Assessing Payments Risk is a Multiple Choice Challenge

Payments Risk

This summer, I participated in a NACHA working group developing a new professional accreditation, the Accredited Payments Risk Professional (APRP). The credential will be awarded to payment professionals with relevant work experience who pass the APRP exam.  The target exam candidate “is an individual who has demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of risk management strategies, concepts, and mitigation techniques within the payments ecosystem.” The inaugural exam will take place in Q1 2018.

I had no idea how much fun it was going to be to write incorrect answers for multiple choice questions. (Fun fact: in the business of standardized test-writing, these are called “distractors”.) The incorrect answers need to be plausible, but not be “trick” answers. This is much more difficult than it seems. To create good distractors, you need to understand the big picture. And, for the candidate to be successful with the test, she/he has to know his/her stuff.

While putting myself in the candidate’s shoes, I got to thinking about how manages risk in our part of the ecosystem: the B2B space. moves $36B in payments volume per year and has two million businesses in our e-payments network. This breadth and depth give us unsurpassed knowledge of what “normal” looks like in a B2B payment.

As we think about payments risk management, our objective is not to eliminate exposure. Rather, we work to address incoming threats quickly, without refusing too many new client applications or declining good transactions. We are constantly adapting our anomaly detection rules and models as threats emerge, evolve, and fade.

Playing defense this well requires cross-functional collaboration between sales, operations, product management, and risk strategy.  Here at, threats can be (and are) identified by alert teammates across our entire organization, because everyone understands the risks we face. Employee education is a big focus for us. If you don’t know what to look for, you won’t find it.

Our secret sauce combines our own tools and intelligence with third-party anomaly detection providers. These external partners identify problems based on what other companies have seen. The results are powerful: we successfully separate the signal from the noise to manage risk behind the scenes, without getting in the way of our customers doing business.  

Assessing B2B payments risk is a true multiple-choice challenge. In our experience, to build a world-class risk management program, you need to:

a. Keep employees educated about new threats and trends. To borrow from the New Yorkers, we tell our employees and partners, “If you see something, say something.”

b. Choose best-in-class tools. These providers can help bring the outside in, creating great synergies with your own data.

c. Stay focused on the customer experience.  Don’t expect to get it right every time; keep iterating.

d. All of the above!

Don’t miss Colleen Lindow at AFP in San Diego, October 15-18th. She will be discussing payments on a global scale during the session, Cross-Border Digital Commerce: Positioning for Payments Success Globally, on Monday, October 16, starting at 4 PM.

August 28, 2017
Colleen Lindow
VP Strategic Partnerships,
Colleen is Vice President of Strategic Partners, and has been instrumental in helping bank partners grow their business payment services as well as guiding several platform initiatives with her deep knowledge in the payments industry. Prior to this role, she was head of Payments, Compliance and Risk, where she was responsible for operations, risk strategy and policy, and processing bank relationships. Lindow has spent her entire career entrenched in the payments world, with more than 25 years of experience in product management, sales, risk management, and operations both in the U.S. and Europe. Prior to, Colleen held leadership positions with PayPal, eBay, Square, Visa, and Bank of New York Mellon. Colleen earned her MBA from the University of San Francisco and her undergraduate degree in English from Westminster College. She is a permanently certified cash manager (CCM) and has earned the certified anti-money laundering specialist (CAMS) credential. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, running, drinking good wine and hanging out with her rescue dog, Holly.