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Shift4 Payments

Lighting the way to POS innovation

This Company Profile originally appeared in The Green Sheet Issue 151002.

Harbortouch Payments LLC's lighthouse stands watch at its Allentown, Pa., headquarters, a symbol of the company's long view of the payments ecosystem. Established in 1999 as United Bank Card Inc., the company caused a stir in 2004 when its free terminal program disrupted traditional industry pricing models. Years later, the company rebranded as Harbortouch after introducing the first free integrated POS platform.

For Harbortouch founder and Chief Executive Officer Jared Isaacman, the payments journey has always been about driving value to merchants. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the industry was migrating from paper processing to electronic authorization. Electronic funds transfer was a huge value driver.

"Zon Jr.s at the time were leased at exorbitant rates, but they delivered funds in two to three days to merchants who had previously waited up to 30 days for credit card settlement," he said, noting that other value-driven initiatives were introduced over the next 16 years. "Gift cards have scaled more than other initiatives such as prepaid cards and check guarantee," he added. "The industry has consistently tried to drive value; failure to do so resulted in margin compression, eroding commissions and price points."

Follow the free

Soon after launching the industry's first free terminal program, Isaacman saw limitations in countertop terminals. "I saw the writing on the wall and started looking for the next big thing," he said. "That's when I discovered the limitless potential of integrated POS technology."

UBC established its Harbortouch Division in 2007 with a staff of 12 and rebranded in 2012, Isaacman noted. A trained pilot who owns a fleet of retired military fighter jets, he added, "There is so much runway in the computer world that you can always add new things. There's a whole other world that exists outside the walled garden of countertop POS terminals and we intentionally went into that market."

The Harbortouch team designed an integrated POS platform with a commission structure designed to attract merchant level salespeople (MLSs). The company achieved positive revenue growth within the first year. Today Harbortouch boasts 3,500 registered MLSs and 110,000 merchants processing approximately $11 billion in annual credit card volume.

Continuing education

Harbortouch Executive Vice President of Sales Brian Jones created Harbortouch University in 2012, a comprehensive, two-day agent training program. In an interview with The Green Sheet published Nov. 26. 2012, in issue 12:11:02, Jones said the program evolved from certification courses for agents who sold hospitality solutions. "We want to ensure [the agents'] success as resellers of the POS system, not merely as bankcard reps," he said, adding that the program offers continuous training.

Harbortouch reseller partners receive online orientation and on-site certification training. The curriculum is constantly updated in response to changing industry trends to give resellers in-depth understanding of POS systems and a competitive edge.

Serving all markets

Isaacman attributes 40 percent of the company's year-over-year growth to integrated POS sales and said Harbortouch also derives intangible benefits from serving a growing merchant family. "We have a front-line view of bigger trends in the retail and hospitality sectors," he said. "Our merchants have 24/7 live support." Seeing opportunity in emerging, underserved markets, Isaacman plans to enrich the company's value-added services such as real-time data analytics and online ordering.

Harbortouch offers two integrated POS models. Echo is purpose-built for small to midsize merchants with an all-in cost to merchants. Elite is designed for enterprise-scale customers and multilane retailers with a per-month service fee. Both systems offer cloud-based reporting and POS management through Lighthouse, the company's remote management software.

Beyond POS systems, Harbortouch has a range of offerings for diverse merchant verticals. "Basically, whatever an ISO is looking for, we can offer to them," said Nate Hirshberg, Harbortouch Marketing Director. "Over the years we have streamlined our offerings and brought a lot of things in-house to focus on the mission-critical aspects of running a business."