Satisfaction was in the air as the Midwest Acquir-ers Association's seventh annual conference came to a close July 24, 2009, at what the Chicago Tribune rated the "coolest" Chicago suburban hotel: the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Ill. The show offered a mix of classic tradeshow offerings, refinements to previously tested ideas and new options - all coordinated to help industry professionals adapt and thrive in today's uncertain economic environment.
"Some new people on the advisory board and on the board really came through for us," said Mark Dunn, MWAA Treasurer and founder of Field Guide Enterprises LLC. "Donna Embry's connections to the banking industry and the Federal Reserve really beefed up our meetings, and the idea of the Innovation Hall came from a group of people on the board. It's a little bit different change in format, but I think it brought in a lot of people."
Indeed, the event had 53 more participants than in 2008, broken down as follows: 311 participants were ISOs, banks and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), and 166 were vendors, for a total of 477. Dunn attributes the increase to "a better overall program than last year and Chicago being a better overall business destination than St. Louis for the merchant services industry."
The 11 companies participating in the Innovation Hall each had a 12-foot booth with special placement and signage instead of the standard 8-foot booth, and company representatives were given time to present their innovations either at dinner on Wed., July 22, or lunch Thurs., July 23. And one, SecurityMetrics, was selected to receive the MWAA's Innovator's Award for its Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance solution.
While exhibitors were setting up their booths on Wednesday afternoon, other participants were able to attend either "Growing your ISO in a difficult economy," a Field Guide Seminar produced and hosted by Dunn, or presentations on the ABCs of remote deposit and prepaid. The keynote, "Leveraging analytics and insights to manage fraud," by Global Solution Leader Phillip M. Miller preceded the opening reception. And after dinner, comedian Greg Morton entertained the crowd.
The following day was packed with general sessions on industry legislation, pricing methodologies and breakout sessions: one track designed for ISOs, processors, vendors and banks, and the other geared for MLSs. There was also plenty of time to mix with partners, clients and peers in the exhibit hall. The MWAA's passport program, initiated in 2008, was expanded to enthusiastic feedback. It required those who wanted to be included in a drawing for prizes (everything from gift cards to getaways) to attend a certain number of events and visit a variety of exhibitors to qualify.
The closing keynote by Juan Ortiz, Vice President of Business Development for BluePay Processing LLC, echoed the conference theme of creating opportunity from uncertainty. Drawing from his experience in overcoming extreme challenges in his youth, Ortiz illustrated how the principles he learned early on can be applied to great effect by people in all walks of life, including merchant acquiring. The principles, in brief:
Planned with the help of Tina Smith and Bob Giese of Travel Leaders, a franchise of the Carlson Companies, the conference was both electric and relaxed. People were engaged in animated conversation over meals, at booths, in hotel suites and in corners of the lobby. Some folks made new connections; others solidified existing relationships. Some sought answers; others provided them. Some reaffirmed what they are already doing; others found entirely new directions. Those who signed up for Friday morning's golf excursion had partly cloudy skies, but the fresh, warm breeze and lush, green landscape offered one of the best summer environments to be found anywhere.
An article about Donna Embry's Lifetime Achievement award, presented during the conference, follows in this Trade Association News section. In addition, insights offered during the show by a small sampling of participants can be found at www.greensheet.com/reports/mwaacomments09.pdf. For more information about the MWAA, visit www.midwestacquirers.com.
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