Looking for a better mousetrap

UL’s Director of Innovation for Transaction Security, Maarten Bron, turned his childhood inquisitiveness into a 20+ year career.

Curiosity runs in Maarten Bron’s blood, with three generations of his family having worked in various research and technology roles. That legacy is continued by Bron, who is UL’s Director of Innovation for Transaction Security.

Bron, a native of the Netherlands, recalls how his grandfather’s position with the Dutch company, Phillips, allowed his family to own the first television set in the neighborhood. “Can you imagine the neighbors peeking through the windows, trying to see what this thing was all about,” he laughs. 

During his childhood, he didn’t play with typical toys choosing instead to work with bits of metal, pieces of string and scraps of paper to construct various gadgets and widgets. “I was looking for a better mousetrap,” he explains.

Later, he worked after school as a service repairman for a local shop where he fixed anything and everything, from a car’s alternator to a generator, the perfect outlet for an inquiring mind.

Tinkering with mechanical objects prepared him for his studies at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where he majored in electrical engineering. After graduating, he continued his education at the Delft University of Technology where he merged his engineering background with advanced studies in business management and administration.

It was at the university in Delft, the Dutch city known for its blue and white hand-painted pottery, that Bron took his first step toward what came to be a twenty-year career in transaction security services.

It began in 1999 when Bron enrolled in a course that taught the basics of a job search. From resume creation to interview preparation, this class had it all, even homework.

“We were asked to apply to as many jobs as possible, even if they were a longshot,” Bron recalls. So, he pulled the classified section from his home’s dustbin, opened it up and saw an advertisement for a management trainee with Crisper, the Dutch maker of chip-card technology. He thought, “that looks interesting” and then applied for the position, interviewed and received an offer with an attractive salary package, “at least by college standards,” he says.

The rest is history, as they say, with Bron allowing his growing passion for financial technology (FinTech) to take him to companies throughout Europe and the Middle East. He spent time in Helsinki, Finland and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia before moving back to the Netherlands to work for Collis, a provider of secure transactions and advisory services. Collis was acquired by UL in 2012, precipitating another move, this time to California’s Silicon Valley—a place where it’s always sunny, according to Bron.

Flash forward to 2017 and Bron still retains the family’s curiosity trait as he likes to put himself in the shoes of both the customer and UL to help drive innovation within the industry.

“The pace of change in the industry is high, creating a challenge for some stakeholders who have struggled to keep up with the host of new processes, applications and products,” he says. “A FinTech startup can revolutionize the payment industry with $20k in seed money, potentially leaving legacy companies behind on payment options, security platforms and so forth.”

Today, digitization is everything, and UL provides an organizational structure to the industry with its strong focus on the digital society. Bron uses his passion and curiosity to help form digital organizations that not only work seamlessly for customers but can also be safely employed. “If consumers perceive technology to be unsafe, they won’t use it,” Bron concludes.

To help motivate his staff and keep up with the pace of technological innovation, he encourages them with one-liner management quotes to make guiding easier. But it’s Bron with a twist.

“If it is broken, don’t automate.” As he explains, processes become rituals not to be questioned and certainly never to be broken. But these inefficient processes slow down innovation and block the changes necessary to succeed in the digital society. He encourages everyone to ask the question, “Does it work for you?” And, if it doesn’t, build a better mousetrap.

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