Michelle Evans

Michelle Evans MacLachlan

Digital Consumer Manager at Euromonitor International

Chicago, Illinois

@mevans14  |  LinkedIn Profile

Euromonitor International is a leading independent provider of strategic market research. We offer data and analysis on thousands of products and services around the world to our roster of clients. Our innovative market research products, insightful reports and daily updates from expert analysts make Euromonitor International an essential resource for every organisation. With offices around the world, analysts in over 80 countries and market research on every key trend and driver, we give our clients powerful access to the real story driving consumer change.

Euromonitor International’s ability to provide cross-country comparable data and analysis across so many markets is simply unmatched. This is true with respect to fintech, as well as the other 30 industry sectors that we cover. We are able to leverage the local expertise of our analysts alongside the industry knowledge from our global teams to provide clients with forward-looking, actionable insights. Furthermore, our expertise in so many adjacent industries enables us to provide our clients with a full picture of this digital shift.

Please describe your role at Euromonitor International.

I have covered the mobile payments industry at Euromonitor International since 2010 as an analyst for our product offering focused on the payments industry. In the analyst role, I produced analysis in a variety of different forms to help clients make informed, long-term strategic business decisions. In more recent years, my research focus has begun to shift toward covering all the elements around the digital and mobile payments experience, including the path to purchase, marketing and loyalty.

In the summer of 2014, my Euromonitor story took a distinct turn when I first brought forth an idea for a new product that would focus on how these technological advances are forever altering the way that consumers research, shop and pay for products and services. Over the course of the last year, I’ve conceptualized this initial vision, pitched the idea to senior leadership and continued to refine it into the product offering we will introduce to the marketplace soon. In August 2015, I was promoted to Digital Consumer Manager to reflect my role with this new product.

Before working for a market research you were a journalist for 10 years.  What attracted you to a career in journalism?

At the age of 11, I jumped at the first chance to join a student publication and continued to do so at every level of my educational journey. Journalism was such a part of my experience at every school I attended that I’d venture to guess that is how many of my classmates remember me today. It was the storytelling, content generation and project management aspects that attracted me to journalism. After all when you work at a daily newspaper, every day is a new project.

After a few years working professionally in the field, I was still so passionate about it and specifically my future that I pursued a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. That experience took me from reporting on business in Chicago and London to reporting from Capitol Hill in Washington DC. My end-goal was to move to Chicago permanently and to shift my journalism career towards business reporting. I accomplished both when I landed a job at Chicago’s regional business publication, Crain’s Chicago Business.

Why did you leave journalism? How did you gravitate to FinTech?

As I approached nearly a decade in the field, I began to realize what attracted me to journalism was different than my peers. I didn’t aspire to be the next Woodward and Bernstein like the others. To add insult to injury, the global recession and technological advances were forcing revolutionary changes in the newspaper business at a faster clip than anyone expected.

I recognized I needed to make a change, but the inability to comprehend what might lie ahead was paralyzing initially. After all, it not just a job change or even a career change, but it was an identity change. In order to prepare for the shift, I networked with a variety of people to learn more about related fields and opportunities. I also visited Northwestern University’s career services to discover what personality tests had to say. One test in particular measures your interest versus someone that has been in a given field for three years and reports being happy. That test confirmed what I had suspected: My interests were “highly dissimilar” from a “reporter.” As if foreshadowing my current role and the type of people I now interact with on a daily basis, a “banker” came back as having the most similar interests.

One of the more profound statements the director made to me, though, came as I was about to walk out the door. She said if I ever had a business idea to pursue it because all the tests clearly indicated that I would love to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t place much stock in that piece of advice, given that I can be risk adverse and never saw myself leaving behind a steady paycheck to start my own venture. Fast forward five years and now I find myself in a sort of entrepreneurial role at Euromonitor International as I work on one of our newest product offerings. Conceptualizing, pitching and building out a new product has enable me to harness that entrepreneurial drive within the confines of an established business.

During our discussion you mentioned your time working at Bloomberg.  You stated “If you read a Bloomberg story, every single word counts.”  How has this impacted your approach to journalism, specifically focusing on FinTech?

My time as a journalist taught me invaluable skillsets that continues to serve me even though I no longer work for a publication. One of the most important lessons learned was the ability to effectively communicate an idea, story or argument clearly and succinctly. As I mentioned, there are no extraneous words in a Bloomberg story.  Bloomberg has a strong bunch of both reporters and editors that go through each and every story with a fine-tooth comb. There was probably no other experience that made such a profound impact on my writing than my time there.

The other skill that journalism teaches you is the ability to take a complicated idea and distill it to its lowest common denominator. This has proved immensely valuable now that I am researching the convergence of two fields, which in their own rights can both be highly technical. In my early day as a fintech analyst, I asked industry contacts a lot of questions until I fully understood a concept or a development. After all, good writing comes down to simplicity so it is only when you truly understand a topic that you write about the crux of the issue without superfluous language .

You’ve been a first-hand witness to the disruptive power of technology for an industry with respect to journalism.  What advice or lessons learned can you highlight concerning your pivot from a disruptive industry (traditional journalism) to a thriving industry (FinTech)?

 It has been fascinating career shift to have had a front-row seat for the downward trajectory of one industry only to find myself on the upswing of another. One of the most important lessons I learned now as a recovering journalist is the ability to pivot one’s self and one’s business. There are no constants in either so success will be dependent upon your ability to reinvent or re-imagine your business, as well as your personal skillset. Although the shifts in journalism were well known even at the time I still worked in the field, I believe many foolishly held onto the belief that what got them there would keep them relevant in the future.

Even at Euromonitor International, I was initially hired in 2010 to cover the traditional payments industry. Within a year I quickly realized there was a client need for more research about how these digital and mobile shifts were impacting the traditional payments industry. I believe it was the experience of having survived one dying industry that led to my natural inclination to shift toward addressing this unmet. After all, there is no greater job security than being knowledgeable about an industry on a major growth trajectory.

We discussed the gender diversity issue in Financial Services and Technology.  What do you believe are some steps women in the space can take to influence change?  

While there are likely intentional and inadvertent things that both men and women do that widen the gender divide, I believe it is often women that hold themselves back. Experts around the Lean In movement have said that women often shy away from self promotion and self-select themselves out of new opportunities because they deem themselves under-qualified. In contrast, men are more likely to dive head first when met with similar situations. What I deduce from that is to have confidence in your abilities, promote yourself because it is unlikely anyone else will and to be assertive when it comes to pursuing new opportunities. After all, it is only when you take risks and push yourself past your comfort zone that you become the best version of yourself.

How important has the support system of your family been with respect to your personal career success?

The support system provided by my immediate family has played a major role in my career development. My parents always instilled in me that I could achieve anything regardless of my gender. My brother was another key figure. Given that my brother is nine years my senior, we never had the sibling rivalry that plagued other such relationships. From as early as I can remember he supported my success in a selfless way like a parental figure might. Nowadays my husband provides the daily support and guidance. He has served as a sounding board and encouraged me to be assertive in going after what I wanted in my career.

Who(m) do you believe has had the most influencing with respect to influencing your own career?  

There have been several individuals, including friends, family and colleagues, who have provided advice along the way. During my time at Euromonitor International, I have been fortunate to have had managers across different aspects of our business operations take an interest in my work and provide guidance to help mould me into a stronger contributor. In particular at Euromonitor, I have benefited from a corporate grandparent relationship, in which a member of senior leadership invested significantly into my development. This has especially been the case over the last year as I brought forward a business idea to the company and worked closely with the Vice President of Research to shape it into the product offering that will be introduced to the marketplace soon.

What do you see as the 3 leading future trends for FinTech?

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Technological advances, including the arrival of smartphones to the masses and the emergence of location-based tools, have forever altered commerce.  In particular, mobile has created fundamental shifts in the way that consumers shop and interact with brands. One of the most profound trends is how these technological advances are ushering in a new type of consumer — a connected one. Today’s consumers have become accustomed to immediacy and, as a result, have different expectations than their predecessors.

A somewhat related trend that will take shape soon is the arrival of mobile wallets version 2.0 in the marketplace. To date, many of the mobile wallets that have come to market focus on the payment and thus have struggled to gain adoption because they fail to solve a consumer pain point. Ultimately, mobile payments must be as cheap, secure and easy to use as traditional payment methods to even be considered a viable payment option. All that being said, consumer uptake of mobile payments will be directly related to the value add received from using mobile phones in lieu of the leather wallet. Loyalty driven mobile payment initiatives of tomorrow will be about one-on-one customer engagement. Aspiring mobile payment providers are expected to begin to incorporate this type of experience that today’s shoppers want and expect in the next-generation of mobile wallets.

Much to the chagrin of those in the payments industry, the final trend is the disappearance of payments as a central focal point of the commerce experience. As the path to purchase becomes increasingly more digitized, the act of executing the payment transaction has shifted further and further into the background. These are a number of factors pushing payments into the background, including the rise digital wallets and mobile apps that have reduced the number of steps between browsing and buying. Unlike never before, the payment transaction has become just a period at the end of the sentence.

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