Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Voices of Transact 14 – part 3
The Green Sheet
concludes its tradeshow odyssey with a look at two mobile payment firms, a processor, a PCI specialist and a terminal manufacturer. What all the payment professionals interviewed for this series have in common is a mindset of always being focused on the future and intent on navigating the historic changes taking place in the industry. The Green Sheet
thanks all the individuals who shared their stories with us at Transact 14: Powered by ETA.
Mitch Cobrin, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder
Debra McAteer, Vice President, U.S. Reseller & ISO Channel
Mitch Cobrin, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AnywhereCommerce, had much to be pleased about at Transact 14. In particular, the company was previewing its mSuite mobile commerce ecosystem, and it released its AC CorePay Opened SDK development interface, which Cobrin said is a secure, reliable tool for developers and independent software vendors. Additionally, Cobrin was working closely at the AnywhereCommerce booth with payment veteran Debra McAteer, who recently joined the company as Vice President of Sales for U.S. Resellers and ISOs.
"The mSuite is essentially a three-pronged solution: gateway, software and hardware," Cobrin said. "It isn't about hardware; it's a provisioning suite that is processor and acquirer agnostic. The gateway also has a back-end merchant portal that can do bulk uploads of merchant accounts. It has a host of features that are less typical of gateway infrastructures, and our portal offers every tier of administration; people with different credentials can see different things, depending on how the credentials are set up."
Cobrin said AnywhereCommerce has a strong relationship with Microsoft Corp. and supports Windows 8 across devices, including smartphones using Windows 8. And the company's hardware accepts mag stripe, Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) chip and signature, and EMV chip and PIN payments. He noted, "We're ready for when EMV chip proliferates in the U.S.; we're already on our second generation of product and have great experience on the product from doing business in other parts of the world, including Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region."
Cobrin said the mSuite is a turnkey product for ISOs. "They don't have to deal with three different service providers – hardware, software, gateway – it's full service. ... All they have to do is bring marketing expertise and customers, and we'll take care of the technology behind it and the transparent data accessibility."
As for McAteer, Cobrin referred to her as a payments sales guru. "She's an industry veteran, and by the look of things, she's got movie star qualities by her presence in the industry," he said. "She's going to be leading the charge for us in the ISO community. We're thrilled. She's only been with us about a week, and she's already dazzled us."
Susan M. Sheen, TSYS Acquiring Solutions Group Executive, Marketing, Communications and Business Support
Lisa Ludolph, Associate Director, Sales & Marketing
Over breakfast at THE cafe at Mandalay Bay (seasonal fruit, berries and lusciously thick whipped cream, and good old-fashioned bacon and eggs), TSYS executives Susan M. Sheen and Lisa Ludolph shared their excitement about TSYS' decision to try something different this year at Transact 14. Instead of manning a booth, TSYS execs were on hand in a meeting room they'd rented in the exhibit hall for the duration of the show.
Sheen, TSYS Acquiring Solutions Group Executive, Marketing, Communications and Business Support, said, "We took one of the meeting spaces and turned it into a product lounge where we are essentially showing what I call our very flashy products: our mobile tablet solutions, and even our back-end solutions, our analytics-type products, and essentially showing how clients can use all the data they can collect, share that with their merchants and build their portfolios with these tools. We have really expanded our back-end solutions."
Sheen added that the meeting room has been very effective as a way to maximize business opportunities. "Anybody who is coming to us now wants to do business with us, both prospects and existing clients who want to expand the relationship," she said. "We're still very active in ETA. We sponsored the mini programs for this show and will continue to be a sponsor. We just wanted to make the most effective use of our time and sales resources and not just have a booth because it's what we've done in the past."
At the show, TSYS was also demonstrating TSYS Merchant Insights, a value-added service ISOs can offer to their merchant customers.
"It's a free social media-based tool that essentially takes care of that, so merchants can run their business and not worry about Yelp scores and other social media feedback," said Ludolph, Associate Director, Sales & Marketing at TSYS. "It aggregates the data and feeds it into one dashboard merchants log into and see how they're comparing to their competitors, and if they're getting negative feedback, it presents all the tools to make it easy for them to respond immediately and take action."
Sheen said TSYS partners with Womply to provide the social media tool, and when TSYS first offered it to 10,000 merchants, every one of them claimed the dashboard. "That's when we made the decision to offer it more broadly and to keep enhancing it and adding to it," she said. Other features enable merchants to reach out to customers with loyalty programs, special discounts and other targeted offers.
Paul Rasori, Executive Vice President, Product & Marketing, at PowaPOS
Paul Rasori, Executive Vice President, Product & Marketing at PowaPOS, was a man on fire (in a good way) at Transact 14. "The response that we've gotten this week is beyond our expectations," he said while demonstrating the PowaPOS offerings at the company's booth. "I've had lots of people come here and say, 'I was told I had to look at this product.' ... I've been in this industry a long time and haven't seen excitement like this in – forever."
So what was the all buzz about? A set of integrated products Rasori called "future perfect." These include PowaPOS and PowaPOS software development kit, PowaWEB and PowaTAG.
"The consumer download app is called PowaTAG," Rasori said. "It asks several questions, such as name, address and credit card info, and stores that on your behalf in a cloud-based wallet. We work with merchants to put PowaTAGs on merchandise and advertising, and we already have 30 brands signed up for it." PowaTAGs can be in the form of quick response codes consumers scan or screen icons consumers touch to make purchases, as well as audio recordings that contain a purchasing function.
PowaWEB is a software-as-a-service, cloud-based solution for e-commerce that PowaPOS believes is ideal for brands looking to extend their presence globally while working the local, domain, currency and language.
PowaPOS is a hardware and software platform designed to customize the payment experience at the physical POS and on the move. "This show is all about PowaPOS, the third leg of this everywhere commerce ability," Rasori said. "A trend in retail is the move toward smartphone- and tablet-based systems. ... Many POS configurations are all separate pieces with separate power connectors and pieces, separate PIN pad devices, and they're expensive, unreliable and look terrible. We've created an all-in-one solution with all pieces in one small footprint, using a single power cable."
Included in the compact, swivel device are a universal tablet POS, payment terminal that includes EMV acceptance capability, two dimensional QR and bar code scanner, thermal printer and cash drawer.
In addition, Rasori noted that the PowaPIN device, which is smaller than the palm of a typical woman's hand, supports all verification methods, including chip and PIN, chip and sign, swipe and PIN, and swipe and sign, "And it's all PCI compliant," he said.
Joan Herbig, Chief Executive Officer
Stacey Holleran, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
Payment security and compliance solution provider ControlScan has historically researched acquirers' PCI practices, as well as merchants' views on security and compliance.
"Now we're looking at new avenues," Stacey Holleran, the company's Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, told The Green Sheet at Transact 14. "We surveyed small merchants to find out what they're thinking about Windows XP, whether they were aware Microsoft was going to end support for XP ... if they knew they were running XP or had no clue what they were running ... to find out where they were at, so we could meet them with educational content and help acquirers with educational content as well."
ControlScan found that 93 to 94 percent of merchants surveyed knew XP support was going to expire, but less than half said they were concerned about the security ramifications.
Herbig added that the company is focusing on shorter studies "so we can push out information and education quickly to merchants and their service providers to better service them."
For example, ControlScan's mobile study was in its second year last year and was very well received, according to Herbig. "We're going to recalibrate with that study and hone in on specific segments of mobile payments to figure out how small merchants are dealing with mobile," she said. "We've seen a significant increase year over year of merchants adopting tablet and smartphone devices to accept payments, so we want to delve into that."
At the show, ControlScan was also touting two recent partnerships. Just days before Transact 14 began, the company heralded its new partnership with Plano, Texas-based iScan Online to address security issues that arise due to consumer-grade mobile-device use in small to midsize business environments. Via this new relationship, ControlScan created ProTect Mobile, a tool for securing Apple iOS and Android mobile devices.
ProTect Mobile is a mobile scanning solution acquirers can make available to merchants so they can scan mobile devices being used in their operations; it provides the ability to detect vulnerabilities and protects cardholder data; it looks for information on the device that should not be stored and alerts merchants to the presence of that data, Herbig said.
Per the second partnership, announced during the show, ControlScan is now working with Israel-based EverCompliant, which provides merchant security risk and compliance management solutions. The aim of this partnership is to provide acquirers leading-edge brand protection monitoring.
Shan Ethridge, Vice President & General Manager NAFG, VeriFone
Thursday afternoon, the show was winding down, but VeriFone's booth was still busy, and Shan Ethridge, the company's Vice President & General Manager NAFG, was still affably energetic as he sat down with The Green Sheet to discuss some of VeriFone's recent developments.
"This is one of the most interesting times in this industry," Ethridge said. "We're seeing so many changes, especially with technology, so that merchants are going to have more access to data that will help them learn more about their customers. VeriFone wants to be an enabler in offering technology and solutions that help merchants grow their business through understanding consumer behavior."
Ethridge noted that VeriFone offers a range of solutions that help meet those objectives. "We have everything from cloud-based solutions to new and improved hardware that is going to be critical to helping merchants really understand how they can expand their offerings. ... We can't be all things to all people. We can't do it alone, so it's important to work with the right partners to make sure we're offering a soup-to-nuts solution to the market."
A primary objective for VeriFone at the show was to let the industry know that VeriFone is not just a terminal manufacturer. "We want to develop partnerships in the industry that allow us to be a critical component in commerce enablement," Ethridge said. "It's not just about the card swipe; it's about the experience, and it's about the data."
Ethridge added that the show was a positive experience for VeriFone. "We've received very good feedback," he said. "Our CEO, Paul Galant, was in attendance and was part of the keynote on Wednesday, and he's very pleased with the response he's received personally with a number of partners that he's met."
Voices of Transact 14 – part 2
Monday, April 14, 2014
T ransact 14: Powered by ETA, the Electronic Transactions Association's annual event held April 8 through 10 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, proved to be a bountiful opportunity for The Green Sheet to interview a dynamic cross-section of payment professionals. Part 2 of our three-part series provides insights from these payment pros into new products, new opportunities and how we can do a better job of securing the payments ecosystem from data security breaches.
Matt Getzelman, PCI Practice Director at Coalfire Systems Inc.
This is the first year Coalfire Systems Inc. exhibited at the ETA's premier event. Matt Getzelman, PCI Practice Director at Coalfire, said he and his colleagues have attended in prior years and made so many good connections they opted for a booth this time around to provide a dedicated place to meet with current and prospective partners and clients. And at the Coalfire booth, the buzz phrase was "defense in depth."
What Getzelman means by defense in depth is for businesses to have multiple layers of security, and to think of it as a holistic process, not as just something to check off and forget about. He said the recent large data breaches serve as reminders that it's time for organizations to reevaluate their security and compliance, especially merchants and processors.
"There's an explosion of malware and easy-to-use tools on the black market, so it's easier than ever, even if you're not a traditional hacker, to get card data," Getzelman said. "Criminal syndicates are going after easy targets, and people need to ask, 'Are we the low-hanging fruit?'"
Getzelman identified three areas in which we, as an industry, failed to stop hackers in recent high-profile breaches. "First, attackers had to get malware... We had a chance to prevent these programs from getting into retail environments, and we failed," he said. "Second, we were unable to prevent propagation across the organization instead of restricting it to one location.
"And finally, they had to be able to access the cardholder data and route it out of the environment. So we had three opportunities to stop and mitigate the attacks, and we blew it." Ultimately, security solutions have to be a combination of everything applicable, he added.
"One exciting thing is the emerging payment technologies we're seeing offer additional options for merchants to protect data at the source. Point-to-point encryption, EMV chip and PIN in the United States are going to be tools that protect sensitive data at the point of interaction, so I would implore organizations to explore and research these technologies now."
BlueSnap Inc. executives:
Ralph Dangelmaier, Chief Executive Officer
Kelly Seelig, Vice President, Marketing
BlueSnap Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Dangelmaier and his colleague Kelly Seelig, the company's Vice President, Marketing, want to bring the world to U.S. ISOs and merchants, so at Transact 14 they were wining, dining, networking and helping to inform their industry peers. To that end, Dangelmaier ran an educational session at the conference on doing business in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) region; Seelig was the moderator for a session on marketing.
Dangelmaier said interest in the BRIC session was strong. "We had someone from Russia, from Brazil, from India, and someone representing China Union Pay who is American, but knows China very well," he said. "We explained how the local people in those countries want to buy goods online using local currencies, local languages, and local payment types – and the need to educate ISOs and merchants on that."
Seelig's marketing session covered the basics. "We talked about how to build a plan, how to think about marketing strategically, how to integrate PR, social media and advertising – and how that all works together for e-commerce and storefront businesses," she said.
Dangelmaier has found that few U.S. merchants understand how to sell outside of the United States. "There was a recent article that said only 27 percent have the ability to do it, which means 73 percent don't," he said, adding that "guys like Stripe and Braintree get significant press coverage about sexy APIs that let merchants build their own checkout pages, but they don't enable them to optimize globally."
BlueSnap saw a need it could fill and rolled out its global gateway about a year ago. The company markets prebuilt checkout pages that "encompass most currencies and most languages in 80 countries, and 110 of the most prevalent payment types in those countries," Dangelmaier said, adding that he is in talks with "a few large ISOs right now who are really strong domestically but want their domestic folks to sell overseas."
Dangelmaier said physical stores are seeing between 5 and 15 percent of sales going online, and those are interactions that are no longer going through the POS. He feels that most ISOs are "swipe guys" and, by not helping merchants also move into international e-commerce, "they are missing out on a big revenue opportunity." It was Dangelmaier and Seelig's mission at Transact 14 to let exhibitors and attendees know just how easy it is to work with BlueSnap to bring an international commerce value-add to their merchants.
Thinking about the current state of the industry, Dangelmaier said, "I've been doing this for 25 years and never seen anything like this. There are 250 different payment types, and most people think of five; you have all these people who don't have bank accounts trying to buy stuff; you have 17-year-old kids in Brazil saying they can compete with companies like First Data.
"All this stuff is happening at once. Before it was like, wow, there's an ATM; we spent 10 years going, wow, there's an ATM. Then it was, oh, there's an Internet – 10 years of that. And now this is like all these new things hitting you – the convergence, the disruption, the risk and the opportunity – all at once. It's the Big Bang of payments."
Jonathan Ellman, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Compliance and Government Affairs at Vantiv
From a comfy corner of Vantiv's busy booth at Transact 14, Jonathan Ellman, Vantiv's Senior Vice President, Regulatory Compliance and Government Affairs, sat down with The Green Sheet to share insights about recent developments in the regulatory sphere and how they are affecting the payments landscape.
Ellman said that regulation has risen dramatically on the industry since the financial crisis that gripped the country with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in late 2008. "Merchants who are providing goods and services to consumers are being asked to provide those services and goods in a manner consistent with consumer advocates in the government," he said.
Ellman noted that, by executive order, the government launched an interdepartmental initiative called Operation Choke Point, which is specifically focused on our industry as "the best vehicle they could see to make sure that bad-acting merchants are cleansed from the ecosystem."
In response, the industry is establishing more of a robust, comprehensive and dynamic culture of compliance within organizations. "This means every department is impacted in one way shape or another, and it's really important that we do that both for our own protection, and also for our clients and their consumers," Ellman said.
Vantiv has endeavored to help educate regulatory agencies on how the industry works. Ellman said that in an attempt to cleanse the system, the government can overreach, which can increase costs and negatively affect consumers, as well as stifle innovation. "I don't necessarily agree the level of pressure is appropriate to the problem," he said. "So we are working very hard to work cooperatively ... but also to articulate our position."
Ellman lauded the ETA's efforts in this arena, stating that the association has done a fabulous job and has been a strong voice for the industry in working through regulatory issues. "Today, at this conference, they released a comprehensive set of guidelines for ISOs and processors on how they should underwrite, monitor and otherwise manage their relationships with their customers," Ellman said.
Jason Oxman, Chief Executive Officer at the Electronic Transactions Association
In the midst of ensuring that myriad activities deliver the desired punch for Transact 14 attendees, Electronic Transactions Association Chief Executive Officer Jason Oxman stopped in at the media room to share his enthusiasm for the ETA's "rebranded and reenergized" premier event.
"We've expanded the schedule so we're three full days now including high-level keynotes, 77 conference sessions and an exhibit hall that is larger than at any show in our history," Oxman said. "It's really become a truly global hub of activity in the payments industry."
Oxman believes the show's rebranding captures the expansion of the industry to include global technology companies entering the payments business. "Our show floor includes the world's leading payments and technology companies that are offering innovative new products and services for merchants," he said.
In addition, he stated, "More payments industry business gets done during the Transact show than at any other place on earth. You see all the meetings taking place, all the discussions on the show floor. There's an incredible amount of business getting done. It's really efficient for attendees because all their current and prospective customers are here. If I do 20 meetings while at Transact for three days, that's 20 separate trips to see customers that I don't have to do."
At the conference, the ETA was also spreading the word about its advocacy and educational activities. "ETA has been very active as an advocate for the payments industry in Washington, on Capitol Hill and with federal regulatory agencies," Oxman said. "We've also expanded our educational initiatives, including our ETA CPP [Certified Payments Professional] program. Nearly 1,000 industry executives have participated in the certification program. We're proud of the professional education we're providing; it's a unique member benefit and is helping our industry grow."
The ETA's Transaction Trends magazine also sponsored the media room, which was graciously hosted by members of the London-based SkyParlour public relations team. It was a much appreciated haven for media representatives.
Jeff Fortney, Vice President, ISO Channel Management at Clearent LLC
While Jeff Fortney, Vice President, ISO Channel Management at Clearent LLC, was manning his company's booth at Transact 14 on Wednesday afternoon, he divulged a secret. "When I come to a show, I concentrate on two objectives only," he said. "If I meet them, the event is a success; if not, I'm not OK."
His first objective this year was to find a partner to provide a good solution for medical offices. "One of my ISOs said he needs a medical solution that'll work alongside HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] requirements, so I'll spend my time when I'm not stuck at the booth looking for that," he said.
The second objective was to get the word out on the Clearent Payments Platform, the processor's recently rolled-out open application programming interface (API) that integrates with e-commerce websites, mobile apps and back office systems. "You have a POS system, and it either works directly with the processor like a terminal or it works with a third-party like a gateway," Fortney said. His message for ISOs: "Now that we have our API, you can map to our API and take the third party out. This can save money for you and your merchants."
By Thursday afternoon, the last day of the show, Fortney had a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice as he said he'd met his two objectives and was satisfied.
Stacey Finley Tappin, Senior Vice President, North American Sales & Marketing Communications
Benjamin Hurley, Director, Mobile Product Management
The buzz at Apriva's booth on Transact 14's exhibit hall floor was all about Apriva Pay Plus 3.0 and its web companion merchant portal 1.0 that is set for release on April 28. A private conference room within Apriva's ample booth was where Benjamin Hurley, the company's Director, Mobile Product Management, and Stacey Finley Tappin, Senior Vice President, North American Sales & Marketing Communications, discussed the key features of their new offerings.
Here are some of the points they made about Apriva Pay Plus 3.0:
- It is white-labeled mobile payment software with a very low barrier to market entry that acquiring banks can brand as their own to deliver a robust, compelling mobile commerce solution they can bundle with other banking services.
- It can also be white labeled for the ISO market as a very accessible mobile commerce solution ISOs can bundle and offer to merchants, which increases merchant stickiness.
- It comes with 24/7 support, which is unusual when compared with other mobile payment solutions, particularly those geared for small businesses.
- This version is multilingual, so Spanish- and French-speaking merchants can do business in their native languages.
- It is fully compatible with Apple iOS 7 and Android for tablets and mobile devices, and the user experience is unified across all device types used.
Hurley and Tappin also emphasized that AprivaPay Plus 3.0 does far more than process payments. "Merchants receive push notifications on transactional activity," Hurley said. "We don't want end users to just use it to process payments. We want to create a dependency. ... We notify them daily of the amount cleared that day and will let them know when transactions are taking place in real time."
Tappin added that the product's interactivity "keeps [merchants] engaged in the product, and it becomes a business tool they use on a daily basis."
AprivaPay Plus 3.0 also offers detailed analytics on activity within the mobile application. Hurley said the solution "provides data on where customers are activating geographically, by state and city ... demographic data, anonymized on gender, age, etc., to create end-user profiles; top devices used; which features are used, and which ones nobody uses." All this data is then provided merchants in monthly reports, and the data can be exported to accounting applications, Hurley added.
Hurley noted that the merchant portal's web companion is also white-labeled and hosted on the customer's URL in Apriva's data centers. It is built on responsible design technology, which allows the portal to adapt as needed for any screen interface.
In addition, Tappin said that the web companion is integrated with customer care via a ticketing system, and its inventory capability can create items, prices and descriptions that representatives in the field can automatically sync up with, so no manual entry of updated product prices and features needs to be done.
The third portion of interviews done at Transact 14 will be posted soon.
Voices from Transact 14
Friday, April 11, 2014
T ransact 14: Powered by ETA wraps up today, April 10, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. As always, the highlight of the Electronic Transactions Association's annual event were the people that The Green Sheet met. Here are a few of the payment professionals that GS had the honor of meeting at this year's show, and what they were here to accomplish.
Doug Dwyre, Chief Executive Officer at mocapay
Doug Dwyre came to Transact 14 to reinforce mocapay's relationships with its channel partners. Dwyre said the goal of the Denver-based firm is to make mobile payment acceptance easier for merchants, ISOs and processors. He said mocapay's approach to the market is unique because the mocapay app is merchant-branded, unlike the app offerings from TabbedOut and LevelUp, for example.
In addition, clerks using mocapay's app at the POS need only enter a customer's cell phone number, and mocapay does all the legwork behind the scenes to make the app work, Dwyre stated. He also noted that mocapay is a true payment gateway that works with industry incumbents rather than trying to "disintermediate" them.
To that end, the mocapay app is integrated with Chase Paymentech, Mercury Payment Systems and First Data Corp., and can securely handle any type of transaction – gift card, coupon, loyalty, debit or credit cards, even decoupled debit.
Farshad Tafazzoli, Chief Products & Marketing Officer
Mike DePinto, Executive Vice President
Gary Breeds, Business Development Manager
Way up on the 28th floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, TouchSuite executives Farshad Tafazzoli, Chief Products & Marketing Officer; Mike DePinto, Executive Vice President; and Gary Breeds, Business Development Manager, demonstrated TouchSuite's new Firefly POS system.
FireFly is the second POS system the Boca Raton, Fla.-based ISO has designed specifically for the salon vertical market. Firefly is cloud-based and, instead of running on the Windows operating system, like the company's first salon POS system, it is Android-based. For added flexibility, users can also log into the system via Android tablet or Apple iPad devices.
The system is fashioned to be highly intuitive. "We designed it so that we could sit down with our parents, who know nothing about POS systems, and they could catch on quickly, with minimal instructions," Tafazzoli said. In time, a version with some of the system's features will be available for smartphones, as well.
Among the functions demonstrated on a pleasantly uncluttered user interface were:
- A calendar for booking appointments
- Time clock for stylists to check in and out
- Details on clients that go beyond basic contact information to include what types of services the client has received, including pictures of haircuts and specifications regarding color treatments
- Checkout, at which time a stylist can include products sold as well
- Special offers and promotions
On the back-end, salon owners can keep track of inventory, vendors, types of services each employee and/or independent contractor offers, arrange to split transactions among multiple cards, and use TouchSuite's patented technology for processing multiple merchant identification numbers in one salon environment. Merchants can also use data on clients' past services to gear offers specifically to them, Breeds noted.
Some POS products are generic, while FireFly is a "category killer," Tafazzoli said, adding that once salon owners start using it, "they're going to love it."
Bill Clark, Chief Executive Officer at Spindle Inc.
Bill Clark helped kick off the ETAU (short for ETA University) sessions for Transact 14 by joining a panel at 9 a.m. on April 8. The topic was mobile, POS and Main Street realities. Clark reported that the panel covered big data and marketing, use of consumer metrics and related issues. And, yes, people straggled in a bit for the first few minutes, but by the time the panel really got rolling, the event was well attended, he said.
Clark founded Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Spindle three years ago "to drive mobile commerce with a new, fresh approach" by combining mobile marketing with payment processing. Recently, Spindle acquired Yowza!! (Yowza International Inc.), a coupon offering platform used at 95,000 merchant outlets, with an app downloaded by 2 million consumers, Clark noted. Soon to come will be a software-as-a-service mobile wallet.
Clark was at Transact 14 to connect with resellers and partners. "It seems natural ISOs and agents would be interested in selling [Spindle] the same as they'd sell a VeriFone terminal or any other platform," he said. "It's a revenue generator – new to market – and, bundled with mobile marketing, can be sold as a package."
He added that there will need to be deeper involvement with merchants at the POS in order for mobile wallets to take hold as a payment mechanism, and that mobile phones are far better authentication devices than plastic cards.
Guy Chiarelli, President of First Data Corp.
While many Transact 14 attendees were contemplating what to have for breakfast Wednesday morning, First Data Corp. President Guy Chiarelli already had several meetings under his belt, with many more planned for the day. He believes the mega processor has been so dramatically transformed in the last year that he refers to it as "the new First Data."
The company is now "tapping into Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley innovation and technology for small and medium-size businesses, trying to be sure that everything is secure from the start, and focused on small-business owners being able to grow their business in a simple and understandable way," Chiarelli said.
In addition to one-on-one executive meetings, First Data hosted a dinner Tuesday night for more than 200 ISOs to share the company's new small business solutions strategy. Integral to this strategy is Clover Station, a new POS and business management solution for merchants. The platform includes a "slick and sleek POS device that has end-to-end security" so all the issues in retail around protection at the POS, recently evidenced by the recent Target Brands Inc. breach, are all taken care of within this product suite, Chiarelli said.
The core platform is cloud-based, with remote management and 24/7 support. Chiarelli referred to it as "small business in a box" because it comes bundled with multiple features merchants can easily employ right away. These include loyalty programs as well as real-time customer analytics that enable merchants to devise offers tailored to specific demographics or individuals based on actual customer activities and preferences.
The platform also offers an open application marketplace, so developers can design customized apps that merchants can download. Thus, with this platform, smaller merchants can now enjoy tools previously available only to midsize and larger businesses, Chiarelli noted.
Shelley Plomske, Vice President Product at Total Merchant Services
The Total Merchant Services team was on hand at Transact 14 to introduce the company's new POS and marketing solution, Groovv. "Our mission is helping our customers grow and manage their business and really helping them succeed, so it was important to us to add more value to make their lives easier," said Shelley Plomske, TMS Vice President Product. "With this we are able to help our sales partners succeed in a white-label fashion."
Plomske noted that TMS provides all service and support. "We deploy it, and have on site installation where we walk merchants through how to set up and teach them about the solution's features. Our support team is available 24/7, helping them even if it's just a merchant saying, 'I need help closing my batch' or 'How do I add an item?'"
Groovv is available on a tablet, an all-in-one POS solution or a mobile device and has three different software solutions geared for different levels of business complexity. Plomske said Groovv is also intuitive and removes the barrier of intimidation associated with some systems.
Groovv's mobile and social marketing tool is designed to increase traffic and drive repeat sales, and takes the guesswork out of marketing, according to Plomske. "Using the Groovv dashboard, with one or two clicks, a merchant can choose from hundreds of offers and themes, customize an offer, preview it on a mobile website and send it out via social media, email or text message."
She noted that Groovv also gives merchants access to their data so they can tell what's selling, and from what departments, and combines that with the online transaction portal to bring all the data together. "We're moving toward a value-based solution, as opposed to just selling payments," Plomske said. "And this helps our partners become more consultative sales folks."
Will Wang Graylin, Chief Executive Officer at Loop
At Loop's booth at Transact 14, Will Wang Graylin, the company's Chief Executive Officer, had a message for The Green Sheet's audience. "We finally have a mobile commerce solution that helps incumbent acquirers to provide more value to their merchants, more security and better interactions with their consumers in a new smart wallet application that requires no changes to the existing merchant infrastructures."
This step forward is possible due to a Loop innovation called magnetic secure transmission (MST). "We've broken the last-inch problem to allow mobile devices to communicate with existing points of sale through the rails that have already been laid, which is the mag stripe communication channel," Graylin said. "We turned every POS into a contactless payment terminal."
Graylin noted that the Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) train has already left the station, but it is slow moving because you have to lay the tracks while the train moves. "We are leveraging the rails that are already there for mag stripe cards, and we are simply putting the mobile payments cargo on a fast speed locomotive to get more secure transactions to their destinations faster and much cheaper."
He added that MST capability enables Loop to deliver not only the static track data commonly provided today, but also one-time dynamic track data just like EMV does; it also allows issuers to provide tokenized data from the consumer's mobile device directly back to the card issuer or the token service provider (TSP) for an end-to-end secure transaction on the existing mag stripe rails.
"We're not charging tolls to the issuers to utilize this mobile, smart wallet channel, and we're not taking away transaction revenue from the acquirers," Graylin said. "But we are allowing acquirers to offer more to their merchants and share in the revenue from delivering loyalty deals and rewards between merchants and their consumers."
According to Graylin, Loop can be put into a new smartphone for less than one dollar, and Loop is working with various device OEMs to embed Loop MST in a variety of mobile devices over the next year. "The time has finally come for consumers to have a better mobile payment experience," he said. "The great news is merchants do not have to change their infrastructure to accommodate and can leverage the new smart wallet channel to better find and keep customers."
Perspectives from more payment executives who met with The Green Sheet at the show will be posted in the coming week.
California EBT fee issue highlights ISO opportunity
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A movement is underway in California to reduce the ATM fees banks charge users of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. The initiative to regulate California's EBT food stamp program, and reduce the financial burden on California's unbanked population, raises the potential for ISOs to generate revenue by partnering with more fee-friendly ATM network operators.
The California Reinvestment Coalition issued a report that said over $19 million in state family assistance funds were eaten up by ATM fees in 2012. A state assembly bill, co-sponsored by the CRC and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, would restrict the amount of ATM fees financial institutions could charge food stamp recipients for accessing benefits funds.
The CRC's report, The $19 Million ATM Fee: How Better Banking Services Would Protect Our Public Investment in Families, said that 85 percent of ATM fees charged California's public assistance recipients came from the California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program.
"The current system leads too many people to pay fees just to access the very benefits they need to survive," said CRC Policy Advocate Andrea Luquetta. "It is a diversion of taxpayer dollars away from their intended use of supporting families. That's why we're calling on the state, banks, county offices and nonprofit partners to work together to address this pressing issue."
The CRC said roughly 450,000 California families receive funds via CalWORKs. According to the report, the average family receiving aid consists of one adult and two children, with the average grant of $510 per month working out to $6,120 per year.
California bill 1614
In February 2014, California State Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, introduced assembly bill 1614 to reform the EBT program that facilitates CalWORKs payments. The bill would require that the program operate a 24-hour hotline, as well as a website, that would allow benefit recipients to access transaction histories at no charge. The bill also would require financial institutions and their partners to provide recipients with the ability to find out where they can use their EBT cards without incurring fees or surcharges.
But the bill sponsors also seek to ensure CalWORKs users are charged minimal fees or no fees at all. Furthermore, the bill would mandate the formation of the Electronic Benefits Transfer System Consumer Protection, Financial Empowerment and Cash Access Fund that would apparently be funded by fines levied on EBT contractors that violate government contracts.
Bill 1614 is part of a package of needy families-focused bills introduced by Stone, who serves the California legislature as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Human Services.
New ISO prospect?
The CRC report said Xerox States and Local Solutions Inc. manages California's EBT program and that Xerox uses the U.S. Bank-owned and surcharge-free MoneyPass ATM Network. The network is operated by U.S. Bank subsidiary Elan Financial Services. But the CRC report noted that only 9 percent of EBT transactions in California flow through MoneyPass. The majority of such transactions are processed via the ATMs of banks and independent operators, where usage fees can range between $2 and $4 per transaction, according to the CRC.
The CRC said the three largest banks in California, Bank of America Corp., Chase Bank and Wells Fargo & Co., made over $3.6 million, over $2.8 million and over $2.2 million, respectively, in fiscal year 2012/2013 on EBT fees. "Unfortunately, the fact that so many EBT users pay high fees to use bank ATMs reinforces the perception that banks are too expensive for CalWORKs recipients to use," the CRC said.
This perception may be to the advantage of ISOs that wish to venture into the prepaid card space. A 2013 white paper sponsored by Elan said ISOs can benefit from partnering with surcharge-free ATM networks to capture unbanked and underbanked consumer spending.
The white paper, How ISOs and merchants can benefit from serving the unbanked with surcharge-free ATMs, said surcharge-free ATMs can drive volume growth for ISOs. "Consumers will bypass more conveniently located ATMs to reach the ones that offer surcharge-free transactions," the paper stated.
The paper added that such networks still generate interchange for independent ATM deployers. "And the volumes at a surcharge-free retail ATM often experience a lift in transactions of 3-5 percent in the first year, which continues to increase yearly," the paper said. "Furthermore, a portion of that additional cash flow is then spent in the retail location, adding value for the retailers they serve."
Square makes bitcoin play
Friday, April 4, 2014
A mid the continuing volatility and controversy that surrounds the virtual currency bitcoin, mobile payment innovator Square Inc. added bitcoin payment functionality for merchants on its online platform, Square Market. San Francisco-based Square partnered with bitcoin processor Coinbase to offer the service.
According to a March 31, 2014, post on Square's corporate blog, the service is available on Square's online checkout page. "When a buyer opts to 'Pay with Bitcoin,' we first generate a new bitcoin address and attach it to the order," said Square Market lead Ajit Varma. "We will continually monitor this address throughout the checkout process so we know when it has received payment."
Bitcoin users can then open bitcoin wallets on their mobile devices and scan quick response codes on the checkout page to complete payments, Varma added. Alternatively, users with bitcoin accounts stored on hosted servers follow separate instructions to facilitate transactions.
Coinbase settles bitcoin transactions in dollars, which streamlines processes for merchants and safeguards transactions from bitcoin's wild exchange rate fluctuations. "Keeping it simple for the seller, the seller receives the amount of the purchased goods or services in USD and in the amount of USD advertised to the sellers' customer at the time of transaction, so the seller takes no risk on bitcoin value fluctuations," wrote Varma.
Bitcoin payment functionality via Square is not currently operable for brick-and-mortar retail settings. A Square spokesman confirmed it is charging 2.75 percent for bitcoin payments, which is the same percentage it charges for standard card payments.
Because Square is a trendsetter in the payments industry, its bitcoin implementation is a significant development. But Nathalie Reinelt, Analyst at Aite Group LLC, believes only time will tell what impact the move will have on Square and payments in general. For the time being, it will be "a great learning experience for Square to see how bitcoin will affect their environment," she said.
Restricting bitcoin payments to the online environment allows Square to evaluate how much it affects transaction flows and whether Square merchants realize increased sales, Reinelt added. She noted that online discount retailer Overstock.com added bitcoin functionality in January 2014, which resulted in an uptick in sales. But such a result may not translate for Square merchants because, unlike a big online merchant like Overstock, merchants using Square for payment acceptance are primarily small and micro-businesses, Reinelt said.
One factor in favor of increased business for merchants able to facilitate bitcoin transactions is that bitcoin users are invested in seeing bitcoin succeed as an alternative currency. Once merchants add bitcoin payments, "bitcoin enthusiasts want to go and transact with them because they want to see the payment feature take off," Reinelt said.
Betting on bitcoin
While Square is apparently taking a cautious approach to bitcoin acceptance, new online payment venture PayStand jumped in wholeheartedly. Jeremy Almond, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Bay Area startup, said that, to the best of his knowledge, PayStand is the first application to be launched with bitcoin payments already built in. "If a merchant wants to put bitcoin alongside credit card on their website, we are the fastest, easiest way to do that," he said. PayStand launched out of beta testing on April 2, 2014.
Almond makes a distinction between bitcoin, the alternative currency, and the bitcoin network, which is the infrastructure for accepting alternative virtual currencies, not just bitcoin. "Bitcoin the technology really is a technological breakthrough," he said. "It gives us for the first time a distributed peer-to-peer network that allows us to move money in a really simple way without central control and authority but still is a trusted mechanism."
Therefore, PayStand is not betting specifically on the viability and longevity of bitcoin in particular, but on the bitcoin network itself. "The underlying concept of a peer-to-peer, cash-like network that's free and open source and doesn't have transaction fees … that concept's here to stay and it is very revolutionary," Almond said. "We're betting big on that concept. And whatever currency mechanism we end up using doesn't matter very much to us."
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