During the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif., Cliff Teston's place of employment was destroyed, and he was suddenly out of a job. Then one of his clients asked him to join his sales organization. "I took the job on the spot that day and went to work for him the following Monday," said Teston, who is now President and Chief Executive Officer of Signature Card Services. This proved to be a turning point in more ways than one.
Teston's new employer provided a chance to earn income, but the experience also allowed him to consider what was most important to him in building a company. Several years later, fully aware of how essential shared values in the workplace are, he formed Signature Card Services with partners, Kirk Allen and Christine Bednar.
"Integrity was a really, really important thing to us, and the company that we were with, although they rescued me from being unemployed, didn't necessarily have the best reputation in that arena," he said. He added that for 18 years Signature Card Services has remained highly competitive while also gaining a reputation of integrity, honesty and flexibility.
"We try and work with everyone on a one-on-one basis, customizing the program to them and their merchants," he said. "We do the exact same thing with our vendors, we do the exact same thing with our merchants … we try to be flexible and are good listeners."
Signatures Card Services has worked diligently to prepare for the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) Oct. 1, 2015, deadline, at which time, should a breach occur, merchants may be liable for fraud-related costs if their terminals aren't EMV capable. However, he understands that not all merchants will be ready by the deadline, largely due to the cost of upgrading equipment. Nevertheless, he believes consumers will welcome EMV and feels his company is well positioned. "Chip is going to eliminate a lot of fraud in the swipe environment," he said. However, he added that fraudsters "aren't going to go away; they are just going to go to e-commerce to make money. What we are anticipating is being the market leader on the e-commerce fraud prevention side once that starts to happen."
Signature Card Services is also piloting vocaOne biometric technology to combat fraud by capturing real-time, dynamic information through voiceprint that can uniquely authorize purchases via voice. "This adds dynamic information which is unique to each purchase," he said. "It is several layers of protection. Instead of having one layer of authentication you have two."
Rather than push a single product, Signature Card Services provides choice by being compatible with multiple devices. "If you are neutral to all the different vendors and all the different technologies that complement our space, I think you have a better opportunity to keep your agents happy," he said. "We have preferred vendors in almost any area – multicurrency, single-click checkout or gateway ... but we don't have an exclusive relationship with anybody. We support multiple vendors and multiple devices."
Signature Card Services also has two charitable businesses: Pride Card Services and Signature Cares. It is the company's way of giving back to the community on every transaction. "We tell merchants we can save them 20 percent on their credit card processing, and we will give an additional 20 percent of our net revenue to the charity of their choice every month," Teston said. "The agent loves it because it is a door opener for him. The merchant loves it because they are getting to give back about something they care about. We can't change things by ourselves and it is not everything, but it is a little bit, one swipe at a time."
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