Co­ty­rone woman beat­ing mar­ket expectations

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY ADRIAN WECKLER

Sarah friar from stra­bane tells us how she be­came one of the most in­flu­en­tial fe­male tech ex­ec­u­tives in the united states

Sarah Friar from Co Ty­rone is one of the most in­flu­en­tial fe­male tech ex­ec­u­tives in the United States. As chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Jack Dorsey’s $20bn pay­ments com­pany Square, she is set­ting a pace that has helped the firm to beat mar­ket expectations and triple the share price.

And she is also a co-founder of the co-work­ing space at Ormeau Baths in Belfast and has vis­ited the site to lend her sup­port to start-ups in the re­gion.

Hav­ing guided the com­pany through a US IPO (Ini­tial Pub­lic Of­fer­ing) three years ago, Sarah is now see­ing Square ex­pand rapidly to be­come one of the go-to ser­vices that small firms in the US use to ac­cept pay­ments us­ing their phones as credit card ter­mi­nals.

Her role is not purely to be a num­ber-cruncher. She is also on point when dis­cussing strat­egy, de­vel­op­ment and new prod­ucts at the com­pany.

Square, which was started by Twit­ter founder Mr Dorsey, has soared in the last year.

Its shares are up 200% in that time and al­most 100% in the last six months, leav­ing it just shy of a $20bn val­u­a­tion. (For con­text, this means it is now worth about the same as Twit­ter, which Mr Dorsey also runs as CEO).

Other than com­pe­tent man­age­ment and a rel­e­vant, func­tional prod­uct set, this rise in worth is based partly on the same kind of un­der­ly­ing fac­tors that are el­e­vat­ing newly-formed uni­corns such as Dublin’s In­ter­com, namely

We as women are still not click­ing through into se­nior lead­er­ship that the world is mov­ing on­line to make and ac­cept pay­ments. And for plum­bers or builders or other self-em­ployed peo­ple, tak­ing that pay­ment us­ing an app — and with­out any has­sle from banks about bu­reau­cratic mer­chant ac­counts — is a god­send.

All of this has left Sarah, who’s from Stra­bane and an Ox­ford grad­u­ate, in a good place. Not only is she at the fi­nan­cial helm of one of the key play­ers in the mar­ket, but her per­sonal stake is do­ing nicely. In the last six months, Ms Friar has cashed in shares to the value of $5m with a re­main­ing hold­ing of $17m (around 0.1% of the com­pany).

She grad­u­ated from Ox­ford in 1996 with a Mas­ters de­gree in met­al­lurgy, eco­nom­ics and man­age­ment, and later spent two years at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s School of Busi­ness.

But she is still one of the few fe­male se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at a For­tune 500-ranked tech com­pany.

That hasn’t gone un­no­ticed by Sarah. “I could pull out all the stats, such as the num­ber of women who are CEOS in For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, to show you that it’s atro­cious,” she says.

“Frankly, it hasn’t re­ally im­proved in the last few decades. De­spite ev­ery­thing, we as women are still not click­ing through into se­nior lead­er­ship. Progress is be­ing made, but it’s very slow.”

As a se­nior chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer her­self, Sarah ac­knowl­edges that there is move­ment into the vicin­ity of the top tech jobs through more vis­i­ble fe­male CFOS and COOS. But there’s still a bar­rier around women not get­ting to the top CEO roles.

“If you look at CFOS and COOS in tech com­pa­nies, you have Belinda [John­son, COO] over at Airbnb, you ob­vi­ously have Sh­eryl [Sand­berg, COO] at Face­book and Ruth [Po­rat, CFO] at Google.

“You have these shin­ing lights. But the un­in­ten­tional bi­ases that stop women get­ting to the CEO role are harder to as­sess. And then a lot of women end up as CEO in a ‘glass cliff ’ role, where you get in there but it’s a turn­around job for a com­pany in trou­ble. In that po­si­tion, al­ready your chances are lower than a com­pany with mo­men­tum and growth.

“That’s re­ally what hap­pened to Marissa [Mayer, for­mer CEO of Ya­hoo]. So we women need to crack through not just when things are tough but when they’re grow­ing too.

“It has to be the board that sup­ports it and the com­pany too. That’s where I’m lucky at Square. I feel like I’m su­per sup­ported and that Jack is su­per sup­port­ive to me. I’m in this great po­si­tion at Square and feel like I’m hav­ing a big im­pact.”

In this re­spect, Sarah says that Square has a cul­ture that nat­u­rally re­sults in much more progress by com­pe­tent, qual­i­fied fe­male ex­ec­u­tives at the com­pany. This, she says, looks like a good tem­plate for how other com­pa­nies can adapt.

“There are a cou­ple of things that we can do at a se­nior level,” she says. “There’s def­i­nitely some­thing in show­ing that it can ac­tu­ally hap­pen. For ex­am­ple, 50% of our ex­ec­u­tive team is fe­male. “When women look up the lad­der and want to as­pire to those po­si­tions, we show them that it’s doable.”

Other ba­sic pre­cepts have to be at work at the com­pany too, she says. “A lot of peo­ple get fix­ated on re­cruit­ment, but you have to think of in­clu­sion first and then re­cruit­ment,” adds Sarah.

“If you re­cruit peo­ple into a non-in­clu­sive en­vi­ron­ment, you just push them back out again, it doesn’t fix any­thing. We started with in­clu­sion and then did a lot did of work.

“So if you’re a fe­male engi­neer, we try to make sure that Square is a place where you can be suc­cess­ful, we try to make sure we have the right at­mos­phere. Then from a re­cruit­ment stand­point, we talk about it, we mea­sure it and put a huge push on gen­der. We’re pretty close to 50-50 on gen­der now.”

Ms Friar is con­scious that it doesn’t end there. ‘Di­ver­sity’, if taken se­ri­ously, has to go be­yond gen­der.

“Now we’re look­ing to go back on some of the other met­rics we may not do so well on such as race,” she says.

“I’d also say that it’s good just hav­ing di­ver­gent voices at the ta­ble. It makes for bet­ter de­ci­sions and is a good proxy for why it’s good to have di­ver­sity. And this is not about be­ing strate­gic. You’ve got to be ‘do­ing’. I’d love to see com­pa­nies do­ing this more, boards and se­nior lead­ers.”

As for the busi­ness it­self, it’s busy ex­pand­ing into mar­kets be­yond the US. At present, that means Canada, Aus­tralia, Ja­pan and the UK. Ire­land does not ap­pear to be on the radar for 2018.

“We’re re­ally about dou­bling down in the coun­tries we’ve launched in,” says Sarah. “And we still have a lot of work to do. But we’ve done very well so far and are ahead of plan.

“We’re ba­si­cally start­ing to see all those same symp­toms that we saw in the US, which is to say lots of small busi­nesses start­ing to

Peo­ple tend to want to keep their so­cial and fi­nan­cial apps sep­a­rate need this kind of util­ity. And it’s hap­pen­ing as bank branches close and it’s gen­er­ally more dif­fi­cult to use cash.”

Be­yond small busi­nesses, Square thinks it has spot­ted a valu­able niche for it­self with its ‘Cash’ card. Founder Jack Dorsey re­cently spoke of an “un­der­served, un­der­banked au­di­ence”. He said that peo­ple are us­ing the Cash card for things like Mcdonald’s, Net­flix, Uber and Spo­tify.

“These are ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties you would ex­pect some­one to use a card for,” he told a re­cent earn­ings call, also not­ing that ac­tiv­ity “no­tably” picks up on Fri­days as peo­ple get paid. It ap­pears that Square Cash users are in­creas­ingly send­ing and re­ceiv­ing money from friends and fam­ily.

This “un­der­served” au­di­ence is a phe­nom­e­non that Sarah be­lieves is rel­a­tively un­der­ac­knowl­edged.

“The num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als in the US who don’t have ac­cess to a bank ac­count is shock­ingly high,” she says. “A big rea­son is cost. If you’re a bit lower down the totem pole of wealth, banks want to charge you to keep a min­i­mum bal­ance.

“For a lot of peo­ple it’s pro­hib­i­tive to keep $200, so then they have to pay a fee. There’s also a real prob­lem if they’re over­drawn, where they have a $20 or $30 fee. Our goal with the Cash app is to ef­fec­tively give them an ac­count with­out any fees. We give them a sense of con­trol.”

Sarah also says that oth­ers end up “un­der­banked” not be­cause of im­pe­cu­nity but due a gen­eral dis­trust of the fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

“Many grew up in 2008 and 2009,” she says. “There’s of­ten just this huge dis­trust of banks, whose net pro­moter scores are some­times zero. Or they feel it’s not for them be­cause it’s that’s what their mom or dad does. They have a phone and there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion that ev­ery­thing they’re used to is hap­pen­ing with that de­vice, in­clud­ing how a fi­nan­cial app works.”

For the rest of us, though, fi­nan­cial habits are rel­a­tively slow to change. Even so, the world is mov­ing pretty quickly to­ward al­ter­na­tive pay­ments to our tra­di­tional credit cards, Sarah says.

“There are lots of cul­tural vari­ances,” she says. “In China, WeChat pay and Alipay have hur­dled the rest. By com­par­i­son, in the west we’re play­ing catch-up. I don’t know if that means Asia is now the proxy or that that is where the world will be soon.”

A good ex­am­ple of cul­ture in­ter­ject­ing in pay­ment prac­tices is the sep­a­ra­tion that still ex­ists between so­cial net­works and pay­ments. On pa­per, it would ap­pear that the so­cial apps we use most — such as Face­book, In­sta­gram, Snapchat and Twit­ter — would au­to­mat­i­cally mop up in any shift to­ward app-based mo­bile pay­ment trans­fers.

But that isn’t hap­pen­ing, says Sarah. “What we’ve seen to date is that peo­ple tend to want to keep their so­cial and fi­nan­cial apps sep­a­rate,” she adds.

“We have a good per­spec­tive from see­ing us­age in this chan­nel, with our­selves and other play­ers.” Sarah Friar is a head­line speaker at Mon­ey­conf, a Web Summit con­fer­ence tak­ing place at the RDS in Dublin from June 11-13

Pros: Stun­ning de­sign, in­no­va­tive Face ID, best iphone cam­era Cons: No head­phone jack, rel­a­tively mod­est bat­tery life

Price: £889

There’s lit­tle doubt that the iphone X rep­re­sents the fu­ture of iphone de­sign. And there’s no ques­tion that this is the best iphone you can now get. The ques­tion is whether it jus­ti­fies that big, big price?

As well as pack­ing in the very lat­est pow­er­ful tech­nol­ogy un­der the hood, the iphone X has two main dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures about it: an edge-to-edge screen and fa­cial recog­ni­tion in­stead of a fin­ger­print reader.

The first of these, the iphone X’s ‘su­per retina’ screen, is sim­ply gor­geous.

The way that it stretches al­most to­tally from corner to corner is a first for Ap­ple and an er­gonomic game changer for those who like big screens but dis­like hav­ing ex­tra-big phones to ac­com­mo­date those screens.

(Ob­vi­ously, ri­vals such as Sam­sung have had this in place for some time.)

The deal here is that the dis­play is 5.8in, mak­ing the screen longer (but slim­mer and hence not big­ger over­all) than the iphone 8 Plus’s 5.5in dis­play.

Be­cause of this edge-to-edge de­sign, there’s no ap­pre­cia­ble bezel, mean­ing that the over­all

If you hang out of your phone the way I do, you’ll need an ex­tra shot of power dur­ing the evening de­vice is sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than an iphone 8 Plus (or ri­vals such as the S9 Plus and P20 Pro). In fact, it’s much closer in size to a reg­u­lar iphone, de­spite its screen be­ing way big­ger. This is ob­vi­ously a great ad­van­tage for pock­ets, as well as over­stretched thumbs.

As an er­gonomic up­grade, it works.

The qual­ity of the Oled screen is also ab­so­lutely top drawer, ad­just­ing to light­ing con­di­tions in or­der to ease eye strain.

The other big fea­ture that reg­u­lar iphone users will need to get used to is its Face ID and, hence, the lack of a phys­i­cal but­ton.

The Face ID sys­tem is largely flaw­less, with few mis­fires in my time with the phone.

It’s cer­tainly much quicker and more ac­cu­rate than the equiv­a­lent tech­nol­ogy on ri­val de­vices such

What is the smartest flag­ship phone out there? In a new series, Tech Ed­i­tor Adrian

Weckler pits the mar­ket’s three best flag­ship hand­sets against each other – pick­ing out their strengths and weak­nesses. This week, he takes a look at the iphone X

as Sam­sung’s Note 8 or Huawei’s phones.

As for the re­moval of the ‘ home’ but­ton, you now swipe up in­stead. This be­comes sec­ond na­ture af­ter a short while, although I can see why some peo­ple may not the like the idea at first — that home but­ton has been a safety valve of sorts (or a short cut) in a va­ri­ety of sce­nar­ios for many years.

On the cam­era front, the iphone X sports the best Ap­ple can of­fer.

It has two 12-megapixel lenses, one with a wide-an­gle 28mm per­spec­tive and the other with a tele­photo 50mm view.

Like the iphone 8 Plus (and 7 Plus), these com­bine to give you way more flex­i­bil­ity and quali- ty than a sin­gle-lens phone cam­era. But, un­like the iphone 8 Plus, the tele­photo 50mm lens here is also sta­bilised, mean­ing clearer, bet­ter pho­tos, es­pe­cially in low light. That’s a no­table up­grade.

While you don’t quite get the 40-megapixel de­tail from Huawei’s P20 Pro, Ap­ple’s colour-ren­der­ing and, es­pe­cially, video-record­ing per­for­mance means that this doesn’t feel like sec­ond-best at all. It’s a bril­liant cam­era to use.

If I was look­ing for neg­a­tives, I might say that the iphone X’s bat­tery life doesn’t match that of its flag­ship com­peti­tors. It’s gen­er­ally fine for the best part of a day (or more, if you don’t use it heav­ily), but if you hang out of your phone the way I do, you’ll need an ex­tra shot of power some time dur­ing the evening. The iphone X also doesn’t have a head­phone jack, although it’s not alone in this re­gard. And while 256GB stor­age is avail­able, the ‘ base’ model only comes with 64GB, which feels mod­est at this price tier.

In sum­mary, the iphone X is def­i­nitely Ap­ple’s top performer. But can the ex­tra cost be jus­ti­fied over, say, an iphone 8?

This can only be a sub­jec­tive an­swer.

But here’s a guide: if you want the ab­so­lute best, new­est, high­est-per­form­ing iphone out there, this is un­ques­tion­ably it.

If you’re gen­uinely happy with a high-end iphone in a more tra­di­tional form, then look to the iphone 8 or iphone 8 Plus.

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