Executive Spotlight Series with Fenella Kim from Reliance Star Payment Services

by Fenella Kim 0

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 scale.



 What was one of the biggest hurdles in scaling your business?


 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 growth tools.


 What is the biggest business mistake you wish you never made? 


 In the 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.

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