Skip to content

Five Questions With: Maryam Saeed, Head of Risk, Visa Canada

She fosters a culture of curiosity and resilience

Maryam Saeed is the Head of Risk at Visa Canada. Joining in 2021, she is responsible for leading payment risk and fraud prevention for the Canadian payment ecosystem. Over her career, she has held multiple roles across Commercial and Retail Banking globally with HSBC and SCB. Known for her ability to successfully navigate her roles as a leader, Maryam is a recipient of the 2024 Report on Business’ Best Executive Award by the Globe and Mail.

What was the biggest lesson you have learned as a leader? How did this shape your leadership style and how you navigate your current role as Head of Risk at Visa Canada?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of adaptability and continuous learning. This lesson has shaped my leadership style to be one that encourages innovation and continuous growth, both personally and within my team. As my career progressed, I grew more comfortable making bold choices and taking measured risks. It’s okay to fail, and in fact, learning from your failures and resiliency is key. This aligns perfectly with Visa’s leadership principles, calling us to lead with courage.

As the Head of Risk at Visa Canada, I navigate my role by fostering a culture of curiosity and resilience. We are constantly adapting to new technologies and strategies to combat fraud and manage risk. This involves staying informed about industry developments, encouraging team members to bring forward innovative ideas, and being willing to pivot when necessary.

In your experience, what role does gender diversity play in the success and effectiveness of organizations? How can more women be encouraged to take leadership positions in their sector?

With the “Voice of the Customer” being a key ingredient in the success of any organization, ensuring diversity means meeting their customers in a genuine way. The presence of women in leadership roles is not just a matter of fairness or representation; it is a critical factor in the overall success and effectiveness of an organization.

As more women assume leadership positions, organizations become more diverse, inclusive, and successful. The benefits of women leaders are clear and multifaceted, ranging from enhanced decision-making and risk management to improved financial performance and the promotion of other forms of diversity.

Encouraging more women to take up leadership positions involves both societal changes and specific initiatives within organizations. We must foster a culture that values equity, representation, and respect.

Technological advancements and automation are reshaping various industries. How can employees stay ahead in the face of these changes? What skills or areas of expertise would you suggest individuals focus on to remain adaptable in a technology-driven workforce?

We’re in an exciting time where technological advancement and automation are moving at a rapid pace. To keep pace, we need to adapt and embrace continuous learning. This includes understanding how to use digital tools and platforms, interpreting and using data effectively, and leveraging Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) alongside problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence — all are key in the modern workplace. And while we don’t have to master everything, we can really get a lot out of remaining curious and digging deeper into the areas that are most relevant to us.

I don’t start anything with a plain sheet of paper anymore — I use Generative AI to learn, to create, and organize my life; it’s my personal assistant for everything! While it may displace the more mundane tasks for me, it also creates new opportunities for creativity and critical thinking.

As the workplace continues to evolve, what major trends do you see impacting the workforce, regardless of industry or sector? How do you believe these trends will shape the future of work?

There’s been a lot of change in how we work over the last couple of years due to technological advancements, major events like the COVID-19 pandemic, and demographic and societal shifts led by the creator economy, to name a few. Here are a few trends I’m seeing:

  1. Many organizations have recognized the benefits of adopting hybrid work models, which enable people to manage their own productivity more effectively.
  2. Generative AI is reshaping the nature of how we work. This rapid technological change necessitates continuous learning, sparking a trend of upskilling and reskilling in response to this need.
  3. The emergence of the gig economy — freelance or contract work — can offer flexibility and autonomy, creating a more fluid workplace globally.
  4. In my opinion, the most important trend we’re seeing is a growing focus on sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It’s our duty as global citizens to care for the environment and communities where our people live and work. These contributions have a positive impact socially, but they also impact an organization’s bottom line as employees, customers, and investors are valuing these efforts increasingly.
What excites you about the future?

There is so much to be excited about! The future is a vortex of possibilities, supercharged by technological innovations. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science are transforming sectors as varied as finance, healthcare, transportation, education, and even space exploration. We’re evolving into a digital civilization that’s globally interconnected, and this transformation is altering the very fabric of our existence, from the way we interact and shop to how we consume entertainment.

What excites me most is the future of digital payments. The rising popularity of digital currencies, mobile wallets, and wearable devices for transactions is propelling frictionless and convenient financial experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) empowers everyday devices to handle payments, and social media platforms are evolving to allow users to transfer funds within their apps. This democratization of payments for everyone everywhere is at the core of what we do at Visa.

Unleashing the power of AI in payments is a seismic shift, providing robust security against fraudulent transactions, enhancing user experiences, and crafting personalized payment journeys. There has been a material rise in the adoption of secure technologies like tokens and blockchain with biometric technologies such as fingerprints and facial recognition; this is strengthening security, surpassing traditional methods.

These advancements paint a future for digital payments that’s not just incredibly thrilling but also packed with untapped potential for further innovation. However, as we unlock these opportunities, we must also navigate the challenges that come with it, particularly in areas like ethics and privacy. But it’s the very act of steering through these complexities that adds to the thrill of what lies ahead.