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  • Jacqueline Tran

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Akita Somani, SVP, BNPL/ POS Lending at U.S. Bank (Elavon)


Akita started her career working with her entrepreneur parents, tackling a multitude of roles from sales and marketing to pricing and logistics. After her MBA, she commenced her journey in consumer banking, building deposit products and wealth management solutions. As a product manager, she built a strong foundation in banking and over time, expanded her remit to defining and executing on business strategy with key internal and external stakeholders. She took these skills and applied them in different banks across geographies, eventually developing a deeper expertise and affinity for payments. With an understanding of customer needs, big picture vision/ strategy, products and solutions, she transitioned to business development, collaborating with clients on creating innovative payment solutions.  


Elavon is owned by U.S. Bank (NYSE: USB), the fifth-largest bank in the United States, and provides end-to-end payment processing solutions and services to more than 1.3 million customers in the United States, Europe, and Canada. As the leading provider for airlines and a top five provider in hospitality, healthcare, retail, and public sector/education, Elavon’s innovative payment solutions are designed to solve pain points for businesses from small to the largest global enterprises.


Akita has spent over two decades in Financial services across Asia Pacific, EMEA and US. In that time she has launched several firsts: first debit card and Biometric ATM in India, first offers and spend management platform in Asia Pacific designed specifically for Small Businesses, a personalized offers platform for one of the large global banks, and now an innovative point-of-sale lending solution in the US. A number of these developments were enabled by game-changing partnerships with FinTechs and technology providers. Akita has combined her knowledge base and experience, with a quest for innovation and emerging technologies to solve key pain points for consumers and businesses, centered on delivering seamless customer and employee experiences. In this journey, the most significant accomplishment has been the relationships and the resulting collaboration amongst industry players to drive impact and progress in the FinTech/ Financial Services space.


In any role, Akita believes it is important to step outside one’s comfort zone and take risks that play to one’s strengths and expand the scope of how you apply those. One of the ways to do this is to take a stretch assignment, raise your hand to get involved with a high impact initiative that will leverage your skills and provide high visibility with meaningful outcomes. Applying oneself beyond the boundaries of the role and contributing to the broader vision and execution of the company’s priorities will make a difference.



More on Akita

Where you currently live: New York City

Living arrangement: Apartment

Family at home: 14-year-old daughter

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Favorite hobby: Writing blog posts on city life in the different cities I have lived in.

Favorite show to binge: The Morning Show

Favorite fintech media:  Pymnts.com by Karen Webster, keeps me up to speed with the latest and greatest in payments including the people involved. I like Karen’s independent perspective on some of these topics.


What is one piece of advice someone told you that resonated with you that can give to other women in FinTech?    

Each person has their special skills, strengths, and passions. Identify your “superpowers”, what makes you unique and effective, and articulate your story in those terms. Admire yourself for who you are, the credit goes to you!



What's the best job decision you ever made?

Sticking with my passion of delivering exceptional customer experiences, embedding innovation and creativity in everything I do, working with leaders who inspire me. The icing on the cake is being able to combine that with my passion for diversity, equity and inclusion creating positive impact for our customers, colleagues and communities.



Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?

Transitioning from business development in my previous roles to program management and transformation in my current role. I had led large scale transformation and incorporated program management components as part of high priority initiatives in the past, but it was not something I had done as a specialized function. Much to my surprise, it led me to get engaged in future-facing high impact assignments in the wider organization.



What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past?

Being authentic and true to who you are at your core, and understanding what makes you unique and special. This leads to a well-placed self-esteem and humility without the need for external validation to define your identity. For someone like me, who finds work as an important part of my life, I learnt the hard way that without this, challenging situations at work become personal and hugely impact our sense of self, making it hard to tackle them with calmness and objectivity.



Do you have any productivity hacks?  What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance?


Leveraging technology to schedule tasks and reminders on my calendar and syncing across devices, rather than keeping everything in my head.

 

Delayed delivery for emails and Teams messages: this allows me to utilize my productive pockets of time to construct these, and still deliver it to others in time zones that work for them.

 

To-do lists: each evening at the end of my workday I create a to-do list (mostly in priority order) for things I want to attend to the next day (this includes work activities and other personal to-dos like compiling tax information!). This helps me shut down my task-oriented brain for the day, whilst feeling prepared for the next day.

 

Booking holidays at regular intervals through the year to have something to look forward to and a crucial component of maintaining work-life balance! It helps me even more if the holiday involves being out and about, so I have little time or inclination to be glued to my phone/ email.



Daily Diary

6:00 am: Wake up to prepare breakfast and lunch for my 14 year old

7:00 am: meditate for 15 – 20 minutes, followed by a cup of green tea with lemon and honey and catch up with my parents on a call

8:00 am: Get ready for work and head to the office

8:45 am: Grab my first cup of coffee and get ready for the first meeting

9:00 am – 5.00 pm: Meetings (in person and virtual) ranging from team interactions to 1:1 catch-ups with stakeholders and DEI related engagements

6:00 pm: Leave work and head home

7:00 pm: Dinner with my daughter, followed by some television (we watch together)

10:00 pm: Some reading and then bedtime!





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