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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Raising the ACH bar

The payment processing industry is under increasing scrutiny as regulatory and government agencies implement mandates to garner more control and hold it more accountable. To help payment professionals expand their knowledge base, NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association – is offering the opportunity to become an Accredited ACH (automated clearing house) Professional. NACHA founded the program in 1993 and has certified over 3,500 AAPs since then.

Candidates are welcome from any sector of the industry, but need at least two years of ACH experience. "The whole point is to make sure that people have a solid subject matter base to start from," said Scott Lang, Senior Vice President of Association Services at NACHA. "The exam is a way for us to ascertain that the AAP has expertise in issues relating not only to the ACH network, but other payment system issues as well."

It's the journey that counts

Lang said the AAP program, though open to anyone, is geared toward operations, risk and product management experts: those who don't have an intimate knowledge of how the ACH network, and the formats and rules around it, function. However, he also believes the certification program is essential for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs).

"It would be very valuable for [MLSs] to take this exam because it will give them a comprehensive understanding of how the network operates and help them to be more effective in meeting the needs of their corporate customers," Lang said. "Because of the new complexities in the payments system, financial institutions, processors and governments need to make sure that the people they are employing have that subject expertise.

"And remember, it's not the exam that is critical, it's the preparation and commitment required to master the information and to stay on top of new developments and issues that arise around the payment network's evolution," he added.

A greater understanding

To help payment professionals gain easier access to exam preparation resources, AAPs will be attending NACHA's upcoming annual conference in Orlando, Fla., from April 5 to 8, 2009. On the last evening of the conference the association will host a seminar called Destination: AAP, with presenters from NACHA and its regional payment associations. The goal is to give aspiring AAPs a chance to network with current AAP professionals and instructors.

"We want to help those who wish to sit for the exam to find out where they need to begin, the purpose and the value of the designation, help them find all the resources that are available, get them ready from a practical perspective as well as help them ascertain if this is the right time to take it," Lang said.

"Most importantly, we are seeing financial organizations and governments hiring people who specifically deal with the payments industry, and more and more are requiring that certification because it is a clear indication that the AAP understands all the network issues as they apply to that organization and can help them better manage their infrastructure and maintain security and efficiency within it," he added.

The AAP exam will be administered from Oct. 12 to 30, 2009. For more information, visit www.nacha.org or e-mail aap@nacha.org.

end of article

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