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Saturday April 9, 2011

Up close and personal with Pamela H. Patsley

PAMELA H Patsley is widely touted to be among the highest paid woman executives in the world.

The chairman cum chief executive officer of MoneyGram International is grossing remuneration package of about US$17mil a year in basic salary, allowance, share options and fringe benefits.

But Patsley is coy about it.

“I heard about that (highly paid woman executive). Well, it feels good but you must bear in mind that whatever it is, most of it are on options payable when the company makes money. If I get paid, all the others also get paid,” says the 54-year-old American.

An accountant by training, Patsley is no stranger to the world of big business having started in 1979 at internationally renown audit firm KPMG. She built up her vast experience to become a name to be reckoned with in the financial services industry.

Three decades after her plunge into the world finance, the daughter of school-teachers from Missouri, still enjoys the challenge and building teams to turn companies around and make money.

“I am not in it for the money. Yes, money is a factor but it is not the all, the challenge and building of a team is probably what I feel is my driving factor,'' says Patsley in an interview with StarBizWeek recently when she was in Kota Kinabalu for the company's Asia Pacific Agent Conference.

Patsley cuts out to be a very private person, sparingly giving out bits and pieces about herself and her family, but lights up when talking about her latest venture to turn the global money transfer services through MoneyGram.

“I hate talking about myself, I think someone else can do it better. Let's talk business,'' quips Patsley as she smiles and sits down for a chat at a leading hotel.

Married to Gary (Patsley), a retired chief financial officer of First USA Bank in Texas whom she first met in her days at KPMG, she has a son, who is now 21 years old and two older stepdaughters.

“I find myself lucky. Gary is very supportive. He is fully retired now and we don't have a situation where we have to balance our two careers,'' says Patsley, who attributes her career advances to the solid support of her family.

With her husband taking care of things at home in Dallas where MoneyGram is also headquartered, she finds no problem balancing her hectic business days as well as keeping up with family matters.

“Before I came here (Kota Kinabalu), I flew to Florida and joined my husband and son on a camping trip and when I return, I will fly back there and join them again,'' she says.

For this successful woman executive, family values instilled in her by parents and good mentors during her fledgling career are the guiding beacons in her stride through the world of finance and business.

“I had good mentors along the way. I have no recipe for my success it was all about work and work and just work,” says Patsley whose career begun in 1979 with KPMG Peat Marvick which she served for six years.

She broke out and moved on to become the chief financial officer of First USA Inc, and then became the president and chief executive officer of Paymentech Inc until it was acquired by First Data Corp in 1999.

She then led First Data's global expansion serving as president of First Data International until October 2007.

Patsley currently sits on the boards of two public listed companies Texas Instruments and Dr Pepper Snapple Group and has also represented the boards of Molson Coors Brewing Company among others.

By 2007, she dubbed herself to be in semi-retirement as she did businesses of her own in Paris. In late-2008, she was approached by MoneyGram International investor/owners Thomas Lee Partners (THL) and Goldman Sachs to helm MoneyGram after the company suffered setbacks in 2007 following its expansion of portfolio holdings to include mortgage-backed securities that saw the company write down over US$230mil following the global financial crisis.

MoneyGram had hired JP Morgan to conduct a strategic review of its payment systems business, including its cheque outsourcing business, portfolio strategy and capital implications.

After the review was completed, MoneyGram put itself up for sale to re-capitalise its portfolio, and that was when THL and Goldman Sachs came in as investors.

Headhunted, Patsley came in as chairman in January 2009 and by September the same year, she was made chief executive officer to set the course for the global money transfer company as the preferred choice for people to send and receive money.

MoneyGram, the second largest non-banking money transfer company after Western Union, is now coming out of the woods, earning revenues of US1.17bil in 2010 that helped pay some US$165mil of its total debt of US$641mil as of 2010.

Her main task is to develop a high performance team across its international network, enhance its core product of money transfers and push for growth while moving away from financial paper products.

Patsley is closely watching to tap deeper into the US$400bil global remittance market in which her company had a share of RM19bil or some 4% in 2010.

“I see significant potential for growth and that's the direction we are heading. We want to be the preferred global network for consumers and businesses to send and receive funds,” she explains.

MoneyGram has a global network of agents in more then 227,000 locations and fast expanding in 191 countries including Malaysia.

Malaysia, with an outflow of US$7bil in 2010, is placed sixth in the top ten sending (remittance outflow) countries, she says, adding that it is poised for further expansion.

“Malaysia has the potential to be one of the largest South-East Asian remittance markets within MoneyGram's global network due to year to year growth figures.

“It is a country we are focusing on to make us the money transfer provider of choice,” says Patsley, adding that Maybank's 400 locations is leading its role in the country and another 200 non-bank agents like International Money Express, Prabhu Money Transfer, EZ Money Express and SMJ.

Since the company launched its services in 2007 in Malaysia, the company has been experiencing consistent growth in its send and receive volumes.

Last year alone, Money Gram recorded a 30% increase in transaction volumes, fuelled by migrant workers and foreign students.

Patsley has been criss-crossing the globe opening offices and creating new agents in efforts to create leverage for its extensive global network.

This includes expanding its corridors to meet growing customer demand to send from Malaysia to India, Cambodia and China.

Her strategy is to continuously grow the network to ensure money transfer recipients can collect their money quickly and conveniently from the sending country.

Patsley believes there is a huge market to tap in the Middle East where non-traditional or unofficial money transfers are being used.

“I think there is a lot of room for both players in the remittance business,” is her reply when asked if she is looking to take MoneyGram International to the number one spot.

“To me, giving shareholder value is more important,” says Patsley.

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