Bob Howe | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
Working in Payments
By Robert Green
Bob Howe, Client Executive at Opus Consulting, has been involved in the payments industry for a number of years. His company works with major payment processors to produce innovative products and also upgrade existing payment platforms. This profile is the first in a series that will highlight the backgrounds of a number of people working in the Atlanta payments industry today.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Ludlow, MA. , a small, blue- collar town in Western Massachusetts. Our home town of about 10,000 people at the time was and is a safe and wonderful New England setting for my parents to raise three sisters and I through high school.
Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
I attended Boston College on an ice hockey scholarship. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Carroll School of Management, with a double-major in economics and marketing.
What brought you to Atlanta?
Originally, I came to Atlanta to become a National Sales Trainer for Lanier Business Products, having been promoted from the Hartford office. I was promoted through the ranks at Lanier, moving from Atlanta to Denver, New York, Connecticut and then, fortunately, back to Atlanta. I’ve been here for some time now, and this is where I raised my family.
How did you get into the payments industry?
Quite by happenstance. I was recruited by Directo, an early stage company, to be Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing. Directo was focused on providing basic financial services to the 40MM+ unbanked and underserved workers in America. I was hooked by the idea of working in a smaller company, leveraging payment technology to solve a social problem. I became passionate about the services we provided to deserving consumers, as well as about the evolving nature of the payments industry. I soon became CEO.
Has the industry changed much since you started in it?
Yes of course. On the positive side, the industry evolved into what is now called the branded prepaid card segment. Within this area, the rate of adoption of basic, affordable financial services is slowly growing as greater access is now available through smart phones, branded cards, eWallets, and new online services and banking options. From a platform-technology point of view, we were hampered early on by expensive, inflexible card-management systems, CRMs and limited reporting systems. Today, SaaS systems are built and provided at a much lower cost, with flexibility and better reporting in mind; plus, technology now enables the delivery of much better services, allowing consumers to make smarter financial decisions.
Other significant changes occurred as a result of new banking regulations under the U.S. Patriot Act, Dodd Frank Act, and others which impose strict rules on the U.S. banking system and financial services providers. The introduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) dramatically impacted the nature and availability of certain products, how they were marketed, offered and priced for consumers. In many ways, the regulations helped the end-consumers by lowering prices, providing improved service disclosures and supporting better consumer education. On the other hand, regulations hampered this industry with unintended consequences to consumers by limiting the availability of products and services intended to serve this community.
Where do you think the industry is headed?
With payments innovation speeding ahead, coupled with the new federal government administration’s vow to revisit Dodd/Frank and potentially roll back the CFPB and many banking regulations, the industry could be headed for an uptick in growth. In my view, this can be most beneficial for both consumers and financial services providers, considering their options. My sense is innovation will continue to accelerate with the potential lessening of government regulations.
What’s great about where you work today?
Opus Consulting Solutions is great because it puts me at the forefront of innovation in payments. It’s all we do in the retail payments and FinTech domains. Whereas earlier in my career my main focus was working with one technology stack, with Opus I now have a unique view into where the world’s largest companies in branded networks, device/POS manufacturing, acquirers, issuers, remittance, prepaid, gateway and early- stage disruptors are heading. We have the opportunity to work with global payment organizations to hold ideation sessions, shape product roadmaps, architect and build solutions for tomorrow.
It’s a very exciting time to be in the FinTech/PayTech arena, especially in Atlanta. Additionally, because Opus is an international leader innovating in this domain, it has afforded me with a broader perspective. We can truly be your payments-technology innovation partner.
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