Brian Winfield is the Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder of TOTUS
Let’s start with a brief intro about you:
I was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. At the age of 3, our family moved to England while my father was stationed at RAF Chicksands. Five years later, we returned to the US, lived in Florida then Maryland. Shortly after, my career led me to Virginia then full circle back to Texas.
My favorite pastime was (and still is) technology. At 8 years old, I was writing code for video games, in high school I was president of the computer club and at 16 I was recruited by the National Security Agency. I am truly the definition of a computer geek, but it is this curiosity that gets me out of bed every day. Even though taking a job at the NSA propelled me into adulthood quickly, it turned out to be an exciting opportunity that laid the foundation for my later roles in the payments industry.
Now, I have found a permanent residence (hopefully!) in beautiful Northern Colorado which provides a great canvas for my other interest- photography. My life is bustling between my wife, 3 kids, 2 standard poodles and our newest addition, a paint horse stabled in a nearby town. But our favorite hobby, travel, is always a priority. We have been lucky to experience various cultures and adventures all over the world, constantly updating our list of new places to visit. This year, our family journeyed to Jerusalem, Rome and enjoyed a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea.
How did you end up founding TOTUS?
I have been working in the payments industry for over 20 years and specifically with gift cards for 15 years. I was the co-founder and CTO of CardLab, which was later acquired by Blackhawk Network. As a Senior Director at BN, I ran engineering for their eCommerce department.
David Jones, the CEO and co-founder of CardLab, and I have been working together for almost 20 years so when he shared the idea of TOTUS, along with the brilliant team that he assembled, it was a no-brainer for me to jump on board. There is a tremendous benefit for a founding team with past collaboration because the focus immediately advances toward building the company as opposed to learning how to work together. The result of our history has produced a comfort in each other’s skills, approach and personalities, which is conducive to rapid growth of any company.
The concept of TOTUS was compelling to me because throughout my experience in the gift card industry, I recognized that many brands had an obvious need to establish a successful gift card program, grow an existing program and navigate the complex regulatory environment and accounting practices. Additionally, consumers deserve to have their funds protected and available to them upon request. We think TOTUS is the right solution for both the brands and the consumers. We bring our 100+ years of knowledge with gift cards to the brands, changing the old way of doing things, thereby disrupting the industry. At this point in my career, I am most passionate about making an impact.
What makes TOTUS different?
We are obsessed with our brands and their customers. The obsession of happiness to be exact. It is what drives our decisions- how we approach our product and services. Happiness is not just a superficial metric: Do they like us? Do they want to do business with us?
Happiness as a metric requires reviewing how we interact with the brands plus our approach on how best to issue and service the gift cards with their customers. We learned first-hand the importance of client happiness at CardLab; the company was growing, but we were struggling with our culture. We were not focused on clients. We decided to change our objective, starting with taking a page out of the book, Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh. The goal was to empower our team to do whatever they felt necessary to make the customers happy. This culture shift led to not only happier customers, but also a much more engaged and fulfilled team. For example, instead of our customer service representatives feeling stressed day in and day out because they were unable to assist our customers, they spent time focusing on making sure customers were “blown away” by the service we provided. Delivering Happiness became required reading at CardLab and we have carried that requirement and culture into TOTUS.
Another difference is our alignment of goals with each of the brands. Our model is based on the success of the brand so if the brand doesn’t succeed, we don’t succeed. A simple philosophy yet it sets us apart from numerous other companies who put their needs and profits above their clients.
Tell us about the TOTUS culture:
Our priority is excellent service. But we cannot provide that without taking care of our employees. We strive to allow our employees to feel empowered, which in turn relates to the level of service that our clients receive. These values are reflected in everything we do at TOTUS. This includes our interactions with everyone- our brands and customers, our vendors and business partners and of course, each other. We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. When you get your culture right then a lot of the customer obsession becomes easy.
Our entire executive team believes that each employee has a voice. We collaborate, debate and rally behind every decision as a team. Enjoying what you do and where you work is so critical for a high-performance team and I think we have nailed that at TOTUS.
What is your strategic vision for the technology at TOTUS?
Brands use their technology to sell their products, similarly we use technology to grow the gift card programs for each of those brands. Our focus is two strategic areas: metrics on how the program is performing and generating insights into those metrics for improvement. At its core, TOTUS is a marketing company that expands and improves the gift card programs for brands. Our technology strategy reflects those goals.
First is the ability to quickly identify and report on the metrics mentioned above- confirming that those metrics have visibility across the organization so we can measure the performance of the programs. The second is to uncover insights and recommendations on those metrics so we can increase the program’s effectiveness. This second goal is where TOTUS’ technology strategy shines. Using a combination of AI and Data we can detect both small and large changes to the programs that can pay huge dividends in the program’s performance. We are just at the beginning of possibilities and are so excited to work with the brands on improving our products.
In addition, there are some emerging technologies such as Apple Pay’s Pass, that many brands have struggled to embrace due to resource constraints. But, with a focus on gift card programs we now have the opportunity to implement these emerging technologies, which will further drive the success of gift card programs.
How important is technology to accomplishing TOTUS’ vision?
Technology, while not one of the main value propositions of TOTUS, is critical to the success of a brand’s program. There are certain aspects of our business that are table stakes for a gift card program and there is no room for error. Brands are trusting us with their reputation, their money and their customers and we need to honor our obligation to them to provide extremely high levels of quality, uptime and security.
My focus is ensuring that we have the right infrastructure, technology partners, tools, and processes in place so that we are not only meeting expectations but exceeding expectations. The advantage of starting a company today is working with a clean slate and utilizing the wide array of proven tools and services. For example, we have partnered with Oracle’s Netsuite as our ERP system and Amazon’s AWS to act as the infrastructure foundation of our systems. We have also chosen Tugboat Logic as our tool for SOC 2 compliance. In this day and age, there is very little that we have to build from scratch, instead our time is spent on integration with various systems using proven technologies and customizing our specific needs at TOTUS.