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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

MWAA honors industry veteran Juan Ortiz

When Juan Ortiz interviewed for his first job in the bankcard business, back in 1998, he had no idea what credit card processing was about. Fast forward to July 2021, and Ortiz was being honored by his peers, receiving an Industry Achievement Award during the Midwest Acquirers Association conference in Chicago last week.

During an interview with The Green Sheet at the MWAA event, Ortiz recalled how he and his wife struggled with an overwhelming amount of debt before he joined the industry. "I remember thinking, maybe if I get the job, we could get a credit card," he said.

Ortiz began his career in bankcard as an account executive at Data Transfer Associates, a merchant services provider based in Des Plaines, Ill. Within a few months, he was selling over 20 accounts a month. Later that year, DTA was sold. John Rante and other key executives from the firm formed a new company, Online Data Corp., and hired Ortiz. There he helped to create and grow an ecommerce division, in addition to recruiting and training sales reps.

When Online Data Corp. was sold, Ortiz joined Bluepay Inc. as a vice president and partner, and was put in charge of recruiting, training and motivating sales agents. He also played a key role in Bluepay's acquisition of 33 portfolios, and the 2017 sale of Bluepay to First Data Corp. These days, Ortiz is a partner in Field Guide Enterprises LLC, a consultancy focusing on ISO growth and acquisition strategies. "I'm having a blast coaching people," he said.

From adversity to success

A charismatic figure and renowned motivational speaker, Ortiz has seen his share of hardships. The child of Mexican immigrants, his earliest memories are of his mother toiling long hours at menial jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over the family's head, while his father, a drug-addled criminal, routinely heaped physical abuse on him, his mother and his siblings.

During his acceptance speech at the MWAA, Ortiz recounted a harrowing experience that occurred when he was just nine years old. After a day of consuming alcohol and drugs, his father piled the kids in the car and navigated onto a freeway by way of the off-ramp. Seated in the front passenger seat, Juan tried to warn his father of the mistake, and was rewarded with a smack in the head. Fortunately, the mishap did not end in an accident, but it was a lesson in how fragile life can be. "Success is that fragile," Ortiz later said during his interview with this magazine. Looking back on his professional successes, Ortiz credits Rante. "I was very fortunate to get in with the right company and someone who believed in me," he said. He also credits his wife, who also believed in him and presciently counseled him back in 1998 that online businesses were going to be big. Plus, having an outgoing personality helped him to better connect with prospects: "I could sell a story," he said.

Advice for industry, individual agents

Ortiz is optimistic for the future of merchant services businesses. "I'm more excited about the bankcard industry than I've ever been," he offered. "This is not a saturated market."

But he worries that acquirers and their sales and technology partners aren't doing enough to attract and employ young professionals. "I don't think the industry is doing a good job of reaching out to college students," he said. "IBM, Google, all those big companies are visiting college campuses and getting kids excited about careers in technology," Ortiz noted. "Payments companies should be on campuses."

True, payment processing companies are not household names, and most people are unaware the industry even exists, but that can change, Ortiz said. After all, how many people, on and off college campuses, knew what Google was in 1998? (Google got its start in late 1998.)

Ortiz also has insights for individual agents, gleaned from his years of experience. "Start reading [to stay current with the industry and business trends], start listening and associate with the right people," he advised. "I started associating with tremendous people, like John Raney, and that changed my life."

Most importantly, Ortiz counseled, "Don't go dark. You have to stay engaged." end of article

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