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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 23, 2009 • Issue 09:02:02

Negotiating the economic currents

The Electronic Transactions Association and payment consultancy The Strawhecker Group recently released the first edition of the US Economic Indicators report. The quarterly is designed to compile and explain a broad range of data to help payment professionals understand the financial environment in which they operate.

"The motivation for us was obvious: Things are pretty tough right now, and it's really important to pay attention to the big picture in terms of the entire economy," said Thomas Goldsmith, ETA Communications Director. "We're interpreting these trends with payments in mind to let our members know what it means to them. We want to convey what's happening, why it's happening, and help them make good, informed decisions as they move forward."

Keeping track

The report was conceived when the ETA's board of directors held its annual Strategic Leadership & Networking Forum in October 2008. At that time, discussion centered on the Oct. 3 passage by the U.S. Congress of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which created the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program for purchasing failing bank assets.

"None of us was sure where this was going, so essentially we felt that it would be nice if we had a way to keep track of all this information," Goldsmith said.

"So we came back, started working with The Strawhecker Group, and after months and months of doing various iterations and tracking down authoritative sources that were completely accurate, we now have it pretty much mapped out. Now, you have a single document that you can see all in one sitting."

Some of the indicators reported and analyzed, going back more than two years, include:

  • The U.S. gross domestic product, which gauges the size of the economy with regard to consumers' gross retail purchases
  • Unemployment statistics
  • Business bankruptcies
  • Same-store retail sales year over year

The big picture

Goldsmith compared the report to a dashboard in a car: Separately all of the displays tell you little, but taken as a whole, they provide a complete picture of the environment in which you are working.

"The idea here was that if you can read this thing four times a year, you should come away with a pretty good idea of where the economy is and what's happening to retail stores, business insolvencies, unemployment and credit card delinquencies," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith added that the report gives ISOs and merchant level salespeople information about where opportunities lie, as well as what and where the danger signals are. The ETA's goal is to help payment professionals plan their business strategies to adjust to ever-changing economic conditions.

"The report is especially helpful because the folks at Strawhecker, with all their industry knowledge, provide an overview at the beginning and then a running commentary throughout that says, 'Here's why this is significant, or here is what this change from x to z means,' so there's some value added in this as well," he said. "And our first priority is making sure that our members have the tools they need to survive, and this is a good example of that." For more information on the ETA's report, contact Goldsmith at thomas.goldsmith@electran.org or ETA Membership Director Molly Georgakis at mollygeorgakis@electran.org. end of article

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