TF Payments Inc. was launched in early 2010 to bring greater mobility and flexibility to merchant payments. To that end, the company designed an integrated payment framework to work across most devices and platforms and deliver mobility, device consolidation, 24/7 connectivity and secure processing.
Backed by ThoughtFocus Tech-nologies LLC, its parent company, TF Payments specializes in enterprise management and software-as-a-service technology solutions for global customers in construction, education, manufacturing, finance and private equity, and the payments industry. The privately held company employs over 350 people worldwide, with U.S. offices in California, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin.
In 2006, ThoughtFocus entered the payments sphere, forming an alliance with Hypercom Corp. to develop merchant-centric software applications. By 2008, its payment card services team was rendering end-to-end solutions ranging from POS terminal applications to transaction management and Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance.
It targeted acquirers, issuers, loyalty program vendors, fleet card management companies and national retailers. ThoughtFocus soon embarked on creating the TF Payment Solutions (TFPS) Framework, a platform with multiple vertical market applications. A new strategic direction evolved, combining mobile applications with payment solutions, which led to the formation of TF Payments, company sources said.
During the April 2010 Electronic Transactions Association's annual meeting and expo, TF Payments released a beta version of its flagship product, FocusPay, a sleeve-card-swipe device that attaches to smart phones. The device will initially enable swipe card transactions using Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and Google Inc.'s Android operating system, as well as Apple Inc.'s iPod and specific iPhone models. The company plans to expand swipe capabilities to include the iPhone 4, iPad and other devices.
Given these device-agnostic capabilities, FocusPay merchants will be able to use as POS devices smart phones, mobile Internet devices, and laptop and notebook computers interfaced with portable card readers. Mobile devices can also be coupled with a Bluetooth printer and card reader peripheral to generate printed receipts. The company said its payment solutions framework was designed to bring traditional card present processing to nontraditional devices.
Since the beta release, FocusPay has undergone extensive peer review. The company is working with compliance auditors to test the product for PCI and Payment Application DSS certification. "We are in the final stage of evaluating the product," said Naganand Jagadeesh, Chief Technology Officer at TF Payments. FocusPay's software applications incorporate triple DES encryption security at the front end with secure sockets layer protection at the back end, so that no sensitive data is stored on the mobile device itself should a theft or loss occur, sources said. TF Payments is also working on adding new features to FocusPay. "We are designing electronic signature capture on screen for iPhones and some smart phones," Jagadeesh said. "We have added a few capabilities in post production, such as a tip adjustment feature for restaurants that will allow customers to add tips at the table.
"With the launch of FocusPay, our mobile payments solution, utilizing the TFPS Framework, we have begun our roadmap of product evolution. In the coming months, we will be enhancing the capabilities of our framework to include multicurrency, ACH processing, driver's license authentication, loyalty programs and other custom transaction processing requirements." He added that TF Payments will continue to grow its presence as "enablers" to processors.
The true workhorse behind FocusPay is FocusConnect, a proprietary transaction management engine that offers essential abstraction tools and connectivity with other components in the TFPS Framework. The framework is composed of the gateway- and processor-agnostic mobile payment applications and a merchant management portal with reseller management, merchant administration, reporting, device and transaction management functions.
"The framework, with its plug-and-play components, will allow us to construct a completely custom payment solution targeted at a particular industry vertical," Jagadeesh said. "With our framework, what we are offering the technology solution providers for the industry verticals is the power to add payment processing capability to their solutions without having to unravel the mysteries of the payment industry."
Jagadeesh noted that the company is creating vertical-specific applications for payment solution vendors. "To give you an example, with nightclubs there might be several payment applications," he said. "They also use FocusPay as a back-end payment solutions product. They can integrate apps on the FocusPay platform, because we enable them to bring the payment component onto the specific application itself without having to install another type of application. It's seamless. FocusPay does it for them."
Leo Daboub, President of Spartan Payment Solutions LLC, a merchant bankcard consulting firm and ThoughtFocus client, said, "I believe there are only a few reasons why any merchant today will make a switch, perhaps pricing, service and technology. With today's shrinking margins, most merchant acquirers prefer to sell on technology and service. "Products like FocusPay provide the edge that a sales rep or sales office needs to not just sell on rate, but a value-added product that a merchant will actually find useful and need." He added that over the years ThoughtFocus has been consistent in developing next-generation products and services.
"With ISOs, our intention is to go in a couple of directions." Jagadeesh said. "One path, the Tier 3 and Tier 4 ISOs, they can go on our reseller programs. They will become our resellers and basically have another revenue stream they can add to their portfolio." For this group, TF Payments plans to offer buy rate programs.
"The other aspect of going after ISOs, especially with larger ISOs, is that we are going to offer to white-label their packages." he said. "That will enable an ISO and any of their payment processors, in fact, to bring out their own brand of mobile payment solutions products." He added that mobile applications developers want to process payments using their own framework to send transactions, which is why the ability to integrate services is especially critical to the process.
"In the mobile applications, when we release new applications our product will be free to use the upgrade," Jagadeesh said. "The only costs that involve an additional fee are what we add for the gateway. The ISO can provide the gateway to their particular payment solution. But for the merchants, we are going to keep it as simple as possible. The applications are downloaded free. ISOs will have a Web landing page, which merchants can use to access the system.
"Typically with the iPhone or Black- Berry, they already have the licensing options. Our sleeve device for the iPhone typically retails for around $50 to $70.
"If you opt for a Bluetooth-card enabled device, depending on which one you choose, that ranges between $200 and $300. We really want to make it affordable to merchants."
TF Payments is actively seeking ISOs to make FocusPay available to U.S. merchants. In addition to traditional markets, niche segments include mobile businesses involved with moving, home services (plumbing, health care and inspections, for example), transportation, restaurant delivery and so on. The company also plans to forge strategic alliances in such vertical markets as hospitality, event management and transportation. As part of the package, TF Payments will offer user guides and training videos, along with a customer and client support team that will be available 24/7 to support all TF Payments' products and services.
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