5 questions with … KeyBank EVP of Payments Brandon Nowac


KeyBank Executive Vice President of Payments Brandon Nowac is focused on delivering tech-forward automation solutions to the bank’s third-party fintech partners and forming additional partnerships in the year ahead. 

The $190 billion, Cleveland-based bank committed to eliminating digital platform redundancies last fall and is working to expand its embedded banking platform via onboarding capabilities from acquired banking-as-a-service provider XUP, Nowac told Bank Automation News.

BAN caught up with Nowac to discuss KeyBank’s use of technology to mitigate fraud, preparation for the launch of new real-time payment rail FedNow and new technology the bank foresees in the payment space. What follows is an edited version of that conversation. 

Bank Automation News: What tech has KeyBank been working on in the payment space? 

Brandon Nowac, Executive Vice President of Payments, KeyBank

Brandon Nowac: A lot of times we’re delivering these highly technical, software-first solutions to our customers through our team, but we’re doing it through partnerships and from our API suite that our clients can consume, all the way to the work we’re doing in card acceptance to be able to digitize that whole experience.  

Adjacent to it, we acquired XUP and their digital onboarding capabilities. When you think about embedded banking, we can digitize that onboarding experience for that end customer to accept credit card payments online. That’s a digital technology investment but adjacent to core payments on the onboarding side of the equation. 

BAN: What technologies stand out in the payments space now? 

BN: We do have three power industry verticals in areas of commercial real estate, technology companies and then health care. When we look at technology companies, it’s really the trend of how many new technology businesses’ software-first platforms are coming into the market every year and many times they’re built on user experience workflow management, but there’s a payment somewhere in there. It could be receivable or payable, and that’s where our strategy around tech companies is to help them make or receive payment in their native software that then customers are using. 

BAN: How is KeyBank reducing payment fraud through technology? 

BN: We are very focused on continuing to present ideas to our clients on ways to mitigate and manage fraud. We’ve been heavily invested in payment gateway partnerships, and one of the gateway partnerships we have is very much focused on fraud and risk management. That’s just an example of where, even in a digital experience, you can work with our team and we’ll use a partnership like a gateway to overlay tools to be able to mitigate fraud in something like card acceptance or merchant acquiring. 

BAN: How is KeyBank preparing for the launch of FedNow? 

BN: We are live with real-time payments, and we’ve seen good success particularly in some of our industry teams where there’s a product market fit for real-time payments. Although I wouldn’t say its broad adoption at this point, it’s a good conversation with almost every one of our commercial clients. It’s been adopted in certain industries more specifically, and then on our product roadmap, we have investments going into FedNow now as well. 

BAN: How would you categorize your leadership style? 

BN: I fundamentally believe the most successful businesses have ecosystem leaders, which means you’re well beyond the four walls of a bank, but you’re able to culturally align and then you can align to the ecosystem that you live within.  

When we think about our platform of solutions that we bring to an end customer, there’s a massive ecosystem behind the scenes that’s enabling that product or service to be utilized by our client and that could be a network like Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover Card, or that could be a core processor, like a Fiserv or others. … I believe in trying to instill in my team [it’s important to be] going beyond being an effective enterprise leader to [becoming] an ecosystem leader.