Looking backward to leap forward
W hen you need an answer or help completing a task, nothing is more frustrating than being delayed by a maze of phone prompts, incompetent customer service reps or Web sites that provide only vague information. After a while, you may start to believe your service providers don't want to help you, and you consider taking your business elsewhere.
This scenario is far too common, but it is completely avoidable. And ISO SignaPay knows it. At SignaPay, when it comes to providing services to ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), less is more: Less bureaucracy, fewer manage-ment levels and fewer barriers to access mean more satisfaction for customers, partners and for SignaPay, too.
Young and experienced
SignaPay is a registered ISO selling all forms of payment processing, as well as software and hardware. It offers its own cash advance and prepaid products.
It has offices in Minneapolis, New York, Denver, Miami and Fort Worth. Recently, the company launched a Spanish language division, SeñorPay.
John Martillo founded SignaPay in July 2006 after his exit from Cynergy Data, which he co-founded and where he served as President. Today Martillo is President, Chief Executive Officer and sole owner of SignaPay.
Martillo's executive team includes Nancy Drexler, Vice President, Marketing; Barry Ervi, Vice President, Business Development; and Dottie Ford, Vice President, Operations. All three have a long and solid history with Martillo.
Drexler worked with Martillo as the Marketing Director for Cynergy for four years. She recalled that at Cynergy, as at SignaPay, he created an environment that is open to ideas.
Ervi worked for Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC for six years, and Martillo was one of his clients. He joined SignaPay in 2006. Ford and Ervi worked together at Paymentech.
"One of the things that appealed to me in coming to work with John, Barry and Nancy, from an operations perspective, is the ability to build a support infrastructure for credit underwriting, fraud and risk management, and customer service that factors the unique relationship you have with each ISO into every decision we make," Ford said. "First and foremost, what matters most is the relationship."
"SignaPay management has been in the industry for a long time, so we can really help people understand the process and make the best decisions," Ervi said.
Instant, one-on-one access
Throughout his 16 years in the industry, Martillo has observed that, as the industry has grown, the focus on one-on-one service has diminished. "Instead of moving forward, John wanted to move backward," Drexler said when talking about Martillo's goal in founding SignaPay. "He wanted to run a boutique business that was people-centric and service based."
SignaPay is structured so that customers, employees and agents all have direct access to company executives. Agents do not need to worry that they will be bothering an executive. "Our executives are hands on," Ervi said.
"There is no bureaucracy. … We have a limited number of ISOs, and they are therefore all important and all able to speak with all of our senior people. It is very user-friendly here."
Martillo's objective was to create a company with a community focus and agents who care about the community they live in and serve. "Our industry has grown pretty big, with bigger players, better players," he said.
"I think a change is happening now, and it needed to happen. My vision is looking back to what it used to be, a little more ISO-driven, a little smaller so we can attend to their needs."
SignaPay provides operations and marketing support, as well as training. "We have the best online technology tools, and when you are a SignaPay sales office you deal with our VPs, not a large company's RMs [Relationship Managers]," Drexler said.
ISOs and MLSs only
Drexler said SignaPay sells its products and services "the old way – strictly through the ISO/MLS channel."
Just as he built his team of executives based on established relationships and cooperative partnerships, Martillo does the same with his ISOs and MLSs.
Martillo started his company so that he would have the autonomy and flexibility to invest in the people and companies that appealed to him. He and his team handpick their agents so that both SignaPay and the ISOs are "on the same page" regarding goals and expectations.
"All our ISOs, agents and MLSs feel the same way – that the relationship between the customer and the service provider must be based on trust, respect and accommodation," Ervi said.
SignaPay helps its agents grow within their communities and will support them in their efforts. "We believe strongly in marketing, and we provide our MLSs with as much of it as we can," Martillo said. "This ranges from general sales and lead-generation pieces, to help with specific requests, like marketing for a local municipality or chamber of commerce."
"A lot of new ISOs hire individuals who don't necessarily have a payment card industry background," Ford said. "We can help people create well-rounded training programs to get their internal support staff and sales staff up to speed quickly and give them access to the information they need to get the answer right the first time."
Since SignaPay is privately owned and funded, Martillo and his team can run the business as they wish. This freedom allows them to be flexible in investing resources and to act quickly to resolve issues and implement new ideas.
"When a decision needs to be made, it gets made very simply and very quickly," Drexler said.
Ervi added, "We know this is not a cookie-cutter type business. It may require a little imagination, but it will happen."
The Residual Share program exemplifies how SignaPay responded to a need quickly and with flexibility. An ISO came to the company when he needed money and he didn't want to sell his portfolio. Martillo and his team created a way to realize the positive aspect of selling a portfolio – cash – without the negative aspect, forfeiting the ability to earn revenue on future growth.
"If an ISO comes to us with an idea, we always try to get it done – to see if we can make it work for them," Drexler said.
The agent decides how much money he or she needs, and SignaPay decides how quickly the company would need that money repaid. Once the time frame and amounts are agreed upon, the agent moves his accounts into a joint portfolio where an agreed upon percentage of the ISO's or MLS's monthly residual is paid to SignaPay.
After the total has been paid, the residuals revert 100 percent to the agent. "It allows them to take full control of their portfolio," Ervi said. "Whether that residual be with SignaPay or another processor, it doesn't matter."
"If you've been in the business and know the ropes, you probably want to work with a company who can give you personal responses to issues that require flexibility and knowledge," Drexler said. "We can bend and break the rules on cash advance, for instance, because we are privately held and funded, and financially sound."
Martillo relocated from New York to Dallas in 2006 to found SignaPay. But 16 years ago he made an even bigger move when he moved from his home in Ecuador to New York, where he began his career selling credit card processing to Hispanic merchants.
Recently SignaPay debuted a new bilingual division, SeñorPay. "Because we are a Hispanic owned and run business, we have a unique ability to position ourselves in the market," Drexler said.
SeñorPay caters to Spanish speakers by offering all of its programs and services, as well as sales materials, forms and agreements, in Spanish. Additionally, SeñorPay has a complete line of products specifically for Hispanic populations.
These include prepaid debit, prepaid wireless products, a bill payment product and a money transfer product. SeñorPay also includes a cash advance program.
Promotional materials and related paperwork for these products are available in both Spanish and English. "We are a one-stop shop for anything related to Hispanic merchant services or electronic payments," Drexler said. "Our position in this market is unmatched."
SeñorPay also offers iPay Station, payment products and services for customers who prefer to use cash to pay bills. iPay Station merchants offer prepaid telephone and wireless products, as well as a bill-pay system that pays more than 5,000 consumer bills.
Martillo has never forgotten what it was like to be new to this country and to this industry. And he vividly remembers what it was like to be the feet on the street.
Based on his experiences, his goal is to make the job of the MLS easier and more pleasant, while making both SignaPay and ISOs profitable. "At the end of the day, I just want to feel good about getting up and going to work and doing what I enjoy with people I respect and care about," he said.
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