A CEO Q&A with Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., Chairman & CEO, Visa Inc.

Business Roundtable
5 min readAug 24, 2020

What are several of the most important decisions you have made for Visa Inc. employees this year?

When COVID-19 struck, my immediate priority was the health and well-being of our employees and their families.

First, in March, I pledged to our 20,000 employees there would be no COVID-19 related layoffs in calendar year 2020. This gave employees peace of mind so they could focus on their work and their families.

Second, we made the decision to give employees the option to work from home through the 2020 calendar year. Today, the vast majority of Visa’s employees are working from home, and while things are clearly different, the people of Visa have adjusted and we are operating quite efficiently and effectively. While we will look at bringing employees back into our offices on a site-by-site basis in stages, the flexibility to remain working remotely is the right thing to do at this time for our communities, our employees and their families. It simply seems wrong for Visa employees to be crowding transit systems and roads when we have the flexibility to continue full business continuity while working from home.

Third, given that creating community for employees is more important than ever in a virtual environment, I record weekly videos for our employees globally, providing updates on our business operations. I also have been dropping into virtual happy hours and team meetings. In some ways, I am more connected with employees than ever.

Fourth, in recognition of the challenges working from home and balancing personal and professional responsibilities brings, we have re-invested in employees’ mental health by creating a mental health and wellbeing digital and peer community. To date, we have hosted over 10 mental health and wellbeing events.

I am so impressed and grateful for the resiliency, hard work and flexibility our employees have shown throughout the pandemic. We are dedicated to ensuring they continue to feel supported and heard during these challenging times.

What are actions pertaining to racial equity that you are most proud of championing in your role as CEO?

For four centuries, Black and African American women and men have experienced many forms of social injustice and discrimination. It is offensive, frustrating and unacceptable. It must stop. At Visa, we are committed to doing our part.

To that end, we recently announced the next steps in our journey to drive inclusion and diversity across our company:

· We are committing to increasing the number of U.S. under-represented VPs and above by 50% in three years, and we are increasing the number of U.S. under-represented colleagues within Visa overall by 50% in five years.

· We are initiating new mentorship and enhanced sponsorship programs for U.S. Black and African American employees to help us meet these goals.

· Additionally, we are making a $10 million investment in the Visa Black Scholars and Jobs program. All scholars who meet their commitments will be guaranteed a full-time job with Visa after graduation.

We are treating inclusion and diversity as a business imperative with plans, commitments and specific goals that we will track rigorously. Visa is 100% committed to being a part of the solution to address the racial injustice and social inequalities that have plagued our communities for far too long.

What have you learned in the past year that will inform the decisions you make for Visa Inc. moving forward?

While there is uncertainty in the short term, we remain confident about our long-term strategy and our ability to make a positive difference in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated years of changes relative to buying and payments into the span of a few months, and we believe that a large portion of these massive shifts are here to stay. Here are three examples:

· Ecommerce Growth. We have seen a significant acceleration of ecommerce growth as a result of COVID-19. Card not present spend (excluding travel) has grown 25% every week since mid-April, which is two times the pre-COVID-19 growth rate. In the U.S., Visa credentials active in ecommerce excluding travel were over 12% higher in June than in January.

· Increased Touchless Payments Penetration. Consumers, merchants and governments are embracing the value of touchless payments, like tap to pay, as a replacement for cash. They are seeing it as a fast, safe and clean way to pay at checkout, as it requires no contact with another person or terminal. In the last three months, nearly 50 countries improved tap to pay penetration by more than five percentage points and over 10 countries increased by 10 points or more. In the U.S., we added over 80 million contactless cards in the first six months of calendar year 2020.

· Growing Desire for Fast Funds. Consumers are also demanding timely access to their money. We have seen an over 100% increase in year over year earned wage access transactions through Visa Direct, which enables Visa to “push” money to a consumer debit card or bank account.

Visa’s role as the engine of global commerce and enabling the movement of money for everyone, everywhere is more relevant than ever. We remain confident in our ability to make a positive difference and help the world get back to business.

How would you describe your purpose as a leader?

Great leaders and great companies encourage leadership at every level via words and actions. As leaders, we set the tone for company culture — we define the strategy for growth, we allocate and prioritize our capital, we build strong teams and act as role models. In fulfilling my purpose as a leader, I focus on curiosity, courage, and communication.

Curiosity is about looking around corners, trying to connect dots, asking more questions and trying to unearth insights. There are always more things to learn, more to do, more ways to do things, and better ways to do things. Curiosity is the key to discoveries — big and small. Curiosity is a way to distinguish yourself and curiosity makes your work more fulfilling.

I also always try to act with courage. Courage is about speaking up, being a truth seeker, and stepping up when challenges surface. It is about making tough decisions and leading well and confidently when there is no real playbook.

And a leader must communicate often, clearly, confidently and genuinely. We believe in transparency and we want our employees to feel connected, which requires frequent conversation where we as leaders listen as well as talk.

Curiosity, courage and communication have helped me lead Visa during the past year. We had to be curious and open to new ways of working and running our business and courageous enough to step up and announce real actions to help our Black and African American colleagues and communities — once and for all.



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