Crystal Farmer: Making payroll success at Visa crystal clear Crystal Farmer: Making payroll success at Visa crystal clear

Crystal Farmer: Making payroll success at Visa crystal clear
04 Jan 2018

Although Crystal Farmer fell into the payroll profession by chance, she has now scaled the heights to become head of global payroll for a major household name. As senior director and head of global payroll at multinational financial services organisation, Visa, she is responsible for providing strategic direction and operational oversight across operations in a huge 45 countries.

Crystal shares her thoughts about what it takes to deliver global payroll services successfully in such a high profile role – and which countries around the world are the trickiest to deal with:

How did you end up as head of global payroll at a big household name like Visa?

Has anyone ever consciously made payroll a career choice? It’s funny, but most of us in the profession fell into it unexpectedly. Nonetheless, just the sheer density and complexity of the job as well as the critical thinking and strategic planning skills required are just a few of the aspects that make it a challenging and rewarding role.

My journey to global payroll began in the 1980s while working in accounting at Automatic Data Processing (ADP). There I was asked to take over payroll management for the corporate office in Roseland, New Jersey. After five years of doing that, I became accounting manager at Midlantic Bank, overseeing all aspects of payroll accounting and systems.

Following a series of other payroll and accounting roles, I moved into a global position with an asset management firm in 1998, where I was responsible for all aspects of payroll and payroll accounting in more than 35 countries.

I finally became senior director and head of global payroll operations for Visa in 2016. The company operates in more than 45 countries and has approximately 11,600 employees worldwide who are paid semi-monthly and monthly.

What key challenges do you face in delivering payroll services on a global basis?

Finding the right balance between ensuring your global processes are optimised and that local flexibility is possible can be a challenge. This is not least because legislative, regulatory and cultural differences between countries can make it difficult to standardise all of your processes anyway.

Having the right systems, providers and partnerships in place is also key to ensure you can undertake accurate, real-time reporting for operational and planning purposes. But just as vital is making certain that the right internal structures are available. It’s about having your processing hub locations in the right place; knowing you have effective global oversight; that your business processes are centralised etc.…

Do you find any specific countries particularly challenging to work with?

All countries come with their own level of intricacy. But in my experience, European countries tend to be a bit more complex than elsewhere as they introduce more frequent and extensive tax and regulatory changes. These changes often affect how things like staff mobility, stock, benefits and compensation are calculated and require vendor and system changes to ensure both ongoing compliance and timely, accurate tax reporting. So over the years, I’ve found the following countries to be the most complex to deal with:

1. Italy
2. Germany
3. Belgium
4. France

How do Visa’s global payroll operations reflect the company’s broader vision?

The company’s mission and vision are to “accelerate the electronification of commerce” and “be the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere”. By default, these statements are global in nature and so foster an atmosphere that enables the payroll organisation to grow successfully on an international basis along with the business.

One of the values practiced at Visa is “we know that the market never stops changing so we never stop innovating”. In reality, this means becoming more agile by ensuring our systems and processes are flexible, scalable and enhance performance. But it’s also about hiring and developing the right talent to enable us to hit our global objectives.

What key challenges do today’s global payroll professionals face? While the challenges facing global payroll professionals tend to be cyclical, technology ranks high on my list at the moment. In years gone by, single integrated systems were non-existent, which made it impossible to know what payroll data you had or to access it wherever it was in the enterprise.

Today things have changed and having the right systems in place can help reduce overall operating costs by enabling you to centralise your business processes, eliminate duplication and keep payroll headcount low. But key performance indicators are also important because not using the right metrics can bring its own challenges. Being able to analyse metrics on a country-by-country basis is vital, as is understanding performance by region.

To get this right, however, it’s important to ensure you have a sufficient volume of data at your disposal to enable you to spot trends. Your data also needs to be both timely and accurate. If this is the case, it will help you set strategic objectives, cut costs and generally improve your business processes.

 

Although Crystal Farmer fell into the payroll profession by chance, she has now scaled the heights to become head of global payroll for a major household name. As senior director and head of global payroll at multinational financial services organisation, Visa, she is responsible for providing strategic direction and operational oversight across operations in a huge 45 countries.

Crystal shares her thoughts about what it takes to deliver global payroll services successfully in such a high profile role – and which countries around the world are the trickiest to deal with:

How did you end up as head of global payroll at a big household name like Visa?

Has anyone ever consciously made payroll a career choice? It’s funny, but most of us in the profession fell into it unexpectedly. Nonetheless, just the sheer density and complexity of the job as well as the critical thinking and strategic planning skills required are just a few of the aspects that make it a challenging and rewarding role.

My journey to global payroll began in the 1980s while working in accounting at Automatic Data Processing (ADP). There I was asked to take over payroll management for the corporate office in Roseland, New Jersey. After five years of doing that, I became accounting manager at Midlantic Bank, overseeing all aspects of payroll accounting and systems.

Following a series of other payroll and accounting roles, I moved into a global position with an asset management firm in 1998, where I was responsible for all aspects of payroll and payroll accounting in more than 35 countries.

I finally became senior director and head of global payroll operations for Visa in 2016. The company operates in more than 45 countries and has approximately 11,600 employees worldwide who are paid semi-monthly and monthly.

What key challenges do you face in delivering payroll services on a global basis?

Finding the right balance between ensuring your global processes are optimised and that local flexibility is possible can be a challenge. This is not least because legislative, regulatory and cultural differences between countries can make it difficult to standardise all of your processes anyway.

Having the right systems, providers and partnerships in place is also key to ensure you can undertake accurate, real-time reporting for operational and planning purposes. But just as vital is making certain that the right internal structures are available. It’s about having your processing hub locations in the right place; knowing you have effective global oversight; that your business processes are centralised etc.…

Do you find any specific countries particularly challenging to work with?

All countries come with their own level of intricacy. But in my experience, European countries tend to be a bit more complex than elsewhere as they introduce more frequent and extensive tax and regulatory changes. These changes often affect how things like staff mobility, stock, benefits and compensation are calculated and require vendor and system changes to ensure both ongoing compliance and timely, accurate tax reporting. So over the years, I’ve found the following countries to be the most complex to deal with:

1. Italy
2. Germany
3. Belgium
4. France

How do Visa’s global payroll operations reflect the company’s broader vision?

The company’s mission and vision are to “accelerate the electronification of commerce” and “be the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere”. By default, these statements are global in nature and so foster an atmosphere that enables the payroll organisation to grow successfully on an international basis along with the business.

One of the values practiced at Visa is “we know that the market never stops changing so we never stop innovating”. In reality, this means becoming more agile by ensuring our systems and processes are flexible, scalable and enhance performance. But it’s also about hiring and developing the right talent to enable us to hit our global objectives.

What key challenges do today’s global payroll professionals face? While the challenges facing global payroll professionals tend to be cyclical, technology ranks high on my list at the moment. In years gone by, single integrated systems were non-existent, which made it impossible to know what payroll data you had or to access it wherever it was in the enterprise.

Today things have changed and having the right systems in place can help reduce overall operating costs by enabling you to centralise your business processes, eliminate duplication and keep payroll headcount low. But key performance indicators are also important because not using the right metrics can bring its own challenges. Being able to analyse metrics on a country-by-country basis is vital, as is understanding performance by region.

To get this right, however, it’s important to ensure you have a sufficient volume of data at your disposal to enable you to spot trends. Your data also needs to be both timely and accurate. If this is the case, it will help you set strategic objectives, cut costs and generally improve your business processes.