Kristy Carstensen, U.S. Bank

Kristy Carstensen, U.S. Bank

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The medical profession’s loss of Kristy Carstensen was the payments industry’s gain.

Carstensen, the senior vice president and payments chief financial officer at U.S. Bank, could just as easily have been helping children overcome illnesses. But there was something about being a doctor that wasn’t resonating with Carstensen early in her career development.

Prior to a career in financial services and payments, Carstensen started exploring careers by enrolling in medical school at the University of Iowa. She got a job in a local hospital to gain practical experience and kept that job throughout her stay in college.

“However, at some point on my journey to becoming a doctor, I realized that watching people suffer was too emotional for me and a course correction was needed,” said Carstensen, a 2021 Most Influential Women in Payments honoree. She made the quick pivot to hospital administration work, so as to stay in health care.

Kristy Carstensen, Senior Vice President and CFO, Payments Group, U.S. Bank

“I quickly realized there was a human component to banking through which I could have an impact on the community and meet my personal desires to succeed professionally and have an impact on the greater good,” said Kristy Carstensen, senior vice president and payments CFO at U.S. Bank.

After grad school, she landed an auditor job at KPMG, where she asked to be assigned to health care. They sent her off into financial services, where her degree in accounting came in handy.

It didn’t take long for Carstensen to fall in love with financial services, leading to bigger and better things. She went on to be a controller at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and ultimately the chief financial officer in U.S. Bank’s community development corporation and an enterprise strategic capital investment executive.

For the past two years, she has been the senior vice president and payments chief financial officer at U.S. Bank, where Carstensen has worked for nine years. It put her in a position to make a difference in the payments operations at the bank, as well as pursue her passion of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at work, in her communities and systematically.

“I quickly realized there was a human component to banking through which I could have an impact on the community and meet my personal desires to succeed professionally and have an impact on the greater good,” Carstensen said.

It also didn’t take long for Carstensen to figure out that she had the leadership qualities needed to advance her career, though it took a manager along that path to bring those traits to the forefront.

After significant turnover at a previous workplace, she had to rebuild a team and new relationships with management.

“I struggled with the circumstances and was pursuing work elsewhere when a mentor told me that through turmoil comes opportunity, and to take the reins,” Carstensen said. “It was in that moment that I realized I was more than a player on a team, and that I was not alone and this was an opportunity to be a leader in rebuilding a team.”

Her manager ultimately pointed out Carstensen’s leadership skills as the key to her accomplishments, including the human interaction component and the empathy and loyalty needed to attract followers.

“I was a leader capable of driving change,” she added. “It was not through my technical skills alone, but it was technical capacity combined with the empathy and loyalty that truly made me successful and would drive future opportunity and success.”

That success earned her key executive payments roles at U.S. Bank. Most recently, those experiences helped her deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe the best and worst things [with the pandemic] relate to the speed at which change happened,” Carstensen said. “As quickly as the pandemic hit, our everyday routine came to a halt.”

That abrupt halt had a rapid impact on spending, she said. “Just as quickly as spend halted, businesses and consumers alike learned they needed to transition to digital commerce — and the payments industry was ready and waiting.”

As a wife, mother of three daughters, and also someone involved in highly important financial work, Carstensen has added the roles of “teacher, technology troubleshooter and daughter to my aging parents” all while adjusting to an at-home work environment.

“The line between listed roles has blurred,” she noted. “It is not a balance that I strive for, as that portrays equal time across all of these roles, which is not possible — and that is OK.”

To make it all work and let the focus of her attention tip toward one role more than another when needed, Carstensen calls upon all of her past experiences and skills to establish an edict by which she can operate.

“It doesn’t mean I am failing at one role and winning at another, as these roles don’t compete,” she said. “These roles make us whole and demand of us differently. I am open with myself, my family and my team about prioritization.

“I have learned to be OK when it feels like I’ve let a role down,” she added. “Tomorrow is always a new day and reflection over yesterday makes tomorrow better.”

Click here to view the full list of 2021’s Most Influential Women in Payments, or continue reading: Hannah Fitzsimons, Elavon.

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