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CIO interview with Brad Strock, CIO of PayPal

Few e-commerce companies have seen the ups and downs (and ups) of the Internet as much as PayPal. CIO Brad Strock explained how one of the first big startups is adapting to the mobile age, evolving into the end-all financial platform and working hard to satisfy two distinct customers.

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© 2016 Guerrero Howe, LLC/Photo by Caleb Fox

What is your ultimate goal at PayPal? 

We want to be central and transformative to our customers’ lives. And when we talk about our customers, we’re unique in that we serve consumers and merchants. When it comes to consumers, that means being a central and active part of consumer’s financial lives – from 2-3 times a month to 2-3 times a week, or even more.

For merchants, that means shifting from a button on a site that enables purchasing to being a platform that merchants can build on. 

How has PayPal’s vision shifted as the world has become more mobile?

We’ve embraced this for many years, but the acceleration of mobile and penetration in the markets we serve has… been exponentially growing. On the consumer side, it is speeding up this transition from cash to digital. Truly digital transactions are a relatively small percentage, but the growth is tremendous.

For merchants, it makes it even more important for PayPal to be looked at as a platform – it is purchasing wherever or whenever it is convenient to them. It opens up a huge range of possibilities.

What new challenges do CIOs face today that they didn’t in the past? 

It depends on the company. Technology has been transforming companies for decades, but where in the past it may have been a change to a department or a division, it is now important enough to change their entire business model. It was a subset of industries, but now it is most industries.

PayPal was born digital, so we’re in a different place on that spectrum. What is common is an exponential pace of change. No matter where you are on that spectrum as far as technology changing your business, the opportunities for disruption are happening at a much faster pace.

How are consumers redefining PayPal’s mission?

We’ve got 192 million active customer accounts worldwide, and we’re increasingly trying to show up as a customer champion. Most recently, we announced partnerships with Visa and MasterCard to allow consumers to choose their  payment method.. If we’re going to be a platform, then we’ll have to take a serious look at the long-standing decisions we’ve made along the way.

For merchants, we’ve got 15 million active merchant accounts worldwide and their needs differ from small businesses to big corporations. We are constantly making it easier for them to integrate the PayPal platform through their business.

What big CIO issue today will be completely solved in five years?

Tough question. There are always new problems out there. While it is innovative and great to find new solutions, I think it’s better to look for the next innovative problem. It is the problem that people don’t recognize that is often the most valuable.