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Table of Contents

Lead Story

Trade associations at your service


Industry Update

ETA says down with proposed CFPA

Cambridge researchers find EMV flaw

TSYS drives hybrid card


Research Rundown

Selling Prepaid

Prepaid in brief

Finding your most valuable customers

Robert Christiansen
ARM Loyalty

The crux of cash back on gift cards


Follow Wendy's for a winning combo

Biff Matthews
CardWare International

Let's be smart about smart phone payments

Paul Rasori


Street SmartsSM:
Deal or no deal?

Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang
Merchant Services Inc., Fort Worth, Texas

Top 10 mistakes in PCI compliance

John Bartholomew

The nuances of the question, Why?

Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Seven rules for MLS sales success

Jeffrey Shavitz
Charge Card Systems Inc.

Developing a relevant, compelling value proposition

Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

Company Profile

ControlScan Inc.

New Products

Self-branded smart phone terminal

App Ninjas Inc.

ACH through and through

ACH Processing
ACH Federal


Attitude affects everything


10 Years ago in
The Green Sheet


Resource Guide


A Bigger Thing

The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 08, 2010  •  Issue 10:03:01

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Trade associations at your service

The payments industry has a way of attracting entrepreneurial men and women who consistently forge ahead to find new and better ways of doing things. And while no accredited college courses, degrees or vocational schools exist for neophyte ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), tremendous opportunities exist in this industry for professionals to network and share their experiences, knowledge and wisdom.

How does this happen? Through trade associations. Year after year, they deliver resources, education, guidance and venues for connecting payment professionals to help them grow their businesses and realize their goals.

Trade associations come and go; they come in many flavors - general and specific, large and small. But what makes them succeed? A look at two elders in the association crowd, the Electronic Transactions Association and the Northeast Acquirers Association, may provide some insight.

Celebrating longevity

After two years of planning, the ETA launched in 1990 as the Bankcard Services Association and is now celebrating 20 years of service to the industry. It adopted its new moniker in 1996 to reflect a broader focus.

"Our aspiration is just to keep the tent as diverse and as broad and as open as possible," said Carla Balakgie, a Certified Association Executive and the ETA's Chief Executive Officer. "Every time a market or a technology or a payment type emerges, we want them to be in our mix."

The organization has endeavored to continually increase the value it provides to members and has broadened its focus beyond producing its highly successful annual gathering of a who's who among payment professionals. It recently enhanced its online educational offerings; it is also adding an Investment Community Forum to its 2010 meeting and expo to bring investors and payment professionals together.

A significant difference between the ETA and the regional acquirers associations is that it is membership-based. "According to the agreement we have forged through this membership relationship, [the ETA] has to deliver them with service," Balakgie said. "That might be a magazine; it might be an annual meeting; it might be government advocacy; it might be education; it might be a whole host of things."

Balakgie said the "engaged, active members" who enjoy networking, are involved in the industry, display a spirit of "coopetition" and care about the organization are the main drivers of the organization's longevity. Not to shortchange the leadership, she added, "We have to give them the right environment in which to do that. If we weren't delivering service and if we weren't delivering value, [the members] would vote with their feet."

She also credited the ETA's executive leadership with knowing how to make good choices, capitalize on opportunities and steer the organization in a way that anticipates and meets the needs of its members as the industry grows. Robert O. Carr, Chairman and CEO of Heartland Payment Systems Inc., who is on the board of two of the newest industry associations, the Secure POS Vendor Alliance and the Payments Processor Information Sharing Council, and has participated substantially in others, including the ETA, said leadership and a clear mission are crucial to the success of an association.

He added that adequate resources, generally starting from the top down and then from the membership at large, are needed to sustain the organization so it can meet its mission.

Staying local

With more years under its belt than the ETA, the Northeast Acquirers Association, founded in 1985, is the oldest regional acquirers association. It provides MLSs an opportunity to learn, engage with peers and meet vendors at its annual winter conference. Originally the Northeast Bankcard Association, the NEAA assumed its current name in 1997. "The short story of it is that we could never get American Express to show up," said Jacques Breton, Treasurer of the NEAA.

A friend of Breton's took Northeast Bankcard's request for involvement up the American Express Co. corporate ladder. AmEx agreed to participate if the group took the word "bankcard" out of its name. Subsequently, AmEx started participating, and an AmEx executive now serves on the NEAA board.

According to Breton, the NEAA averages approximately 400 attendees at its annual event in Mt. Snow, Vt., and over the past three years, 35 to 40 percent of attendees were first-time participants. The NEAA seeks to be affordable for MLSs. Breton said the stable board of directors, quality of accommodations and food, and ample opportunities for networking and activities have kept the event, and the association, strong. Breton said the NEAA is exploring other locations (not within driving distance of an established association event) where it can host a similar, but smaller event.

Offering access

Listed below, with details such as dates of upcoming events and Web site addresses, are the ETA and all four regional acquirers associations, which dedicate themselves to providing maximum educational resources and professional opportunities to the feet on the street meeting after meeting:

Getting specific

The payments industry consists of a spectrum of stakeholders, including ISOs and MLSs, vendors, processors, gateway providers, technology companies, security companies, issuers, acquirers, banks, and hardware and software developers.

To provide support, resources, networking opportunities and so forth to the specific players in this dynamic industry, a number of associations focus on just one aspect of the whole. Below is a list of some of these associations:

Branching out

Financial institutions (FIs) have always been integral to the payments industry. With passage of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act in 2004, new technology and products have streamlined operations, and new avenues of collaboration have opened for payment organizations and FIs. For some MLSs, community banks and credit unions are primary referral partners, as well as prospects. Below are several major associations in the banking sphere:

Many banking industry associations existed before the payments industry existed. Even the newest of the FI organizations listed, the EFTA, predates most of the other associations in this article.

Bob Bucceri, Partner with Chaddsford Planning Associates LLC and media representative for the EFTA, said the secret to that organization's longevity is its adaptability and its "creditability." He said the organization does not lobby, but it does inform government and regulatory agencies about the industry.

Opening frontiers

New needs develop, along with new technology and new ways of doing business. Below is the latest crop of associations established in 2008 and 2009.

Reaping the benefits

Participation in trade associations has benefits, regardless of a particular association's focus. According to Breton, MLSs should attend regional association events to find out what's new in the industry, network with peers, exchange vital information and expose themselves to new products from vendors.

Breton has seen a trend among larger ISOs toward not encouraging their sales agents to attend regional events for fear that they will be recruited by other ISOs attending the event. "If you're treating your salespeople properly, professionally and fairly, they're not going to leave you," he said.

Balakgie said being part of an association "exposes you to your community of practice." She added that the resources and networking opportunities provided by associations help payment professionals solve problems, become educated and attain goals more easily. "I can say for sure that my involvement in associations has paid me dividends that I will never be able to repay," she said.

Taking membership a step further and becoming involved as a volunteer can put professionals closer to the core people within the industry who make things happen and provide an inside track on new developments within the industry and the association.

Breton pointed out that NEAA board members strive to work for the association's constituents, not for themselves. He added that he gains exposure from signing his name to some 3,000 e-mails every year, but exposure is a byproduct of being involved, not something you need to go after.

The list of associations in this article is by no means exhaustive. The Green Sheet invites readers to also peruse the Datebook and Trade Association News sections in the magazine, as well as the online calendar at, for news of upcoming events. Go forth and associate.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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