Integrating work into life

Named one of banking’s 15 powerful women this year by American Banker, Becky Lansen of Synchrony in Stamford is part of a trend to move beyond the work-life balance to seeing work and life as part of a whole, even as she spearheaded the creation of Venmo’s first credit card.

At the height of the pandemic, many of Synchrony’s employees worked from home instead of at the financial firm’s collegial Stamford campus. Nevertheless, Becky Lansen, senior vice president and general manager of Synchrony’s Venmo portfolio, was able to take the PayPal money transfer app’s first credit card from conception to implementation despite her team being scattered across the map and seldom able to meet in person. It’s part of the reason she recently received an American Banker Women in Banking Next Award, naming her one of the 15 most powerful women in banking.

“We built a really significant team,” Lansen says. “It was a 100-person team to help build and launch this credit card. We used agile methodologies to make sure we were  100% aligned on what we were trying to deliver.”

What the team delivered was a product that should appeal to credit card users, even if they don’t have Venmo, owing to a dynamic rewards program. Instead of making customers choose a category for their 3% cash back, the card adjusts rewards so that customers always get 3% and 2% cash back to the highest and second-highest spending categories respectively. Everything else has a flat 1% cash back.

For Venmo users, it has even more benefits. “A good example of it is we have the ability to split payments and have it pay your credit card bill,” Lansen says. “So if you and I went to dinner and I paid for it, you could either scan my credit card or I could go into my Venmo app and find the transaction and I could ask you to pay me $10 for dinner and then what you pay me goes directly to the credit card bill.

“That’s a perfect example of how we were able to take Venmo’s front-end customer experience and Synchrony’s back-end banking experience and bring them together to create something that was honestly never done in the market before.” 

Working remotely to bring a product like this to market was, of course, also brand new. Lansen says that making a corporate campus a hub rather than the only “office” has had a lasting, beneficial effect that is nonetheless not without its challenges.

“Communication was incredibly important,” she says. “So we had daily stand-ups to ensure that we were marching in the same direction, taking down barriers. The underlying theme of all that in my mind is that we brought every function in what was a very cross-functional endeavor along for the product journey.”

Lansen drew on her experience earning an M.B.A. from New York University, her time in General Electric’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program and her decade-spanning career at Synchrony. In her tenure with the company, she helped build out its digital deposits business after its purchase of MetLife Bank, essentially a new online banking system. Her work in strategic planning during Synchrony’s IPO (initial public offering) in 2014 as well as a stint in the firm’s Health and Wellness Division also yielded valuable insights, including the importance of having a connection that is not solely job-related. 

“We had to work through hurdles and celebrate wins,” Lansen says. “We also carved out time to connect as people. That’s one of the biggest things with my team today. I love that we share videos of someone’s dance recital. Or if they got a new dog, they always have a picture of that.”

In addition to working on diversity and inclusion initiatives, Lansen has also helped launch a program in which employees have opportunities to ask questions of and interact with Synchrony’s top leadership. These events have helped maintain an office identity.

“Synchrony put the mechanisms in place to allow us to continue to innovate together,” Lansen says, “and we will continue to build the culture. I would say the Venmo team is just an example of the holistic culture that Synchrony is creating.

“Recently, I heard that it is no longer work-life balance, it’s work-life integration. I really like the term because some of the people who may have been Stamford-based originally have moved to alternate locations.

“I’m an example,” she adds of her commute to Stamford from her home in Rhode Island.  “I have two new dogs (Sava, a Pug, and Rhody, a 6-month-old ‘full-fledged mutt’). We walk on the beach every evening and watch the sunsets. We go kayaking in the morning.

“Things that used to be vacation only for me have now been integrated into my life, and I love that,” she said. “I love that flexibility. I could probably name each of my team members and give an example of how they’ve integrated work and life together.”

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