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April 20, 2022Executive Interview Series

Executive Interview Series: President at Wind River Financial, Tyler Kattre

The Executive Interview Series provides readers with exclusive insights from movers and shakers in the payments industry. The Payments Industry is under continuous transformation, as such this series provides diverse perspectives on everything from strategy to payments technology and to the future of the industry.

In this interview, TSG’s Market Intelligence team-member Alex Ferguson sat down with Tyler Kattre, President of Wind River Financial to learn more about his introduction into payments and how Wind River Financial is addressing the industry differently.

Background: Tyler joined the Wind River team as CFO in 2018. After three years of demonstrating exceptional business acumen and a talent for getting things done, Tyler was promoted to president. Under his strategic leadership, Wind River is expanding its footprint in the FinTech industry. Born and raised in Central Wisconsin, Tyler has called the Madison area home since his college days at the University of Wisconsin. He earned his undergrad at UW-Whitewater and his MBA at UW-Madison. Since college, he has held leadership roles in both startup and large corporate environments, primarily in the financial services and insurance industries.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
How did you get your start in the payments industry?

Tyler Kattre:
It all started with a text from my brother-in-law Mark Wilson. I was growing tired of the health insurance industry where I had spent nearly all of my career, so I let a few folks in my network know I was open to new opportunities. Mark sits on the Advisory Board at WRF and knew they were looking to hire a CFO. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
Looking into your background, prior to joining Wind River Financial you previously held positions at companies in the marketing technology and healthcare space. How did your experiences in these industries help prepare you for your future role at Wind River?

Tyler Kattre:
Both have helped tremendously in different ways. Healthcare, specifically health insurance finance, is incredibly detailed and complicated, and most, if not all, patients would agree with that every time they get an EOB or open enrollment takes place. So, as I learned the complexities of the payments industry, e.g. the networks, the industry players, the transactional details, you name it, I felt like my brain was already trained to be able to digest such information. This helped me learn the industry much faster as a result.

As for the technology firm I worked for, it provided me with invaluable experience in understanding how to run/organize a tech company and an introduction into the startup world. I’ve never worn so many hats before. The highs have never felt so high; the lows never so low. I’m a much better businessperson as a result of that experience. It ended with a successful sale/exit as well, so getting M&A experience was a great bonus too.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
Looking back at your experiences, what do you feel is your biggest contribution to the payments industry thus far?

Tyler Kattre:
So far, I think it’s about getting WRF out there more and increasing visibility on our brand of payments and serving clients. Perhaps in typical Wisconsin fashion, our highly successful company has been quietly growing for 20+ years by proving ourselves day by day to our clients with at-will agreements and unmatched service. I couldn’t be prouder of who we are, and I’m thankful for every opportunity to share that with prospects, partners, and clients.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
Tell me more about Wind River Financial. What makes it different from other competing payment entities?

Tyler Kattre:
We’re different from the competition in several ways, but it can all be encapsulated around the concept of serving people. In sales and business development, we too often find our prospects lamenting working with partners that either didn’t listen or didn’t take the time to truly understand their needs. Our industry is replete with new technological advancements, tools, and services. By focusing on the tools and products, our prospects are left without an advocate. There’s little to no payment system design and implementation support. There’s no focus on solving someone’s problem; only getting them to buy what you’re selling.

Instead, we consult with all our prospects and customize each and every solution to the extent we’re able in order to get them exactly what they need to solve their problems. After joining us as a client, our focus on people and advocacy doesn’t waver. Our passion for service and people is often hard to quantify as you don’t get to experience it until you work with us. However, TSG have given us our best measure to-date. You’ve published data expressing that a client works with their payments partner for 36 months on average. Our clients work with WRF for 8 years on average, nearly triple of our competitors in the industry.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
Wind River Financial markets a specialty in providing integrated payments solutions. How is Wind River’s offering in this space different from other providers?

Tyler Kattre:
I love working with software companies. Their innovations and products inspire us each day to match their levels of continued progress and evolution.

Where we’re most different from other payment providers is that we’re often called upon to help pick up the pieces. We mend customer relationships between software companies and their merchants after the prior payments partner underdelivered or caused customer attrition. We’re like the salvage experts, called in to not only fix the technological problems but also renew the customer’s confidence in both the software and the payments solution. A byproduct of this is commitment. We haven’t lost a single partner that has chosen to work with WRF.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
How has Wind River Financial dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic? As it’s been about two years since the beginning of the pandemic, do you feel there are any payment trends that have emerged that will remain present going forward?

Tyler Kattre:
In the early days of the pandemic, I’ll admit there were some sleepless nights after witnessing millions and millions of credits and refunds going out from our merchants. I knew Wind River was strong and well positioned to make it through whatever would come, but I was concerned for our merchant customers. I knew they were doing whatever it took to keep their businesses open and running. They were trying to survive. Outside of the immediate transition to remote work and about 3 months of weak volumes, the pandemic’s impact on our business was relatively small in the grand scheme of things.

As for payment trends, the pandemic sped up the progress that was already underway. Trends toward contactless payments and growing ecommerce channels were given a heavy thrust forward in adoption. Neither of those things are one-off fads that will come & go, nor do I expect them to revert back to prior levels. The proliferation and growth for both is here to stay and will likely continue; albeit at a pace similar to pre-pandemic times.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
The payments industry has been rife with M&A activity in the last few years. What impact do you feel that has had on the industry?

Tyler Kattre:
Clearly that has had a huge impact on the industry as larger players seek market share, newer technologies, and cost efficiencies in our mature market. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen as a result is that merchants and software partners have been left in the dust during these transitions. A good deal of our recent growth has come from the fact that many payments customers had terrible experiences from these transitions. There was no priority or concern for their support and evolving needs, so they’ve come to WRF to experience relief from that pain.

Of course, an M&A transaction is hard and no one will have a 100% seamless transition. That said, as a family-owned company that’s intent on staying that way, when you do business with us, you get the commitment that you’re a part of a family and the comfort and stability that comes with it.

Q. TSG’s Alex Ferguson:
Overall, where do you see Wind River Financial five years down the line? What is next on the strategic roadmap?

Tyler Kattre:
I see Wind River continuing to climb the TSG charts on the Merchant Acquiring directory! We’re increasing our resources devoted to technology, product, and marketing. We’ve been operating quietly behind the scenes for a while, and now is the time to get our message out there more broadly and expand our reach. Our focus on payment integration as a way to solve problems for people will drive our success. Many things may come and go in the next five years, but our commitment to serving people will always be a vital need in the industry and a cornerstone of our business.

Want more from this series? Catch up on more executive interviews.

Featured companies include Bank of America, Clover, FortisPay, NMI, UNION POS, Celero Commerce, Paysafe, Talus Payments, Authvia, WePay, NetCents, Zuza, and more.

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