gautam, “but I don’t think of it as disruption. As the leader for growth and change, I see it as an opportunity.” Because of the company’s scale and depth, he believes that they could be the flag bearer for change in the industry. “We have to think differently, act differently and operate differently,” he says, “and we have to move the payments business beyond processing to be the catalyst and enabler for our customers and consumers to transact anywhere, with anyone, anytime they like. Most importantly, we will be finding new lines of growth.”
He and his team started with numerous leadership meeting in which all boundaries were challenged. “We needed to achieve consensus about what we wanted to be and where we wanted to go,” he says. The result he proudly shows, printed on 11 by 6 card stock with words agreed upon such as “Empowered, Focused, Trust, Fun and Risk Taking,” but the largest phrase of all, in the middle, is “Be Bold.”
In also started by looking at everything they had to determine what they were doing well, what could be better and what might need to be eliminated. At the end of his first 90 days, he made a presentation to his team as well as company leadership in which he included what he refers to as his promissory note, which said:
I and my team will:
Operate with full spirit of collaboration and partnership across the Enterprise, to enable Professional Services and Enterprise revenue and grow our business
Stay true to our mission, and operate with a dogged focus towards mandate
Transparency – a principle we’ll live by to achieve “win-win” for FIS and our customers
Integrity – to the highest levels
Put our Customers and our Enterprise interests first
Foster a culture of continuous learning and iterative improvement. We will make mistakes, however we will learn and continually improve
Seek continuous feedback, and iterate and calibrate our approach where necessary
“I wanted leaders and managers across the enterprise to know that although we would sometimes have fierce conversations, and perhaps even arguments, that they would always have my respect and that me and the team would always adhere to these principles,” he said.
FIS COO Bruce Lowthers was especially impressed, but everyone took the presentation as very positive. “We have goals to accomplish and I believe you achieve them best by working from core beliefs and principles,” Gautam says. His approach fits in nicely with the award winning company’s approach for empowering its 20,000 customers around the world in 130 countries to move over $9 trillion annually. FIS has been providing industry leadership in a number of ways, not the least of which has been Bruce Lowthers serving as Chairman of the American Transaction Processors Coalition and the P20. Lowthers is the person who recruited Gautam to FIS.
Gautam encourages “ownership” across his team and the enterprise. “If you see an issue you need to own it, solve it or drive it,” he says.
“With the work we are doing it’s important to maintain high expectations while shunning perfection,” he says. “There isn’t time to achieve the perfect product,” he says, “I’d rather take a calculated risk and make a mistake, which we can learn from, than try to reach so-called perfection. It never comes.”
Gautam takes great pride in investing in and promoting talent. “If I haven’t coached a number of people so that they could take over my job at the drop of hat, then I have failed,” he says.
He concludes by saying that people have to be passionate. “You have to build a culture of empowerment in which everyone loves rather than simply likes their job,” he says.