Motorists normally don't think about car engines unless something goes wrong. As long as smoke isn't billowing out or engines aren't emitting the automotive equivalent of the death rattle, what goes on under the hood isn't given a second thought.
Put the key in the ignition, put the car in gear and off you go. But when engines blow their proverbial gaskets and those wheels aren't turning, drivers are reminded that good running engines are the most important component.
The same goes for payment processing. Back-end processing systems that make transactions at the POS seamless and trouble free are the internal combustion engines of the industry. Fast and reliable processing drives transactions; it literally makes our industry go.
Affirmative Technologies Inc. believes it provides such an engine with its marketing software and Internet applications for processing payments via the automated clearing house (ACH).
Affirmative's systems can be adapted to work with stand-alone or multiclient electronic payment applications. Its customers include merchants with brick-and-mortar stores and Internet sites, financial institutions, third-party ACH processors, software vendors and payment aggregators.
Affirmative does not have an ISO or MLS program; it provides the technology to third-party processors which, in turn, utilize independent sales channels. Building it George Bassous started develop-ment efforts on Affirmative's payment applications in 1997 and incorporated the business in 1998. In its early days, the company serviced the car loan industry and other companies with accounts receivable software.
Bassous recalled that payment applications back in the mid to late 1990s were still primarily DOS- (disk operating system) and Windows-based; payment applications made available through the Internet were unheard of.
This was the direction Affirmative also followed until ACH payments became more mainstream as a form of electronic payment collection. When Affirmative migrated its risk and development efforts to focus solely on ACH payment applications, it became one of the first payment providers in the United States to launch a Web-based payment processing platform for its customers.
In 1999, Bassous met Richard Titterud, a semiretired, 30-year veteran of the car rental industry who was working as a consultant. The business savvy Titterud and the "techie" Bassous joined forces and assembled a team of 18 employees dedicated to technology in the payments space.
"Affirmative's team has an unrivaled background in designing and implementing electronic payment solutions that are ever evolving as new opportunities arise," Titterud said. "It is our customers and their successes that are a tribute to our payment solutions."
Bassous and Titterud made a conscious decision to not become a third-party processor. Instead, they chose to invest resources in building the technology that resides on its enterprise class servers and storage platforms.
"We are unique," Bassous said. "We are not a processor. Our technology is built from the ground up. It is flexible to support multiple business models. There are very few situations or solutions that we haven't run into."
Since Affirmative is not in competition with processors, it is able to consider input from a variety of processors and the different industries they serve. Affirmative encourages such contributions because they help create unique products. "We work together with processors as a team," Bassous said. "That is the secret of a better product."
However, that doesn't mean every processor request results in a new product. The company understands the need to balance client requests with wise business practices. "We are careful when we add features and functions to evaluate the needs and look to see if they bring returns," Titterud said.
In return, processors benefit from better products and services. "Our processors benefit from our leading-edge knowledge and our service oriented architecture, creating powerful connections to help them outperform the competition," Titterud said.
The Palm Harbor, Fla.-based company believes when its clients bundle all of their payment solutions from one trusted provider, it streamlines and simplifies back-office functions.
That's why Affirmative offers an integrated set of payment components that provide customers a complete end-to-end solution.
"We are unique in that we are an enterprise-ready provider," Bassous said. "All the other providers are more of mom-and-pops, where a product like ours is used by some of the largest FIs, including some of the top 10 banks in the country today."
Titterud and Bassous have always considered security fundamental to Affirmative. "It was a huge deal to us," Titterud said.
"Five years ago when security was not in the news, we started to invest capital in our business secu-rity structure."
Bassous believes the payments industry is lagging behind in terms of security. Back-end processes are outdated, and the technology is not current, which creates security concerns and usability issues.
However, he and Titterud have worked to make sure Affirmative remains on the cutting edge. "We are up to date with the latest and greatest out there," Bassous said. "The actual technology we are using is years ahead of what is out there right now.
"We go to great lengths in security measures, and that is a major reason why we and our costumers are able to compete and win."
Titterud and Bassous understand having the best technology is not enough. Support staff must be know-ledgeable as well. For example, if a processor is familiar with ACH but not the merchant's industry, the processor will not be successful.
Affirmative provides support and training where needed. In-person training is offered, as well as by webinar.
Additionally, the company provides technical support to customers. "It is important to us that we provide our customers with the utmost dedication and expertise required to address their customers' business needs," Bassous said.
Always with an eye on the future, Bassous and Titterud believe integration is vital to Affrimative's continued success. "Integration is spearheading the growth in this industry," Titterud said. "It is not just standard ACH."
That is why Affirmative's design is flexible. "The sweet spot is creating something that can be customized and flexible enough and easy enough to use," Bassous said.
"Our interfaces are very intuitive, and it is easy to change the look and feel of privately labeled products."
When founded, the company's goal was to develop an open, flexible and scalable system, built on a robust platform that would integrate fully with existing systems and applications that its processors' customers might use. "We successfully achieved this, over and over again," Bassous said. With that goal accomplished, Affirmative is committed to remaining ahead of the pack in terms of the industries it targets and the technology it provides.
And, according to Bassous and Titterud, as Affirmative works to add capabilities to its technology without compromising flexibility and security, the company's top priority will continue to be its customers.
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Director of Sales and Marketing
Phone: 727-772-9881, ext. 225
35111 U.S. Highway 19 North, Suite 200
Palm Harbor, FL 34684
Phone: 888-216-1808, option 1, sales
Web site: www.affirmativeusa.com