Corporate Innovator Profile

kevin-lee-visa-digital-products Name: Kevin Lee
Title: VP of Design for Digital Products
Company: Visa
Previous Experience: Samsung, eBay, PayPal, Whirlpool and GE
Total Corporate Innovation Experience: 18+ years

Visa’s Kevin Lee is one of the most seasoned corporate innovation leaders around. With nearly two decades’ experience leading digital design teams within some of the world’s most prolific brands, Kevin has seen firsthand the prioritization of corporate innovation proliferate over the years. We recently spoke with Kevin to get his insights on the evolution of innovation and design, details about his most significant accomplishments at Visa and for some advice to share with aspiring innovators.

Enterprise Innovation: It’s been almost 20 years since you began your career in corporate innovation. What’s changed most over that time?

Kevin: Lee First of all, it’s important to preface my bias because I have been fortunate to work for organizations that are at the forefront of innovation. When I look at corporate innovation from a 30,000-foot view, I have noticed a profound cultural change. During the past five years, in particular, organizations – from both the top down and the bottom up – have begun to think about how the quickly evolving digital landscape can and should impact user experience. This holistic way of thinking used to be absent from all but a few of the more tech savvy organizations. Now it’s a prerequisite for any company that wants to achieve success.

What was the catalyst for the change in culture?

The internet, social media and mobility were game changers, as everything and everyone became connected 24/7. The rise of these media took corporations out of their comfort zones, challenging them to think more broadly about the product development lifecycle. At the same time, organizations were under siege from new consumer demands, as both B2B customers and B2C consumers were dictating terms like never before. The reality of 24/7 connectivity and the pressures of ever-demanding consumers were problematic for corporate leaders in the beginning, but in many cases the situation accelerated some of the most transformational corporate innovation projects to date. One thing was for sure, embracing corporate innovation was no longer a competitive advantage, rather it was a necessity of doing business.

One thing was for sure, embracing corporate innovation was no longer a competitive advantage, rather it was a necessity of doing business.

Can you reference any projects during your tenure at Visa that have had a profound impact on the business?

When I started with Visa three years ago, the primary stakeholders were “all in” on the benefits of digital design. My role was to work with every constituency possible – from executive teams, product, technology, and marketing, to consumers and partners – to discover opportunities to utilize digital innovation as a means to further commercialize our relationships. Over the past three years, the digital design team has seen success with:

  • Visa Checkout – This project started out with a goal to build a digital product that could solve a pain point for both merchants and consumers. The challenge was to create a new, mobile-friendly payment method that could garner an 85% conversion rate – a percentage that both merchants and consumers agreed equated to success. Today, Visa Checkout has more than 1,400 financial institution partners, 300,000 large and small merchants globally and more than 17 million global online shoppers using the product to pay with their cards online, on any device, with just a few clicks.
  • Visa Digital Commerce App – Visa developed an issuer-branded mobile commerce solution that enables financial institutions to offer their own mobile app to customers with valuable card management services – ultimately expanding and strengthening their Visa credit, debit and prepaid card offerings. Typically a time-consuming and expensive process for issuers to do in-house, we decided to white label our app while also providing complete lifecycle management for the customer. Today more than 40 U.S. financial institutions are implementing the Visa Digital Commerce App.

What advice can you provide to corporate innovators who are struggling to get budget and resources approved?

My experience at Visa and beyond has shaped how I approach these situations. My advice is:

  • Prove Impact over Accuracy – Innovators often think too much about perfection, and carry this mindset into the discovery and approval processes. We tend to rely heavily on showcasing previous successes, mistakenly thinking that past triumphs will move the needle for our current requests. As a group, we must do a better job illustrating the big picture impact to the decision makers, many of whom have reached the pinnacles of their careers because they are also big picture impact thinkers.
  • Be a Storyteller – As innovators, we often focus on building stuff; developing shiny objects that we hope people will react positively to. But decision makers and end users don’t look at one interaction as an experience. We must think holistically and find ways to bring your vision to life through words and emotions. That’s the only way that stakeholders and consumers will be able to truly see where, how, when and why your digital product can work for them.


Robert Berris is EVP and Managing Director of Three Five Two where he leads company strategy and day-to-day operations.