Tommy Elliott is the General Manager of BillGO's Bill Pay, where he oversees Product Management, User Experience (UX) and the Program Management Office (PMO). We sat down with Tommy to discuss what drew him to BillGO, what it takes to build a good product and what the future of bill pay looks like.
Prior to joining BillGO, Tommy served as Head of Digital Payments at Bank of America for three years. Before that, he spent more than four years at Apple as a Senior Program Manager, where he was instrumental in launching Apple Pay in major markets that included the U.S., the U.K., China and Japan. He also served in leadership roles with CyberSource and Visa.
You served in leadership roles with Visa and Bank of America and helped launch Apple Pay. What was it about BillGO that captured your attention?
I was about to accept another position with another organization the same week I met with [BillGO CEO] Dan Holt. Dan was introduced to me through Commerce Ventures and that’s when he shared his vision on how he wanted to change the way fintechs and banks engaged with their customers. The next day he flew me to Fort Collins, Colorado and introduced me to a team of people that I can only describe as “humbly smart.”
There was something unique about the culture at BillGO that I knew I wanted to be a part of. Combine that culture with the mission to meet a massive, unmet customer need, and I knew this was the place. Four months in, and I was 100 percent sure I made the right move.
What gets you up in the morning?
These are exciting times! BillGO is literally changing the financial services industry. We have the power to change the way tens of millions of Americans manage and pay their bills. With BillGO, everyone involved — consumers, financial institutions (FIs), billers — benefits.
We are in a unique position to improve the financial well-being of consumers and create more engaged customers for the FIs and fintechs we serve. As a result, FIs and fintechs are knocking on our door, eager to get the best, most modern banking capabilities for their customers.
How would you describe our product to someone?
Everyone pays bills. And anyone you owe money to has that capability, whether it's your bank, FI, local merchant or your monthly subscription.
In the ‘2000s, FIs did a reasonable job of trying to centralize the bill pay experience. And while digital banking has improved since then, in most cases, bill pay has not evolved much — leaving bank bill pay dependent on old, outdated technology. This has resulted in a major migration of consumers paying their bills directly to their biller, which gives them more flexibility and an easier-to-navigate experience.
Because of this shift, people are now, on average, logging into 12 different sites each month just to pay and manage their bills. Not only is it hard to remember your login information for all those sites, but it’s a security risk.
So, it’s no surprise that people tell us they want all of their bills in one place. That’s one of BillGO's value propositions. BillGO makes bill pay easier by connecting and managing an ever-growing network of billers and FIs so consumers are able to pay and manage their bills all in one place. Our “network of networks'' not only allows consumers to pay, it also enables billers to collect their payments and ditch their dependence on paper checks.
This means FIs will no longer be tied to 20-year old legacy systems. BillGO can use a data-driven approach to bill pay while facilitating new programs and payment rails such as request-for-pay (RFP)/real-time payment (RTP) and FedNow.
How do you define a good product?
A good product solves a customer's needs. A good product team should listen to the customer so closely that the end solution can solve problems the customer didn’t even realize they had. A good product is one that simplifies by removing the noise and complexity.
How do you approach developing a product roadmap?
At BillGO, we have a “measure twice, cut once” approach. Before we invest in development and execution, we spend a lot of time listening and observing our products in user testing. Then, we research, tinker and create simple prototypes to fully explore their viability.
This gives way to lots of ideas and concepts to explore. We then use a data-driven approach to decide which will deliver the best user experience (UX); the rest are put into the backlog. From there, we go through the prioritization approach — again and again — until a fully thought out concept finally emerges.
How heavily do you weigh customer opinion in what and how you build?
The end-user is the first and last thing we think about. If the customer finds value and benefits from what we create, then everyone wins.
What do you prioritize when developing a product?
Our product managers know bill pay, payments and customer interaction deeply. In conjunction with the wealth of knowledge from the team, we have three guiding questions that we use as a checklist before moving forward:
- Will adding this make the consumer's financial life better?
- Are the actions and next steps clear and intuitive?
- Will adding this simplify bill pay?
If a product checks these boxes, we move on to extensive user UX research to verify and challenge our assumptions. By combining expertise, data and research — we can tinker on paper and then start developing.
What is the most exciting or groundbreaking thing you’ve seen in the financial services industry?
The creation of tokenization when I worked at Visa was a big deal. The creation of Apple Pay was also a significant moment for financial services. Seeing the global networks and FIs work in unison to form an excellent customer experience was truly groundbreaking.
What is the biggest opportunity for FIs and fintechs to pursue in the next five years? Where should FIs be fixing their focus?
Bill pay is the most engaging feature that FIs can offer to their customers. FIs and fintechs know this, but most are still relying on out-of-date solutions. If you want to engage with customers, you have to give them what they want; otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else. And what they want is all of their bills in one place with the choice of how and when they pay.
What do you see as the largest disruptor in the industry?
I think of cloud computing or real and functional artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) from a pure tech perspective. We have ML protocols that run day and night, monitoring network health and function. Once they detect issues, they can auto-resolve and report back to us as soon as we roll out of bed the next morning.
What does the future of bill pay look like?
Simple. No hassles, no headaches — just payments. No bank-speak spilling into customers' screens. The future of bill pay is a single, consolidated, easy-to-navigate solution that streamlines the bill pay process and is easy to integrate with FIs, fintechs and legacy providers.
What Consumers want!
Want to know what today’s digitally-savvy consumers are looking for in bill pay and subscription management technology? We just released a 10-page report — completed in collaboration with PYMNTS — that provides an in-depth look at what your customers want in their financial management technology.