M uch has changed for Charge Card Systems LLC since it was originally profiled by The Green Sheet in 2005. But one thing that hasn't changed is the sign that greets all who enter the company's Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters: "Serving ALL Merchant Challenges."
Of course, some challenges are greater than others. CCS, a registered ISO with First Data Corp., handles neighborhood retail merchants and Fortune 500 companies that process more than $15 million in electronic transactions monthly. But CCS also takes on difficult-to-place merchants such as furniture stores, adult service providers and those in travel-related industries.
CCS was founded in 2002 by the father-and-son team of Bernard and Jeffrey Shavitz, along with close friend Anthony Andreozzi, all of whom had successfully sold their respective businesses prior to founding CCS.
The company moved into its 10,000-square-foot Boca Raton corporate office in 2006. It has also opened three new regional offices in New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey. CCS' 28 full-time employees support more than 385 agents nationwide.
Despite the current economy's worrisome state, the company remains energized. Bernard Shavitz, Chief Executive Officer of CCS, said the most significant challenge of the past few years has been maintaining its residual margin.
"Competition is ferocious," he said. "You have to be that much better to maintain profitable accounts."
To remain competitive, CCS continues to evolve and grow. In early 2008, CCS hired Certified Public Accountant Paul Ruggieri as its Chief Financial Officer. Ruggieri brings a comprehensive background in the ISO space to CCS.
"We recognize that all we are doing is processing money," Bernard said. "[Ruggieri] is a watchdog for all those areas. From an agent point of view, he is to ensure that our sales partners are receiving the proper residuals for which they have worked so hard."
In the last two years, CCS also established two business entities to target specific vertical markets: Franchise Merchant Services for the franchise business community and Education Payment Systems for schools and daycare operations.
But CCS has not forgotten its roots in the health care market. Through its CCS Medical program, it continues to aggressively market to medical practices, hospitals and other health care organizations.
CCS has been named the preferred processing partner for organizations that account for in excess of 25,000 doctors. CCS is the preferred processor for The New York County Medical Society and is also the processing vendor for The Mount Sinai Medical Center, as well as many other hospital systems throughout the country.
Additionally, CCS appreciates that its merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and ISO partners require new tools to stay competitive. CCS has been constantly upgrading its proprietary Web site, dubbed AgentOffice, which allows ISOs and MLSs to view and manage their merchant accounts in real time.
Supervised by CCS's Vice President and National Sales Manager, Adam Moss, the site further empowers agents by providing education about the industry and downloadable merchant account forms and contracts.
"We understand that our partners are focused on selling," said Jeffrey Shavitz, Executive Vice President at CCS. "Our role, among other things, is to ensure that we make their job easier, and we believe that is done via communication."
CCS has access to nine processing platforms, providing agents the resources to board almost every kind of merchant. "We believe that our investment with these multiregistrations will benefit our agents significantly with greater approval rates," Andreozzi said.
Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Alternative Merchant Processing, CCS allows its selling partners to board hard-to-place and nonconventional businesses. To that end, AMP works with three domestic and two international banks.
CCS emphasized that it aggressively recruits ISOs and MLSs who share the company's value system of honesty and integrity in dealings with merchants.
After CCS vets potential partners with a series of phone interviews, it rolls out the red carpet in bringing them on board. The company will fly MLSs to its corporate headquarters to meet with key personnel to give potential sales partners a better understanding of the inner workings of the company.
"It's very different and much more powerful looking into a sales agent's eyes, watching body language versus the traditional telephone conversation," Jeffrey said.
"We are very proud of our company, our people, and this can only be highlighted with a physical visit." Although expensive, CCS considers the monetary outlay for these trips among the best investments the company continues to make.
CCS supports its agents with many options and pricing plans. "Our remuneration program is very competitive, and we have many incentive programs throughout the year," Jeffrey said.
"We researched the industry and believe that most merchants understand only the base rate and transaction fee but not all the hidden fees in a merchant statement."
CCS instituted a 1.9 cent transaction fee on all types of merchant accounts, whether that means face-to-face retail, MO/TO or Internet-based payments. While other processors might charge double or triple that amount, CCS believes this low fee helps sales partners close more deals.
With the CCS pricing program, ISOs and MLSs have the flexibility to determine their transaction fees or discount rates.
CCS feels its creative pricing program enables its agents to close more deals by either employing the mid-qualified and nonqualified fees or significantly reducing transaction fees. CCS does not offer a buy-rate program, which also enables its sales partners to close larger deals.
In addition to the low transaction fee, CCS offers a minimum 50/50 split on all levels of profitability, as well as bonus money of up to $750 per deal. Residuals are paid monthly and bonuses weekly. CCS has other programs at significantly higher splits for more active and productive offices.
Moss pointed out that many agents do not understand the split they are earning. "How do you know if you are truly being paid 50/50 as most ISOs claim in The Green Sheet?" he asked. "You don't," he said. "It comes down to the trust and relationship with your ISO. We do things by the book."
CCS also provides other benefits to its ISOs and MLSs, including in-house direct mail and lead generation programs. CCS will schedule between 10 and 20 appointments per week for active sellers.
No business has remained untouched by the United States' current economic struggles, including CCS. Bernard maintains the company continues to grow, just at a slower pace.
"With the market changing daily, we are facing growth issues, new challenges, and developing new systems to make our office and our agents more efficient," he said.
The company considers its next-day funding - also known as 12-hour funding - a popular feature for all Visa Inc., MasterCard Worldwide and Discover Financial Services payments; CCS also offers cash advance, automated clearing house programs, gift and loyalty programs and check services.
"We are very well capitalized and have never been late making a payment to an agent and/or supplier of ours since our inception," Jeffrey said. As an entrepreneurial firm, CCS listens, learns and adapts to the changing marketplace. It works to provide its agents with the necessary pricing, products and support to make its sales partners successful.
"We believe that our structure sets us apart from our competition," said Andreozzi, President of CCS. "Our multiple registrations and other partnerships within the payments space allow us to give our sales partners the tools, from pricing to products, to close more deals and thus increase the residual income to our valued agent base."
While competitive pricing is vital to ISO and MLS success, Andreozzi believes value added services are just as important. "With the industry starting to be recognized as a commodity, CCS is dedicated to developing niche markets and special programs for many vertical markets," he said.
If the larger financial services industry is just now waking up to the value of businesses in the payments space, CCS recognized long ago the importance of aligning itself with great personnel. CCS recognizes it is essential to employ the highest caliber of sales partners. To this end, CCS is dedicated to supporting their success.
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Executive Vice President
1515 South Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33432
Web site: www.chargecardsystems.com