American Banker names Kristy Carstensen one of the Most Influential Women in Payments.
With a focus on mentorship and inclusion, American Banker’s list of the Most Influential Women in Payments celebrates senior executives guiding the future of global payments. Nominees are evaluated on leadership, teamwork and personal initiative demonstrated through action. Kristy Carstensen, CFO for Payment Services at U.S. Bank checks all the boxes.
As this is her third time appearing on the list, many have heard Carstensen’s story, of how she knew she wanted to have a positive impact but wasn’t sure exactly how. Keeping hold of that honorable compass, Carstensen aimed first as at career in pediatrics. Eventually, her tenacity and talents led her to pursue a career in finance, first with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and then to U.S. Bank, where she worked with the Community Development Corporation and now leads the Payment Services CFO Finance group of approximately 300 employees.
“Through my work at U.S. Bank, my desire and passion for ‘both, and’ is only stronger,” says Carstensen, “I am empowered to succeed professionally and further my commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and be part of the greater good.”
Once gifted the advice “through turmoil comes opportunity” from a trusted friend and former colleague, Carstensen has built a career on pushing through tough times, learning the meaning of resiliency on a personal level. “I learned to value my ability to contribute no matter what role I was in.”
That advice and experience has been top of mind for her since COVID-19 upended much of the world as we knew it. In the shake-up, the pandemic brought the future of payments to the here and now. “Digital services that were once pitched as conveniences became necessary solutions that were developed to fill a specific need of the moment and are now integrated into everyday life. Products that benefit both consumers and businesses such as virtual credit cards, Real-Time Payments, and embedded payment features were fast tracked into the mainstream.”
While necessity proved to be a positive springboard for the payments industry overall, Carstensen knows it hasn’t been easy for many. Disparities in access to career opportunities have always been a very real barrier for women and the gap has only increased during the pandemic with an unprecedented number of women dropping from the workforce. When or even if they return, they may find themselves further behind than they did in 2019.
“Mentoring,” she says, “is less about me sharing my wisdom and more about finding ways to make connections and discover resources to break down barriers on the path to success. My primary goal is to create a network of sustainable support that can have a long-lasting impact throughout my mentees’ careers. This can only be done by first creating a safe environment where people are comfortable expressing what they need to succeed.”
Carstensen says she is proud to be a sponsor of the Women in Payments Leadership Program at U.S. Bank. This program goes beyond the typical large group format style of career coaching to a program comprised of a small, supportive cohort with dedicated sponsors that prioritize an employee’s personal career path preferences. With the success of its first group of participants in its pilot year, U.S. Bank hopes this program can be scaled and available more broadly across the company.
“I am honored to make the Most Influential Women in Payments list,” says Carstensen, “I know this honor comes to me as I have benefited from great mentors and sponsors throughout my career thus far. I truly hope that I can pay this forward and have the same influence with team members and those that I have the privilege of mentoring and sponsoring.”
When asked if there is anything she’s learned in the last two years that she has worked into her mentorships, she reflects on how the unexpected pivots in her career helped her build resiliency. “I collided with the new normal, and struggled, but remembered two things: ‘It’s not always about balance, it’s about integration’ and ‘perfect is the enemy of good.’ I gave my team, and myself permission to focus on where the need was greatest at the moment, recognizing it is better to be compassionate, honest, transparent, and good. We keep rallying!”
Kristy Carstensen, along with the other women who earn a spot on the 2022 list will be celebrated during the annual American Banker Payments Forum conference, taking place May 16-18 in Phoenix.
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