In Profile: Terrie Smith, Founder and Global Ambassador, DIGISEQ

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The emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled a variety of different payment methods to evolve. Wearable tech is debatably the most notable of these, as designers like Phillippe Starck and brands like AdornPay are beginning to incorporate them. As the technology continues to grow, banks and other financial institutions are looking for new ways to make the payment process smoother for all parties involved.

Terrie Smith is a passionate mobile payments expert with over 20 years’ industry experience. Instrumental in shaping the Mastercard Digital Enablement System (MDES), used to support digital wallet services like Apple Pay Google Pay, Smith has an impressive track record of innovation in the payments industry and is included in fundamental patents related to provisioning and tokenisation As an avid innovator, Smith co-founded the IoT platform DIGISEQ, in 2014 where she now serves as global ambassador.

DIGISEQ simplifies the enablement, chip personalisation and delivery of almost any item to support contactless payments, grant access, reward loyalty, and more. DIGISEQ is empowering banks, non-bank issuers, businesses and original equipment manufacturers to deliver better functionality to their customers.

Terrie Smith, founder and global ambassador, DIGISEQ

Tell us more about your company and its purpose

DIGISEQ enables wearable tech users to pair their bank card to virtually any item, track their activity, and select which payment features to use, giving them even more convenience and complete control.

Unlike active wearable tech such as smartwatches which have limited battery lives, tokenised passive wearable tech enables virtually any form factor – such as a ring, key tag, even a bracelet charm – to be inserted with a chip and transformed into a contactless payment or digital ID token.

Our tech securely provisions payment data over-the-air to customers’ iPhone or Android mobile devices. Users can activate their own wearable items in the comfort of their homes, without needing to wait for their bank or issuer to do it on their behalf.

In addition, our mobile personalisation and tokenisation ensures all provisioned prepaid or tokenised payment data is fully protected, with contactless transactions secured in exactly the same way as card or phone NFC payments.

What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?

Amid much fanfare, DIGISEQ’s tech and services are already being used in sports and entertainment venues – dramatically speeding up entry times with encrypted ID for secure access and fast contactless payments.

Our tech is currently used in more than 300 different types of wearables from a wide range of brands, including renowned high-end designers like Phillippe Starck, wearable item brands AdornPay and many more. Most recently, financial super app Curve enabled us to bring large-scale wearable payment tech to the UK fintech’s four million customers across more than 30 countries.

How did you get into the fintech industry?

Growing up in the 70s, my father worked in robotics. He was part of the design team at what was then Siemens and was one of the very first people to work with chip manufacturers. I was always fascinated by his work. I would spend hours poring over blueprints on the kitchen floor, while my dad would explain the physics of electronics and basic computing to me. In many ways, I was raised on technology.

I would later accept an offer at General Motors, who were running what turned out to be one of the best apprenticeships I could ever hope for. They provided intensive training for coding, project management, and the opportunity to move around different departments.

I gained skills in organisational management, learned how to code, how to manage teams, and thoroughly enjoyed it all. Later on, I joined Mastercard and took a leading role in researching and developing mobile payments solution prototypes, which led to several patents being granted.

What’s the best thing about working in the fintech industry?

The fintech industry is a hotbed of innovation, creating valuable products and services with global appeal. The transition from traditional financial services into a digitally-led fintech economy is accelerating, as more consumers and businesses adopt digital payments and services.

It’s easy to overlook just how integral fintech is to both society and industry, yet at its core, the sector has helped countless companies, business owners, and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives.

What frustrates you most about the fintech industry?

There is definitely a need for more women in fintech, because women bring different and fresh perspectives to the table. I’ve worked in payments for 20 years and have seen first-hand the barriers that stand in the way for women in tech.

Having more female fintech leaders is more than just closing the gender gap and increasing financial inclusion – it could increase companies’ ROI dramatically. In the wearable tech industry, we’re already witnessing the massive positive differences female tech designers and product managers are making. Their insights are helping us understand how wearable items can be designed to be more accessible to a wider range of people.

How have your previous roles influenced your career?

My career in payments spans more than 20 years. It comprises of key roles in digital and mobile payment service development at companies including IBM and Mastercard.

At Mastercard, I led the development of the Mastercard Digital Enablement Service (MDES) – the backbone of mobile contactless payment services such as Apple and Google Pay.

Having witnessed the potential of this technology, which marries contactless and mobile payments through secure tokenisation, in 2014 I co-found the world’s first tokenised wearable payments service, DIGISEQ, in a bid to bring wearable tech to the mainstream.

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

At the age of 17 I decided that I absolutely hated school. However, my dad told me that if I wanted to leave, I’d need to get a job first. We’re talking 1976 – the three-day week and the Winter of Discontent.

I found myself a job at an insurance company, who promised me that I would have a long and prosperous career there. Alongside five male peers, I was put forward for training at the Chartered Insurance Institute. All five of my colleagues got selected, and I didn’t. I was livid, as I knew full well that I had more capability in my little finger than all of those guys put together.

I demanded to know why I hadn’t been selected but my boss couldn’t give me an answer. Consequently, I voted with my feet, placed my pass on his desk and told him, “I’m gone.”

Having regaled my story to a friend of mine – who worked at what is now Electrolux – I was advised to try my hand at data processing. I applied for six jobs that evening and got offered every single one.

What has the future got in store for DIGISEQ?

The wearable payment devices market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 29 per cent between now and 2032. It has an estimated market valuation of $13.43billion last year alone. This is being driven by the rapidly growing IoT network connecting payment applications, access control and brand consumer engagement across an expected 41 billion devices by 2027.

DIGISEQ is at the forefront of creating new ways for millions of consumers to connect with their banks. This is in addition to their service providers and other brands worldwide. The growth of contactless payments has created the ideal environment for wearable tech to become an everyday part of consumers’ lives. The secure provisioning of payment credentials into a ring, a wristband, a fitness tracker or pretty much any accessory, is now as easy as a tap on a smartphone.

What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?

The environment in which fintechs operate has been dominated by instability, soaring interest rates and higher inflation. The past 12 months have been a particular challenge for many fintechs globally, with investment dropping by almost a third in the last year.

The Kalifa review shone a spotlight on the need to support UK fintech. While it’s clear the foundations laid to date have helped the UK maintain a competitive advantage, government, regulators and companies must continue to work together. They must create a spirit of collaboration to build growth and raise awareness of the many benefits fintech can bring to a wider society. It’s fantastic that so much has been achieved already, but there is still much work to be done.