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A company for the ages

Life can throw us curveballs any time. Circumstances change; people enter and leave our lives; jobs come and go. The true test is how we deal with such events and the type of people we become after weathering them. Similar situations exist for businesses, especially those in the payments industry.

Companies merge and divide. Professionals move on to new ventures as they advance in their careers. What matters is how organizations adapt to such changes. An organization that is prepared, knowledgeable and true to its purpose will thrive amid a shifting landscape.

Merchant services provider SIA Enterprises LLC has had much experience with shifting landscapes and is proud to have remained steady and secure through it all.


SIA was formed in 1993 as a captive sales organization for Lease Finance Group. At one point, SIA was the only independent ISO of the former Universal Savings Bank, which is now TransFirst Holdings Inc. It has also had a working relationship with the original Bridgeview Payment Solutions, which became Best Payment Solutions Inc., and is now part of National Processing Co.

Is your head spinning yet?

There's more.

SIA has been affiliated with American Midwest Bank, which became American National Bank of DeKalb County, which was acquired by NOVA Information Systems, which is now Elavon Inc. SIA also has had a long-standing relationship with National Data Payments Systems, now Global Payments Inc.

Wait, there's even more.

While associated with Lease Finance Group, SIA was affiliated with Yes Check and Select Check. The two check entities were sold and merged with another entity, Mercantile Check, to form what is now Global Payments' check division. After Lease Finance Group was sold to Newcourt Financial USA Inc. in 1997, SIA began to operate as a stand-alone business.

The one steadfast entity in this confusing labyrinth is SIA. Throughout years of industry changes – including buyouts, mergers and name changes – SIA has remained dedicated to its agents and merchants.

SIA offers credit, debit, electronic benefits transfer, gift card, check guarantee, check conversion, equipment sales and leasing, and even Web page advertising.


James R. Brandt, President of SIA, credits SIA's longevity and dependability to the company's industry knowledge, loyal employees, principled conduct, and fair treatment of ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs). "SIA has been around this industry for a very long time because it takes care of its offices and always pays its residual payments," Brandt said. "While this industry has undergone profound changes, SIA has been there throughout. Most of our employees are the same we had in 1993."

That is not to say prospering in a climate of constant flux is easy. "As you watch the environment change, you see an ebb and flow of the offices," Brandt said.

"Some go running to new ideas only to find out that they were not quite the way they were advertised. That is some of the challenge, in that we don't run off and grab the newest, latest trend and say, 'Oh, we will do that too.'"

SIA believes its permanence is due, in part, to how it pays residuals. "The best thing about SIA is we pay residuals for as long as that merchant processes on the portfolio, whether you send us more business or not," Brandt said.

He added that as long as ISOs or MLSs do not move merchants and violate their agreements with SIA, they will receive their residuals.

Some of the MLSs receiving residuals have not added a new merchant in a decade. SIA keeps track of its salespeople, even those who have exited the industry. And SIA makes payments to a salesperson's heirs in the event of his or her death. "We make sure you get paid," Brandt said. "That is what we do. "Making sure you take care of the salesperson through the years, not just caring about what they have done for you lately, is what makes us unique," Brandt said.

"SIA would love to have exclusivity but recognizes that many ISOs and MLSs have more than one relationship." However, Brandt said, SIA does insist that agents identify themselves as SIA representatives when dealing with merchants on SIA's behalf.

Brandt and his team recognize top-performing ISOs and MLSs, and they endeavor to attract and retain high-caliber talent. "We've been around long enough to know that the guys that are good aren't the ones that have been jumping from place to place," he said.

While SIA historically operated with buy rates, it now employs a revenue sharing model. Brandt said it differs from competitors in that the split is based on SIA's contracted prices. "We don't mark it up; it's true revenue," he said. "Most start at 50/50."


SIA offers training, either at its headquarters or at an ISO's or MLS's site. Brandt prefers that agents come to SIA because there they can meet SIA's staff and see the workflow firsthand.

Training lasts two to three days and covers POS equipment, including how to program terminals and how to interact with merchants in a variety of circumstances. Brandt encourages all ISOs and MLSs to thoroughly understand merchant contracts. "Most people don't," he said. "If you are not familiar with the terms of the contract, it's a great way to lose the deal."

Also, SIA's technical staff "offers superior equipment support, and we listen to what the salesperson has to say," Brandt said. "Our staff has been together for nearly 15 years and are experts in payment processing."

Brandt prefers that ISOs and MLSs follow procedures "by the book." He encourages site inspections, as well as understanding of Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide rules, including compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) and Payment Application DSS.

Brandt encourages agents to use properly formatted business cards, and while faxed applications are accepted, he would rather they use originals.

"I still use a three-part application: one for the merchant, one for the agent and one for us," he said.

He also suggests ISOs and MLSs train merchants and their employees, including subsequent merchant hires, themselves rather than rely on the merchant's staff to handle training.


The fact that SIA has endured amid a changing landscape does not mean it does not evolve or create new opportunities.

In January 2006, the company added a new feature to its services through its acquisition of Like To Save LLC. Like To Save's Web site, www.liketosave.com, is replete with discount coupons and special offers for consumers from participating SIA merchants who elect to purchase the service. The site is divided into regions, so shoppers can check their local areas for bargains, as well as see what's available in other regions they're planning to visit.

Brandt said Like To Save has proven to be a strong tool for SIA's sales force. MLSs earn commissions on the service, and the service enables agents to reinforce their ties with merchants, Brandt said.

One can never be certain what each new day will bring, but one can adapt, persist and thrive – something SIA has learned to do with apparent ease.

end of article

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

SIA Enterprises LLC

SIA Enterprises LLC

ISO/MLS contact:

James Sweney
Vice President Operations
Phone: 312-384-5970
Fax: 312-384-5971
E-mail: jamessweney@sia-services.com

Company address:
105 W. Madison St., Suite 1800
Chicago, Il 60602
Phone: 312-384-5970
Fax: 312-384-5971
Web site: http://sia-services.com

ISO/MLS benefits:

  • Residuals for life of the account
  • No exclusivity required
  • True revenue split

Company Profile originally appeared in
The Green Sheet Issue 080701

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