Chris Kenyon | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND

Hooked on the Payments Industry

By Karen Rosen

Chris Kenyon spent five years working in the commercial diving industry before he dove into the payments business, and he’s barely come up for air since.

“I came into it by happenstance, and it seems like once you’re in it, you never leave,” says Kenyon, who has been in the industry for 27 years and is Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President Systems & Technology at Elavon, a wholly owned subsidiary of US Bank.

He calls the industry “fast paced” and yet “absolutely dynamic” in its technological and customer service implications.

“It’s a phenomenal industry which incorporates banking, service and technology,” Kenyon says. “It’s a little bit of everything.”

When he left the commercial diving world to settle down and raise a family, Kenyon found his new field to be just as technical as his former work in underwater construction and demolition.

On a referral from a friend, he began working at Nabanco in Pompano Beach, Fla., and worked his way through various operational and technical positions.

He moved to Atlanta to work with National Data Corporation, then joined the HONOR payment network, opening its credit card payments division. From there, Kenyon was vice president of operations at First Tennessee Merchant Services in Memphis, Tenn., where he took on more technical roles and ultimately became CIO. When the company was rebranded as First Horizon Merchant Services, Kenyon relocated to Denver. Upon First Horizon’s acquisition by Elavon in 2006, he moved back to Atlanta as CIO.

“A Mecca of Payment Processors”

“The payments industry is very interesting: the people in this industry are typically in it forever. Coming back to Atlanta as part of Elavon, I see many of the same, great people I worked with here15 years prior,” says Kenyon, who grew up in Darien, Conn. “Atlanta is a Mecca of payment processors.”

In the past quarter century, Kenyon has been on the front lines as the industry evolved. He has global responsibility for all aspects of Systems and Technology at Elavon, which includes application development, infrastructure, systems operations, systems security, and the processing network.

“What used to be a very simple industry has grown into a very large, very complicated, and very dynamic industry,” says Kenyon, who is also vice chair of the Payment Processor Information Sharing Council (PPISC).

The PPISC is a subcommittee of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and comprised of almost all the payment processors, as well as associations and merchants in various industry verticals.  These organizations bring together competitors focused on security, education, and the general safety of the industry by way of collaboration and information sharing.

With changing technology, he says Elavon focuses on security and protecting the assets of the organization as well as their merchant customers’ and the consumers who transact business with them.

Elavon, which has more than 3,500 employees around the globe, provides point-of-sale authorization and credit/debit card transaction processing services to more than 1.2 million merchants worldwide, from small retail businesses to large organizations in segments such as airlines, hospitality, health care and the public sector.

The wave of the future, Kenyon says, “is all about mobility. It’s amazing what you can do on a cell phone these days or a smart phone. On a smart phone, in many cases, you can do everything you would typically do at your desk.”

And that will increasingly include payments. “We will certainly see a consolidation into smaller devices and more mobile devices,” he says.

As a global CIO, Kenyon oversees processing in 39 countries with operations centers in 11, focusing on North America, Latin America and the European Union.

Meeting Needs in Growing Economies

Elavon’s most recent endeavors are in Mexico and Brazil.

With Brazil preparing to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Kenyon says, “The payments infrastructure in Brazil is growing dramatically to meet the needs of that extraordinary economy.  I believe it is now the 6th largest economy in the world.”

Elavon has a very strong global partner in Mexico, and capitalized on the opportunity to help them grow the payments business in that country. “It, too, is an amazing economy,” Kenyon says. “It continues to grow, and Elavon sees the value of providing these services in the Latin American region.”

As Elavon helps bring its technology and methodology to bear, it is fine-tuning methods of growing merchant acquisition and portfolio management with great success.

The European Union was Elavon’s launch pad for global operations, and results there have also been impressive.

Kenyon spends about 30 percent of his time traveling, making sure he reaches the various areas where Elavon supplies technology. He also ensures that his teams in those regions are well attended to and focused on security, productivity and innovation. Kenyon has more than 540 people on his team, with an additional 100 contractors.

“I focus on ensuring the right talent is in the right place to achieve success,” he says. “It’s not about micro-managing technology. It’s about working with the various functional areas across our organization (Business Development, Finance, Product, Operations, etc.) to ensure success together.”

Secrets to Success

  1. Stay focused with attention to detail.
  2. Be able to work with people, regardless of location or nationality.
  3. Understand the goals and build your roadmap to achieve success.

Chris Kenyon is Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President Systems & Technology at Elavon. Atlanta Trend expresses its thanks and deep appreciation to Chris Kenyon for sharing his thoughts with us.



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