Executive Profile: One on One with Ray Iglesias, Ubiquity
Ray Iglesias has come into his own. As CEO of Ubiquity Global Services, he has stepped out of the shadows to take center stage and with it his dream job. He never guessed words from a college friend would turn out to be prophetic and define his journey from disillusioned lawyer to payments industry veteran.
In His Own Words
If I’m not in the office or traveling on business, I’m …
with my wife and four kids. While I’m passionate about business, having healthy, happy kids keeps me grounded. I often work from home when I’m not traveling, and I developed my schedule to reflect a balance.
Tell us something about you not many people know …
I’m a big runner, and I embrace it regardless of what city I’m in around the world. Running has more than physical benefits. It lets me work out things that might be on my mind in an uncluttered way.
What gets me excited every day is …
Knowing that we are providing great service to our clients and meaningful career opportunities to our employees. Going to Manila or El Salvador and seeing that we’re giving so many people great, fulfilling jobs is what makes it exciting. We get so many accolades from our clients. They’re happy clients, and that’s because we have smart people who are positive about their jobs.
What impact do you see proposed regulatory reform having on innovation in the payments industry?
In some ways, regulation is just another puzzle to be solved. Ubiquity has benefited because we help our customers deal with regulations because of our expertise in navigating the regulatory landscape. Winners find the right solutions to get through it.
Any thoughts you’re willing to share on your vision for your future?
I’m at a very good spot. I’ve had so many different roles, and it was a change to become CEO. I’m in the industry I love, in a company I love, with people I love, in a role that I love. For me there’s nothing more to achieve career wise; it would be nice to run Ubiquity for a long time.
Being a lawyer just wasn’t a fit, he says. “I think I always wanted to go into business, but I went to school to be a lawyer and was giving it an honest effort. But, it just wasn’t for me.”
Since college, a friend of Iglesias’s kept telling him they were going to do business together and be great partners for the rest of their lives. Iglesias introduced his college friend to a new friend from the law firm, igniting a dialogue on the business potential for the “next” payments method. The new partners spent much of 1999 researching, examining business models and honing their focus. They saw that companies like Visa and MasterCard had created a foundation on which they could build new businesses. And build they did.
The Ground Floor
In 2000, the three partners founded Clarity Payments Solutions, and the payments industry had one of its first processors specializing in prepaid, with an initial focus on incentive cards.
“It was just debit and credit cards back then,” recalls Iglesias. “This was a time when the idea of McDonalds accepting payments cards seemed far off, and products like GPR hadn’t been fully imagined, but we knew that day was coming, and we saw opportunities for all kinds of payment solutions.”
Business was good (Clarity launched the Visa flexible spending card, for example), but the partners saw what Iglesias describes as a gaping hole. “The industry was really at the formative stage, and there was a dearth of information. A bunch of different companies with no sense of each other was not the right mindset,” he says. “We said, ‘We’re a community and an industry, and we’re all talking the same language—innovation. We need to come together.’”
That thinking defined the creation of the Prepaid Expo (now the All Payments Expo) in 2005, quickly followed by Paybefore in 2006. With a tradeshow forum to fuel an exchange of ideas and a media channel to present industry developments, news and trends, the trio had laid the foundation for the coalescence of the prepaid industry.
Having sold Clarity to TSYS in a $53 million cash deal in 2004, they were looking for their next opportunity and were ready to become deeply involved in a new venture—and that new venture was TxVia.
“We had a chance to take all we’d learned and build a payments processor that could be flexible and scaleable,” Iglesias explains. “On the business side, we saw we could recruit a diverse team from the industry’s best payments processing companies and take our ideas forward to advance the technology and the approach.”
TxVia emerged in 2006 as a payments processing technology pioneer with its platform-as-a-service (PaaS) processing delivery model. The fast, flexible and reliable payments platform directly connected to all of the major payments networks. It grew quickly to support industry leading clients (managing more than 100 million accounts), including Blackhawk Network, Univision Communications and InteliSpend.
The commitment to building TxVia was so significant that the trio, now a seasoned management team as well as business investors and advisors, determined they needed to focus all their energy on the new venture. Prepaid Expo was sold in 2007, followed by Paybefore in 2011. Iglesias says the sale of both to IIR USA made sense. The partners saw a good fit and good caretakers who would continue to grow these important industry channels.
The success of TxVia didn’t go unnoticed. Google, a TxVia client, initiated a dialogue about a possible acquisition. Iglesias explains, “They fell in love with our people and our technology. They were very persuasive and presented us with an exciting place to work.” As CFO, Iglesias guided the sale of TxVia to Google in 2012. Many saw Google’s acquisition as a building block for its wallet payment service. At the time, Google noted the acquisition would allow it to “accelerate innovation toward our full Google Wallet vision.”
Iglesias said the sale opened a new chapter in the partners’ near two-decade long relationship. The three were now working as independent Google employees. That’s when Iglesias was approached by Matthew Nyren. Nyren said he had an opportunity to start a company, and he wanted Iglesias as CEO. While Iglesias’s two partners stayed on at Google, he accepted Nyren’s offer, and together they launched Ubiquity Global Services.
Life in the Spotlight
Founded in 2012, Ubiquity Global Services is an outsourcer with specialized experience in the payments and financial services space, including live voice customer service, risk management, disputes and chargebacks, and ACD/IVR (automatic call distributor/interactive voice response) advanced systems.
At Ubiquity, Iglesias has hit his stride. He and Nyren, who serves as president, have found a great balance, and Iglesias says the years spent outside the spotlight have served him well. “I’ve always been strategic, and being in the background allowed me to be reflective—to observe and analyze. While I’m much more involved in sales now, Matt’s great strengths allow me to continue to be strategic and analytical, which are critical in the decision-making you face every day as a CEO.”
The focus is on three key areas at Ubiquity—payments expertise, culture and technology. In addition to himself and Nyren, Iglesias notes, the rest of the management team also comes from leading payments providers. “One of our goals is to create a career path to nurture happy, fulfilled employees,” he adds. “It’s also about bringing a technology-company feel to a payments outsourcer to create a conspicuously different culture and taking a fresh look at the use of technology. For example, our training program for agents, called InTouch, is run entirely on proprietary software created by Ubiquity.
“We’ve dug deeply into our experience as contributors to the new payments industry to make Ubiquity more than the traditional call center,” he continues. “We have real consultative expertise that cuts costs and improves customer satisfaction. It makes us much more of a partner than a traditional outsourcer.”
There are plenty of challenges to think about. Recognizing the thin profit margins in the prepaid industry, Iglesias says Ubiquity knows that the quality of customer service can make or break a program, and one of the toughest parts of his business is keeping down costs, while still providing exceptional customer service. Ubiquity also offers compliance-related services, such as dispute and chargeback handling. A specialized phone unit, which he describes as “one of our secret sauces,” underlies the strength of Ubiquity’s Reg E. expertise.
A Bond That Won’t Be Broken
Ray Iglesias, Anil Aggarwal and Jonathan Weiner remain partners in other ventures, and they remain good friends. Aggarwal and Weiner, Paybefore Awards Industry Achievement winners in 2013, are immersed in Money 20/20 and have joined Oak HC/FT Partners as venture partners. The fund focuses on investments related to financial tech and health care. As for Iglesias, he says he has found his home.