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My first boss: Tony Craddock, Payments Association director general

The people who helped shape business leaders

Tony Craddock credits a no-nonsense Dutchman for his career path. Photo: Payments Association
Tony Craddock credits a no-nonsense Dutchman for his career path. Photo: Payments Association (PAUL STARR Photographer)

In 2012, Tony Craddock founded The Payments Association, a network for all companies that facilitate payments, whatever their size, capability, location or regulatory status. Collectively, members of the The Payments Association transact more than £5.2 trillion annually and employ more than 300,000 staff.

Craddock set up the Inclusion Foundation in 2019, a not-for-profit platform company promoting products that help address financial exclusion. He champions payments technologies globally today.

I was never really destined to have a boss. I set up my first company at 27 and I tended to look at my clients as the people who were my bosses occasionally.

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But I had one client, a Dutchman called Dick Suer, who was twice my age and ran a publishing business and Dick took me under his wing. I wanted to learn how to run a business which could grow into something that had impact and I guess Dick saw that he could help.

Read More: My first boss: Seb Goldin, CEO of Red Driver Training

Dick had a number of approaches to business which I always try to keep to. "If you are looking at the horizon," he told me once, “don't forget that the most beautiful flowers grow just over the edge of the cliff”. By that he meant that you are seeing the horizon, but sometimes the most perfect opportunities are close by but you may also have to stand in a risky place.

What I took from that was that I needed to be willing to live with a high degree of uncertainty and risk in order to get access to the most valuable opportunities. I loved that idea, and you don’t often hear people talking in that way.

At the time, I was running a business called the Publishing Agency. Setting up a business in the 1980s wasn’t something you just did. Dick partnered with me and after three years he offered to buy my company. I was keen as I could see the value of having a boss and mentor. But in the end, my existing business partner didn’t want to sell and he ended up buying me out.

QR code is displayed on screen for cashless payment scanning. Closeup hands hold smartphone to transfer money by electronic transaction from mobile app. Bar code technology for fast pay. Enthusiastic
Founder Tony Craddock sees the Payments Association membership as a network – the more people who are in it, the stronger it is. Photo: Getty Images (Ralf Hahn via Getty Images)

Dick was 6ft 3in, lean and very Dutch in his attitude. The Dutch speak directly and don’t take prisoners. Yet, he was relaxed, always had the door open. He was selective in what he did and good at deciding when to delegate.

He once said that good leaders are the ones who choose their own path and leave a shadow. When you think about what he said, it’s not about risk, it’s about creating a legacy.

Read More: My first boss: Founder of UK's fastest growing water supplier

In my own career, I’ve tried to do things a little bit differently to other people.

What I’m running at the moment is an unusual concoction of two different businesses but where we have created a situation with no competition. I found a different path to be able to launch that.

We recently had an away day and where did I take the staff? To Amsterdam, of course. Bosses can have such an effect on people and Dick was one of those.

Today, the wonderful thing about The Payments Association is that it's like a network effect — the more people who are in it, the more value there is. The less they are prepared to leave you and the more they are prepared to pay.

We now have 350 clients across the UK, Europe and Asia. This gives us a really influential platform and to give a voice to effect change in the industry.

It’s a lot harder to collaborate in a sector where people compete head-to-head. In the payments industry everybody has to collaborate and no one can afford to have enemies. It’s an ecosystem where everybody plugs into each other.

Read More: My first boss: Nick Wheeler, founder of Charles Tyrwhitt

Our industry has facilitated more convenient ways of paying. All these things have been done while keeping hold of the need to keep people secure from fraud.

The next target for The Payments Association is to reach 500 members. To me, it’s partly about having as much backing as we can but also that, as an industry, we are fulfilling our responsibility to the environment, to society and in governance.

As we grow as a community and organisation we will have more resources and be able to spend more time releasing social capital, everything we have as a volunteer and which has so much collective power. It’s a theory of community management which can allow it to do a good job around us.

As a result, the people within it will be more successful and more fulfilled.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?

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