First up in our newly launched initiative, Members Spotlight, is Anna Karin Østlie, SVP of Payments from cluster member Nets. We´ve asked her to tell us a little bit about how she and her team works with innovation, thoughts about the future of the industry and more.
Members Spotlight: Anna-Karin Østlie from Nets
Name: Anna-Karin Østlie
Position: Senior Vice President Payments Norway in Nets
Team/division: I am head of the Norwegian A2A business
How long have you worked there: Almost 2 years
Your superpower: An almost unlimited amount of energy!
What does your company do and what does your team work with?
Nets is a European payments provider with presence in 16 countries. I am leading the Norwegian account to account business, which essentially means the part of Nets that most Norwegians used to think of as Bankenes Betalingssentral.
The payments team is responsible for the critical infrastructure that enables 130 Norwegian banks to transfer money between each other five times a day and consumers to pay digital invoices and direct debits from any internet bank or payment app. We have the pleasure of working with all Norwegian banks, ERP providers, Fintechs, corporate customers from a wide range of exciting industries, NGOs and some very interesting government organizations. We are in a perfect spot to follow the financial ecosystem in Norway as it evolves!
What is the most exciting thing you are currently working on?
At the moment, in midst of the corona crisis, being part of the important cash flows sent from the Norwegian government is the most meaningful work that we do. The cash flows help businesses in need of liquidity (through the “Kontantstøtte” organized by the Tax Authorities) and ensures payments to employees placed on furlough by their employers.
How do you work with innovation in Nets?
The payments industry is changing rapidly, which means that we need to work hard to stay ahead of the game. For us the main driver for innovation is to continuously co-create together with our customers. Our developers are working in 3 week sprints, where the customer often attends the sprint meetings to test functionality and discuss needs directly with the great engineers who are coding the service. The Norwegian Life Insurers “Egen Pensjonskonto Hub” is an example of a current project where we work alongside the customer in this way.
What do you believe is the most important factor(s) to succeed in your industry today?
The ability to read ahead and understand how technology changes business logic, the openness to work alongside “frenemies” to build more relevant and scalable services, and a genuine interest in who the customers are and how your solutions can help them optimize their own business. Being contextually relevant in the moment where the need occurs is essential for how consumers and businesses select payment methods.
What does the future of your industry look like?
The trend towards more sales happening online means that what used to be separate payment instruments are converging and that the payment is becoming an integrated part in a customer journey. This both drives globalisation and convergence between payments and adjacent industries. At the same time there is a number of countries that are just about to start digitising their payment systems and moving them to real time. They turn to our experts here in the Nordics for advice, in a similar way as what happened 20 years ago when Telenor expanded into Asia with mobile technology from one of the world’s most advanced telecoms markets.
Do you know of any exciting fintech startups out there that you find interesting?
In my role I have the privilege of working with many of exciting startups. One example that we currently work with is Fixrate. The reason I believe in Fixrate is that they, in the same way as Finn Torget and Vipps, have built a market place that creates transparency where it lacked before. Thanks to their platform organisations with large liquidity reserves and small banks in need of regulatory capital can find each other more easily. In that way they create a win-win by enabling transactions that would not have happened in an analogue world. Take a look at www.fixrate.no to learn more.
5 on the go
Name a book that has made a lasting impression on you:
«In The Combat Zone of Finance” by Svein Harald Øygard about his time as Head of the Central Bank in Iceland in 2009
Business motto / personal motto:
«Bumblebees are not designed to fly. But bumblebees refuse to accept their limitations, they fly in spite of being told that they can’t!”
Anything you wish you knew 10 years ago?
10,5 years ago I worked at EY in the City of London and saw a whole building with colleagues be redirected from working in M&A advisory and audit to handling the administration of Lehmann Brothers. At that point in time I did not expect that I would again find myself on the inside of an even larger financial crisis here in Norway.
What would you tell students considering a career in this field to think about before entering the workforce?
It’s important to make a conscious choice to join the parts of the industry that will be growing in the future, as growth opens up more opportunity. To be relevant in the payments industry it is important to understand engineering and to let that guide your choice of studies.
Who should we challenge next in the cluster?
Åse Marthinsen in DNB!