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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Industry leaders dub TRANSACT 23 the 'best ever' ETA expo

Payments industry analysts, executives and business leaders hailed TRANSACT 23 as the Electronic Transactions Association's "best ever" annual conference and expo. In on-site interviews with The Green Sheet, held April 24 to 26, 2023, at Atlanta's Georgia World Conference Center, experts commented on the event's theatricality and breadth, noting it encompassed multiple facets of modern day commerce.

Jodie Kelley, CEO of the ETA, compared the conference to the multilayered payments ecosystem. "We have great content running in parallel," she said. "In this interconnected industry where relationships are key, we want people to connect in a condensed time frame and at scale."

Moments away from the exhibit hall opening and ribbon cutting ceremony, a marching band pulled in bystanders while the crowd cheered, snapping pictures with their smartphones. For Kyle McCann, director of operational strategy at VizyPay, the high-energy opening exemplified the association's commitment to surpass each previous event.

"Jodie Kelley and the entire ETA team continue to level up the show each year with content and structure," he said. "It's not easy to ensure that attendees find value and have a great time, but they continue to do it smoothly."

Agile, embedded presentations

The association's efforts to model the payments industry were reflected throughout the exhibit hall, Kelley noted, from agile, embedded 20-minute presentations to value-added networking events that expanded reach beyond traditional acquiring to fintech and financial services.

Robert E. Daniel, MBA, and fintech catalyst at ATDC, found TRANSACT easy to navigate. "It was a big but contained show," he said. "All the educational programming sessions were right there in the exhibit hall, making it easy to get around the showroom floor."

Derek Webster, founder and CEO, CardFlight and treasurer of the ETA, noticed first-time exhibitors and attendees from numerous industry sectors at TRANSACT 23. "It's been great to see the growth in ETA's constituent base as they expand the traditional ISO and agent roots of the show," he said. "While the traditional sales channel and people who serve them remain part of the core foundation, there's an ever-growing number of startups, fintechs and software providers attending and engaging at TRANSACT."

Caroline Hometh, co-founder and managing partner at RPY Innovations, also observed a shift in focus from acquiring to technology innovation. "We've met technologists, engineers, and product and strategy managers," she said. "TRANSACT has become more solutions focused; mainstream acquirers are collaborating with fintechs. Our clients are meeting with partners face to face, and we're here to learn ourselves."

Continuous innovation

Michael Reed, division president, payments at Deluxe, reflected on the ETA's nimble, incremental changes in response to legal, regulatory, compliance and technology trends. "The ETA has done a great job of reinventing this conference over the last five years," he said. "TRANSACT truly represents all aspects of payments with a focus on networking, learning and relevant topics geared to current and future opportunities."

Presenting on contextual commerce, Andre Machicao, global head of product for Visa, compared payments innovation to Lego logs, stating children who build without blueprints have been found to outperform those who build models based on blueprints and clearly defined outcomes. "Our industry, like these free builders, is becoming more creative," he said.

Aleksandra Teichman, head of U.S. acquiring, business development and strategy at Cross River Bank, noted embedded commerce, far from being a new trend, is the next iteration of fintech. "You could say embedded payments is Fintech 3.0," she said. "It's still about meeting customers where they are and staying relevant."

Supporting future growth

Deana Rich, co-founder and co-CEO for Infinicept, observed cultural differences between SaaS and payments enterprises. "Payments grew up on the street while SaaS companies have had clear divisions and a product-centric focus," she said, advising companies to treat embedded payments as "a full-blown product" with legal, regulatory, compliance, sales and marketing considerations.

Rich went on to say that payment facilitation has created a clear path forward for SaaS and acquiring companies. "Innovation won't stop," she said. "There will always be SaaS problems and payfacs will always be there to help solve them."

Tim Tynan, CEO of Chargeback Gurus and former ETA president, said the world is spinning fast, and ETA is right there with it. "For me, ETA is coming home to colleagues, competitors and friends, a group that collaborates and continues to grow each year," he said, adding that anyone who is serious about this industry needs to attend TRANSACT.

"Clients care about serving customers in ways that are different today," Tynan said. "Merchants and service providers have to pivot to meet consumer demands, and payments will continue to facilitate those interactions."

Solving fraud, conversion issues

Noting that fraud has exploded in recent years, creating an estimated $8 billion a year in losses, Tynan mentioned that fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated, especially in ecommerce, which makes embedded payments and tech-enabled services table stakes for most companies. Unique collaborations between humans and AIs are solving for this issue, he noted.

Philip McHugh, executive director at FlexCharge and immediate past-president of the ETA, cited declining ecommerce conversion rates as a complex issue affecting merchants and acquirers. "Merchants spend all this money to get customers to an ecommerce checkout page," he said. "However, unlike physical stores, 40 to 70 percent of customers will leave if declined and most declines are due to technical issues."

By leveraging AI and embedded commerce, companies can improve conversion rates while ensuring that customers get the product they want within their established credit limits, improving merchants' incremental sales, McHugh noted.

Enabling commerce

Brad Giles, senior vice president, marketing and sales enablement for Ingenico, has seen a shift in focus from stationary POS devices to high-tech platforms. "More and more of what we're doing is providing baseline functionality so our merchants can meet customer expectations and our partners can deliver more value to their merchants," he said.

Eric Bernstein, CEO at Valor PayTech, emphasized the need for pricing transparency across all commerce channels. He suggested this needs to be done the right way but not in a hurry. Fintechs have a duty to educate merchants about all the different forms of payments they can accept, he added, so they can understand the commerce journey and find ways to add value along the way.

"Early iterations of cash discounting and credit card surcharging were done too quickly and those shortcuts sacrificed the customer experience," he said. "Take the time to implement these programs properly; when regulations happen, you'll have a broader addressable market."

Embracing inclusivity

James Huber, partner with Global Legal Law Firm, found a sense of excitement throughout the conference, which he attributed the ETA's broader, more diverse constituency. Citing the association's EMPOW(H)ER program, launched in partnership with PayTech Women, he said the initiative will help fast-track a new generation of female leaders.

"I began my career as a maverick attorney looking to disrupt our space," he said. "And now that I'm older, it's great to see our industry recognize women for their contributions and leadership."

Samantha Ettus, CEO of Park Place Payments, encouraged attendees to participate in the EMPOW(H)ER mentorship program, which she said can help next-gen leaders reach their full potential. Her presentation, "Rethink Your Relationship with Time to Reach Your Potential," offered tips on accepting constraints and recognizing opportunities to enhance quality of life. end of article

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