Alliance data (NYSE: ADS) is a leading provider of data-driven marketing, loyalty and payments solutions serving large consumer-driven industries. Valerie Greer joined the company as Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer in June 2020 to help lead the strategic transformation of the business.
We spoke recently about the recent transformation, confidence and role that partnerships have played in his career.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You took on this role in June 2020, when most people were sitting in their jobs. Why did you choose this organization? What were your goals?
Yes, we were a quarter of the pandemic. I had known Alliance Data from my years in the industry. I started in household finance at HSBC, then moved to Chase, where I expanded to co-brands, small businesses, consumers, and several other product sets. I then moved to Citi, where I ran the co-branding business.
ADS has always been a competitor. I was excited about the opportunity to take an organization with a strong DNA in corporate partnerships – which was historically focused on payments – and think about investments in critical areas focused on growth and success. long term durability.
Leadership was a key factor in my integration. The new CEO, Ralph Andretta, had just started. His vision of where the organization could go aligned with mine. It was a very welcoming environment, even when our collaboration was mainly on video calls.
Have you been integrated into the pandemic without face-to-face meetings?
I’ve been here for a little over a year, and yes, until recently I was only doing video calls with most people. We just got to meet in person and sit down in a 3D version. It is a real treat when we return to the office. Reconnecting with people is uplifting and very energizing.
Sounds like you have collaboration and partnership in your DNA. What attracted you to the partner model?
You’re right. I’ve been in the partnership space for a long time and I love it. It’s a very dynamic industry. One day you might be talking to someone in the beauty segment, the next day it might be the home improvement segment and then the hotel industry or the airline industry. You are constantly getting to know the different industries and what is important to them.
You are competing with companies a hundred times the size of ADS. How do you position yourself against this and what is your strategy for selling against it?
If you think of Alliance Data five years ago, it was very partnership-oriented and focused on specialty clothing (soft lines). There has been a very strong integration in point of sale and in loyalty programs, and a lot of exchanges and management around data.
The company focused on data to drive engagement, new accounts, and maximize average order value. It was the fundamental foundation of the organization. He competed exceptionally well.
Then, over the last year, I invested in a larger product set.
We took the core of the flexible lines and the supporting data and analytics and extended it to the co-brand. You can imagine that loyalty and data are very easy to leverage across all product sets. We take a consumer perspective on these industries, but understand that they have very different strategies in terms of engagement.
We are now in the portfolio of one in six customers in the United States. We focus on the relationship and continue to develop it as people’s needs grow and change over time. For example, last winter we bought financial technology company Bread. They offer “buy now, pay later” installment loans.
We’ve taken a private label-focused product company and built to the point that our total addressable market is over $ 7 trillion. We have the installment loan, we have “buy now, pay later”, we have co-branding, we have private label, and uniquely all of these products could be white label. They can be in the brand of our partner of choice, it is a differentiated value. We are now able to provide the consumer and the merchant with consumer choice based on what is right and relevant to them using data and analytics.
I think about the confidence that comes with being in one in six wallets. It is a fantastic statistic. You are basically the back office that does all of this. I guess one in six people don’t know you’re in their wallet.
You are absolutely right. We are looking at our brands. We want to be known to come and add value. There are other models – for example, encouraging customers to download your app and then use that app as the starting point of the buying journey, as opposed to the merchant as the starting point of the buying journey. In many ways, this model disintermediates the trader by changing the original destination point. For us, this initial destination will always be the merchant. It’s a different lens through which we run the business.
What is a sales manager? Are you a CRO under another name?
In our space, a CRO can also be a chief risk officer, but yes, they largely manage the revenue side of the business. In my field, I have client partnerships and I have set up a marketing center of excellence. I have a new business strategy, networks, and a new digital team, so we have a full digital product team. Bread is also part of my organization. We generate the organization’s revenue through our go-to-market strategy – sales and product.
From the start for me, one of the great things about ADS was the talent. There are people in my team who have been here for a long time – they are super talented, really know the space, share that strong DNA on the partnerships and private label side. I added some leadership around the digital side.
About your leadership – if you think of a two-by-two matrix, where we want to head is at the top and to the right. I wonder if there were any pivotal moments where you could see that you and your career were going in this direction?
Yeah, when I got out of my comfort zone and got into business development, the M&A side of the business. There were very clear goals and expectations, and whether or not you were successful was visible to everyone in the organization. It was a lot of pressure.
Twelve to 18 months later, I was running a successful business in an area which at the time was very male dominated (and still is to a large extent). This experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to try new things, even in areas where I was not the subject matter expert. I had great mentors during this time who encouraged me, and I learned that I can lean on and take what I need.
The ability to generate sustained growth has placed my brand in the market. I think it is important. Many M&A specialists can drive growth, but sustainability is not part of their mandate. I brought a holistic vision that said, “This is a partnership that brings people together and is sustainable over the long term.
Learning is essential. I believe that you can broaden your skills and develop your confidence to excel in areas where you never thought you would be successful, and I try to encourage others to do so. Because there are always good reasons to say no to an opportunity, and sometimes you just need that extra little reason to say yes.