A transformation that’s never going to stop

At the cutting edge of fintech, PayPal says it needs to make sure its people keep evolving and building new skills.
By: | December 19, 2019
Topics: Leadership | News | Singapore

Worldwide online payments firm PayPal is first and foremost a fintech firm. And because it is in such a dynamic sector it is being forced to innovate and evolve at a rapid pace.

But Louise Pentland, EVP, Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer at PayPal, doesn’t like to call it a transformation. ‘’It’s more of an evolution because it is like a transformation that’s never going to stop, because it has to evolve as the changing nature of our business evolves. And our business is evolving all the time’’.

PayPal counts Elon Musk and rap star Russel Simmons among its founders, back when it was known as Confinity. It was also part of eBay for 12 years before it spun off in 2014. Nowadays it is busy partnering up with the likes of Citi to offer digital wallets to institutional clients.

‘’We are in the cutting-edge space of fintech and blazing new trails, which requires more of everybody all the time, and it requires us to build new skills to adapt to new environments and to new competitive challenges,’’ explains Pentland.

Five years since going it alone and PayPal is going through another evolution. “We’re not a traditional financial services company, we’re a fintech company. We’ve been blazing our own trail since we began as a company, and we haven’t lost that sense of entrepreneurship in a way. We have the hunger and desire to make things just better and different and more advantageous for everybody.’’

With such a grandiose title (Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer), where does HR fit into her role? ‘’I spend probably the majority of my time with HR topics because we’ve been on a transformation in our HR organization for the last 12 months. Part of that was really to think about HR differently as a really integral competitive advantage element of what we stand for and our values.’’

At the heart of PayPal is its desire to act as a team, and to make collaboration part of the culture. ‘’It doesn’t mean to say that we’re one whole team on everything. When we’re challenging ourselves or when we’re working on projects or assignments, we want all of the elements of who is involved in that team to be pulling in the same direction, to be collaborative, and to be transparent and clear on what we’re working towards.’’

Building this team culture starts at the top, with the leadership team that Pentland sits within. But rather than passing on diktats from above, she prefers to listen to employees first. ‘’Think about what’s being presented to you and listen and be thoughtful and be flexible. I think that’s part of the culture too.’’

This would be an admirable goal for most organisations, but PayPal takes it a step further. ‘’I think so much of what we are establishing in our culture is the idea of paying it forward, building a community. I think we are on a path to really redefine what it means to work in a corporation. We’re beginning that journey in terms of who we are’’.

PayPal has almost 22,000 employees across the world, although it doesn’t break the figures down region by region. Despite its huge size, it aims to keep the culture consistent across its different offices. ‘’This is a family. It is a community. We support each other. We allow ourselves to be ourselves at work. We don’t have to be somebody else. We don’t have to pretend that way. When we have real life crises, then we are there for each other. That’s not at odds with being a successful, profitable company’’. 

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman (pictured above taking a group selfie during his recent trip to Singapore) is also onboard with this line of thinking, looking after colleagues and taking care of them in tough times. Pentland says ‘’he leads with heart. He’s extremely compassionate.’’