• ESSEC SMIB alumni believe the payments sector enormously impacts how we work, live, and play.
  • Be willing to step out of your comfort zone, embrace differences and adapt.
  • Completing the SMIB program at the ESSEC Asia-Pacific campus paid off in the long run.

What does it take to turn ideas into innovation? Arguably, it is not the lack of obstacles but the open-mindedness and adaptability to see, seize, and run with the opportunities that arise.

Thankfully, these are characteristics that Sebastien Lefranc, head of start-up engagement at global payments provider Ingenico, has always maintained.

Expanding His World Currency

Since graduating from ESSEC with a Master in Strategy Management of International Business (SMIB) degree, Lefranc has kept one goal: To work in an industry that would allow him to see the world and change the world.

True to his keen eye for opportunity, he found the payments sector to fit the bill. After all, commerce is closely intertwined with culture, and the act of making payment can be traced back centuries to when people were still bartering with spices.

Today, payment remains a universal act, but the different ways that people conduct payments—from using mobile phones and QR codes in Asia to the reliance on credit cards in the USA—can speak volumes about how people run businesses and how an economy functions, he says.

Therefore, being in the payments industry has been his way of impacting how people work, live, and play.

Seizing Opportunities that Arise

After almost a decade of doing this, Lefranc has shifted his focus to a new mission: Using Ingenico’s payments technology to empower existing start-ups.

While traditional accelerators are looking for early-stage companies with the ability to solve problems unique to their field, his route is doing the opposite.

“I seek people that are solving problems, and I’m pushing Ingenico’s technology to them so that as a company, we are embedded into what they are doing and can bring them into our ecosystem,” he shares.

Lefranc’s role holds excellent potential for the company to bridge the gap with the vibrant Asian innovation ecosystem. Still, as it is also a first for Ingenico, there is no tested and tried formula for him to follow. No matter, he says, as he is sure that with the rise of fintech and digitalization, the time is right to take the risk.

This theme of seizing the day recurs in his life story when he first came to Singapore in 2008.

As someone who had lived in France his whole life, LeFranc saw the SMIB program as an opportunity for him to learn more about the Asian world of business.

His experience in Singapore piqued his interest in starting a career in the region, so in 2018, when he was offered a chance to manage 15 markets as product and strategic marketing manager of the Asia-Pacific region for Ingenico, he again jumped at the opportunity.

Being an SMIB alumni helped secure this, he shares, explaining that the opportunity arose when, during a business trip in Australia with the Senior Vice President of Ingenico, Lefranc let it “casually slip” that he had studied in Singapore and was keen to return in the future.

“I was just planting the seeds and hoping he would remember in two to five years,” he reminisces. “But he offered me a job on the spot!”

Embracing Discomfort to Grow

Dream opportunity aside, discomfort was a given. After all, Lefranc was newlywed and holding a comfortable position at the Ingenico France office when the offer came to join the Singapore office. Accepting meant that within days, he had gone from having complete control to knowing nothing and needing to rebuild from the ground up.

“The pace and way of doing business is different,” Lefranc recalls. “In the culture I came from, you spend time strategizing and then go to execution, but here, it’s executed and then synthesized into a strategy.”

Wisely recognizing that “different” does not mean “bad,” he took the challenges in his stride and reformulated a strategy to allow him to play to his strengths.

“It’s important because the environment will not change, and the system will not adapt to you. So you have to step out of your comfort zone and learn to work with the new system,” he advises.

Cashing in on Self-investments

This is the same mindset he carries to his new role in Ingenico.

He says to those who worry about uncertainty: “You have to understand that you are in this position because people believe you can do the job—if not today, then tomorrow.”

Experience has taught him that there is no single life-defining moment that can make one ready. Instead, the accumulation of actions and choices to invest in oneself will gradually shape one’s path.

His journey has taken over a decade and counting, but looking back now, one thing is clear: Every investment he has made to better himself has and will continue to slowly pay off.