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Digital Leaders – Q&A with Roland Schaar

In our next Digital Leaders spot we talk to Roland Schaar, CIO of Paysafe.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your back ground and how you came to be where you are today.

I am 45 years old, married and have four children aged 8 to 19 years old. I studied Telematics at the Technical University in Austria. I worked with different Internet technologies in the late 90s, and experienced the first Internet hype and disappointments in the early 2000s, which perhaps contributed to the several years I have spent in consulting and banking. In 2010, I joined paysafecard, now a Paysafe company, as CIO and had the honour to grow with the business after the merger with Skrill and Optimal Payments.

What is your specialist skill set?

I am a techie at heart. When I was studying at the Technical University in Graz, Austria, the internet was on the rise. I remember the days when the Netscape browser was a novelty and discovering new websites every day was exciting.

I am passionate about new technologies and I also enjoy working for companies that see information and technology as an enabler, rather than a cost factor. In the past, I worked for a large global consultancy company which was important in my development in understanding and explaining very complex technologies in everyday language

What’s in your toolbox?

During my career I’ve had the opportunity to work for both start-up companies and big corporations. I have worked for centralised organisations and global companies. I’ve had the opportunity to train junior team members and the chance to work with very senior and experienced colleagues. The experiences of working in very different environments and under different pressures has helped me to develop a broad toolbox to choose from. I do not believe in a right or wrong management approach. There is just the right approach for every environment. You always need to judge what works best in your current situation.

What’s your style of leadership?

It really depends on the situation. Wherever possible I like to empower my team and provide them with the tools and confidence to be the best version of themselves. I want them to be challenged and to grow from experience. Success can be fun. If you dare to come out of your comfort zone, you will likely learn something new and develop in various levels. Ideally, I’d like to say that is the leadership style I practise most of the time, but if the situation requires I also take control.

How do you ensure you get the job done?

Successful change starts with the ‘why’. Firstly, people need to understand why a change is required and why it is important. The next step is to have a clear target and get people on-board with the idea, and if the team is fully committed to getting the job done, you are nearly there. During the journey, understanding all of the blockers that cross your path and trying to resolve them effectively and quickly is important to reaching goals.

Tell us about your personal life

I am married and have four children aged from 8 to 19 years old. My kids keep me young and I love to learn about new internet trends with them and generally keep up with innovative technologies that pop-up. I also love all types of water sports and winter sports including skiing and hockey in winter. On top of this, I am a passionate gamer. My favourite game is League Of Legends.

Where do you see your sector heading in the next five years?

The payments industry is going through a tremendous level of change right now. New players come out of the blue and are competing with companies that have been there for a long time. I see a large amount of market consolidation going on. The number of mergers and acquisitions is growing every year. Although there are many players on the market there are only a few very profitable companies. I believe that we will see more consolidation during the next few years. Paysafe will also continue to grow with acquisitions in addition to organic growth.

How do you keep up to date with what’s going on in your industry?

First of all, I am curious. I believe that curiosity and the willingness to be a pioneer is key for any major innovation. There are four major sources that I rely on most to keep on top of industry innovations. These are: peers, industry events, suppliers and internal research.

What are the biggest risks that companies in your sector face today – and how do you mitigate against them?

Cybercrime is definitely a big threat in the entire industry. Cybercriminals are advancing their technologies and targeting specific companies. As a consequence, the security defence industry is booming. Security professionals are a rare resource. It is important that you are able to attract the best of them to work with you. Paysafe is committed to continuously growing and improving our security technology, people and processes. I am pleased that the business unit leads of Paysafe find security as important as I do.

What are the best and the hardest jobs or projects you’ve dealt with to date (you don’t have to name names) and why?

The moments I cherish the most are when my team achieves goals that are important stepping-stones. In these situations, how we work together is essential in tackling and resolving complex issues that come up. Nonetheless, these challenges can really help us to grow individually and as teams, and in the end celebrating success together is so much more rewarding.

For instance, in my career I have been brought in to put out fires a couple of times. I’ve had to manage projects that were highly flawed, were not progressing and were highly costly. There was a common denominator in these situations, where previous managers had tried to resolve the situation by hiring more people. I always try to look at things from a fresh perspective to really understand where the core of a problem lies.

 Where to next?  (Tell us about your ambitions for the future).

Paysafe is great place to work with endless opportunities. We will continue to diversify our business and enter new markets. I love the innovative, creative and challenging the status quo aspects of working at Paysafe. It’s never boring and you can get a real sense of achievement and that the work you do is recognised by your colleagues

On a personal level my hobby is artificial intelligence which has made significant advances in the past year. I believe there will be several opportunities to apply this technology to various sectors including the payments industry, so I definitely recommend keeping an eye out for more on this front.

In 1982, I wrote my first program on my first ever computer, for a Commodore VC20. I wanted to write a program that could give intelligent answers to a broad set of generic questions. I had a pioneering concept, but the available memory in my computer (3583 bytes) limited the complexity of the program. Nowadays, this is no longer an issue, so maybe I’ll still have a chance to come up with the next big technology creation of our time…

Thanks to Roland for his answers today.  

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