Leaders Speak: Kelley Knutson On Reflection & Growth

Leaders Speak: Kelley Knutson On Reflection & Growth

Stout words from local trailblazers to global thought leaders.


Kelley C. Knutson, global business executive focused on the ever-evolving world of payment technology, talks with Stout about reflection and growth.


Kelley Knutson, President, Netspend; Senior EVP, Global Payments Inc.

Kelley C. Knutson is the Senior EVP of Global Payments Inc. and President of Netspend, a leading provider of digital acquisition, retention, activation and life cycle management for prepaid/demand deposit/virtual account users across the US. Previously, Kelley served as Executive Vice President of TSYS and President of International Issuer Solutions which is based in London. He has spent 30+ years working across the globe to bring consumers faster, safer, more convenient and valuable payment experiences that help them accomplish their personal goals.

How do you use the act of reflection to grow?

For anyone, whether in your personal life/behaviors or professional engagement with your team/peers/clients, the starting point of the “reflection” process should be ensuring you have an open and objective mind about how and why you want to assess/evaluate progress. You also need to make sure your head is clear of other worries/considerations when you begin your evaluation and you are in the right physical/mental environment to truly focus on deep-rooted thoughts, feelings and emotions.

We can only grow if we’re willing to critically assess/evaluate/scrutinize ourselves in a fair, objective and empathetic manner. We all want, and need, to grow each and every day and we should build the “art of reflection” into our lives on a more regular basis and not use the end-of-year or a performance evaluation cycle as the only catalyst or reason to reflect. In short, it’s important to reflect often with relentless objectivity ensuring one has an openness/willingness to consciously work on behavior and mindset changes to improve our lives overall.

We all want, and need, to grow each and every day and we should build the “art of reflection” into our lives on a more regular basis and not use the end-of-year or a performance evaluation cycle as the only catalyst or reason to reflect.
– Kelley Knutson

What was the most surprising thing you learned this year?

It’s less about what I learned this year and more about what I have to remind myself of every year: that we are all humans with our own set of issues/challenges/lives that aren’t always what we want, or need. We all have built-in biases that need modifying and we all see the world through our own lens and perspective. It’s critical to get in others “line of sight” and attempt to see things from their perspective and orientation.

Fundamentally, I still believe people want to get along, care about their families/friends and want to live on a planet that is safe today, and in the future. We all just need to work harder at listening, appreciating and understanding views and perspectives of others so we can co-exist in a more unified, engaging and collaborative social ecosystem.

What was your biggest WIN from the year? And loss?

I think it’s a WIN every day if you wake up happy, healthy and energized about what you do, who you do it with and how you live your life overall. Winning comes in many forms, shapes and sizes … we must look at the small wins as being just as important as the bigger life-changing personal/career-defining moments. The big WINS don’t necessarily come without smaller/step-by-step achievements along the way … and, they usually don’t come without hard work, commitment, focus and a deep belief in the underlying cause of what you’re trying to achieve overall in your life.

It’s been a good year on the work-front and we’ve completed a very successful payments industry mega-merger and the future looks extremely promising … it’s great to be an industry leader in the global payments landscape that is so dynamic, fast-moving and impactful to our clients and customers.

On the “loss” front, I have high standards and we, as a business, didn’t accomplish everything we wanted/needed to do to pivot our operating model to ensure we stay in front of new competitors, changing market dynamics and growing customer expectations…but, we are still very well positioned for growth/future success overall. Also, I haven’t done a good enough job of striking a healthy balance of work, fun, family and new experiences-that’s probably a consistent theme for a number of us!

What is something you’d like to improve upon in the coming year?

A better work/life balance. Like everyone, I’d like to get healthier, more fit and lose weight! I’d like to improve on being more vulnerable, open and deeper when it comes to how I conduct my daily life and ensure I remain consistent in my thoughts, behaviors and actions all around.

I need to continue to work on being a more compassionate and complete leader/mentor, while also ensuring I remain objective/fair in all my personal/work interactions. I also need to have more fun and ensure I fully “experience the moment” and not think about yesterday or what I didn’t do-we could all do a better job of this I’m sure!

What is your Holiday Message for 2019?

Wake up every day and embrace life to the fullest-it can be more meaningful, complete and rewarding if one stays positive, open and flexible around what life throws at you. Be sure to tell someone that they matter in your life and if you get the chance, hug your partner, kids or friends and tell them they are important to you. Life isn’t easy for any of us and we need to make sure we tell those special individuals around us that we need/want them in our lives and we share ourselves with them more every day.

What is something you’re excited for in 2020? Or what would you like to see happen?

Spending more time with family, friends and loved ones and experiencing life’s everyday routines, challenges and opportunities. Developing better communication skills in both my personal/professional lives and ensuring I remain open, and embrace, the changes that life throws our way.

Every day counts and we must make the most of each one of them with high energy, optimism and a desire to grow/learn together to make society better and less divisive. I’m also hopeful that between the US, China, UK/Europe, etc., we can see more political and economic stability across the globe and a narrowing of the human divide instead of seeing gaps widen in how we see things.