Like other payments industry entrepreneurs, Premier Payment Systems Inc. founder and Chief Executive Officer Drew Sementa got his start as a merchant level salesperson (MLS) in the basement of his family home. But within a decade, the finance major had graduated to retail ISO owner before PPS became the wholesale ISO it is today. In 2008, PPS was the top ranked payments industry company on the Inc. 500 list of America's fastest growing companies, where it placed 26 overall that year.
When asked what has motivated him along the way, Sementa said, "Once I realized what this industry was, my goal was to grow my business and become one of the bigger players in the industry. I set out with the intention of changing the way people looked at us and our industry in general. I think we still have a ways to go as an industry, but I think as a company we've done a good job."
He pointed out that PPS maintains a 95 percent merchant retention rate and is approaching 10 consecutive years without a complaint registered with the Better Business Bureau. Should a merchant decide to cancel services, there is no cancellation fee. "We're earning our merchants' business every month," Sementa said. "They're not staying with us because they're stuck in some contract. They're staying because we deliver a good service and a good product."
Sementa believes it's important to treat merchants as business partners. One area where PPS does this effectively is by going to bat for merchants on chargebacks. The PPS chargeback department claims to have a 70 to 80 percent monthly chargeback win ratio. Eliminating excessive chargebacks can in turn help businesses become more profitable.
"I had a jewelry store that was losing six figures a year in chargebacks, because they would lose the jewelry and lost the chargeback," Sementa said. "We were able to come in and save them money, not by changing their rate around, but just by managing their chargebacks for them and teaching them best practices on how to avoid chargebacks." He noted that education is a central theme at PPS. On the drawing board are an expanded website that includes additional resources and a series of webinars dedicated to educating merchants about how the industry works.
Other plans are in the works, too. "Our focus now going into the next five to 10 years is on technology, not just for the sake of technology, but technology to make our merchants more efficient, so they can concentrate more on the growth of their business rather than what their problems are with their credit card processing," Sementa said.
PPS supports PIN debit, credit, electronic check, electronic invoicing, and gift and loyalty programs. The company also provides Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance and vulnerability scans, physical and virtual POS terminals, QuickBooks SyncPay plug-in capabilities and payment gateway services.
PPS also prides itself on being compatible with most software and hardware in the marketplace. "We're really software and hardware agnostic," Sementa said. And PPS supports ISO and agent entry into nontraditional niche markets. The company has developed programs that cater to chamber of commerce, YMCA, park district and nonprofit entities.
For ISO and MLS partners, PPS offer pass-through buy rate and true split options. "When they get a 60/40 or 50/50 split from me, it's a true split," Sementa said. "I'm not marking it up. I'm not making anything above before I pay them out." He noted that his rate analysis department devotes a lot of time to residual analysis, since revenue splits from competitors are not always as transparent as they should be.
PPS also pointed out that its partners gain access to detailed residual reporting, comprehensive training, personal relationship managers, fast approvals, download and merchant support, and private-label program opportunities.
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