As SEB veteran and former P27 board chair Paula da Silva takes over as CEO of P27 Nordic Payments, she discusses the challenge of transforming payments in the Nordics and her priorities at P27 CEO.
It’s been nearly three months since the P27 board announced its decision to appoint Paula da Silva as CEO.
And da Silva, who served as chair of the P27 board until January 2021, is eager to get started.
“I’m really looking forward to getting involved more directly in the operations,” she explains.
“I’ve been a part of the P27 family since the beginning and am excited to enter this new phase and have a chance to be more hands-on.”
Da Silva spent the bulk of her long banking career with SEB, one of P27’s owner banks. She served most recently as SEB’s Head of Transaction Services, a role she held when the idea for starting P27 was born.
From 2009 to 2019 she also served on the board of Swedish clearing house Bankgirot, which P27 acquired in late 2020. Thus, da Silva’s background makes her uniquely suited to take the reins at P27 at a critical point in the company’s development.
“I really believe in the vision and concept of P27,” she says.
“I spent many years at SEB working on many of the same issues but from the other side. So, I’m eager to now work across markets and with different stakeholders to confront some of the enormous changes taking place in the payments market.”
Technological innovation, rising security concerns, as well as increasing regulatory burdens all contribute to a challenging and fast-changing payments landscape.
“The market is moving really fast. And this can sometimes lead people to expect that everything should happen instantly,” says da Silva.
But the current Nordic payments infrastructure transformation certainly won’t happen overnight – even if many market players wish it could.
“Some may characterize our three- to five-year timeline as lengthy. And while it might seem like a long time, when you consider what we are attempting to do – cross-country, cross-currency – I’d argue it’s a rather short timeline,” she explains.
Da Silva suspects the expectation of rapid change has been fuelled in part by a proliferation of Nordic fintech innovation around the “end-client interface” of payments.
But developing a stand-alone application for a specific type of payment transaction is completely different from rebuilding the entire underlying payments infrastructure for a region with multiple currencies.
“All these apps are great, and as end-users, we all appreciate them. They also have one thing in common – they rely on our payment rails,” says da Silva.
A new fintech-built application is like building a new train, she explains, whereas what P27 is doing is comparable to rebuilding the rail network.
“Our task is more complex by many orders of magnitude. It will take time, and I think the goal of delivering a new payments platform in three to five years is something everyone at P27 understands is a big challenge but is also extremely proud of.”
With so much to accomplish, da Silva plans to hit the ground running. And one of her top priorities as P27 CEO will be to take the next step and equip P27 with the structure and resources it needs to deliver on its commitments in the short and long term.
“We’ve got great people, and we need to get even more great people to join us, so we can do even more,” she explains.
“I’ll be working closely with the management group to set up a good plan to help make that happen.”