Executive Spotlight Series with Fenella Kim from Reliance Star Payment Services
Can you tell me a bit about your company and its role in
the payments industry?
Reliance Star Payments is a
fast-growing national merchant services provider working across multiple
industry in both private and government sectors. Our comprehensive electronic payment
processing and acceptance solutions include credit, debit, gift / loyalty,
check conversion, ATM sales and service, cash advance, remote deposit capture,
mobile payment, e-Commerce gateways and more. We use consultative approach and
tailor solutions to meet the needs of all sizes and types of merchants, plus
deliver outstanding multilingual customer support. We’re proud that our firm
has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and is a certified
Minority Women Owned Enterprise (MWBE).
What has made you into the business leader you are today?
My leadership style continues to
evolve as my business grows. I have
gained incredible knowledge and insight from the other women entrepreneurs
encountered through the Women Presidents’ Organization, a global peer advisory group I joined in 2013. We meet
monthly and together, with the assistance of a professional facilitator, we
address issues. This unique forum is invaluable and has provided tremendous
support and guidance in addressing a number of leadership and management issues
from personnel to vendor sourcing, office space, creating a positive company
culture and more. For the times when there’s uncertainty about an impending
decision, I can actually get feedback and opinions from other experienced CEOs
who are in similar situations or been through similar situations.
Striving toward entrepreneurship
was instilled in me at an early age. Growing up in Asia, my parents always
said, “whatever you want, you need to go and earn.” I took that literally and
started working at age12 in a local business after school and weekends. After
college graduation, I realized that I wanted to determine my own destiny. These
early experiences eventually lead to starting my own business at the age of 14
in education and then my 2nd business in the payment industry.
Being multi-lingual (Fenella Kim
speaks 5 languages - English, Cantonese, , Mandarin, Hokkien-Min Nan, Indonesian- helps me
to relate to and understand others who come from different cultural
backgrounds. It can improve business transactions, particularly on a global
What was one of the biggest hurdles in scaling your
One of our biggest challenges is
in finding and retaining talent. As a smaller company, it’s more difficult to
attract qualified personnel because we are in direct competition with
well-known global companies that work in our industry. Yet, there are many
benefits in employment at smaller companies like ours. We pride ourselves in
paying more attention to employees and our clients. We encourage each of our
employees to receives certification training as a Certified Payments Professional (CPP). This designation instills trust in us among our clients
but also demonstrates our investment in employees.
What industry trends do you see?
The speed of payment
transactions continue to evolve and quicken as new technology becomes
available. Ultimately, consumers are looking for the ease of doing business-
both purchase and payment - on demand, and want a seamless customer experience
no matter when and how they pay, particularly on mobile devices. Developing a
mobile system that combines functionality which integrates with the payment and
mobile wallet is paramount as are the abilities to track loyalty, rewards,
spending and inventory. Data analytics continues to be one of our most powerful
What is the biggest business mistake you wish you never
past, I tended to make decisions too quickly, so my advice to others is be
pragmatic and also cautious. Never conduct business based on a handshake.
Always have a legal contract in place and engage an experienced attorney to
review it. Through running my business, I’ve learned that having a team of
professionals in place, a team of individuals who work and collaborate
together, is critical.
What is the biggest opportunity for women entrepreneurs
in the banking/payments industry today?
Our industry continues to be
male-dominated. Women have enormous opportunities in STEM-focused fields to
make a unique mark. Since so many of us juggle work and family, women tend to
be more detail oriented. This allows us to pay more attention to and deliver
what clients want.