ETA annual docks in San Diego
#dcf_Imagine having a chance to pose a question to one of the nation's most renowned entrepreneurs and technology gurus. About a dozen folks representing ISOs, merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and their partners had just such an opportunity last week during a dialogue with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc. The event kicked off the ETA's 2011 Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego.
The event also featured a keynote address by former Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Mass., co-author of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Speaking to a packed hall, Dodd fielded a volley of questions concerning interchange, the Federal Reserve Board and the legislative process.
Here are highlights from what Dodd and "the Woz" shared with attendees.
As Wozniak's comments demonstrate, mobility was the hot topic at the meeting. Mobile card acceptance, couponing and security for merchants, and mobile sales tools for agents, were among the most conspicuous.
"Mobile is here and it's big," said Will Rossiter, Vice President for Global Marketing at Hypercom Corp. A stroll through the exhibit hall drove home the point.
ROAM Data continued to draw attention with ROAMpay, a small card swipe device that plugs into smart phones where a headphone jack might otherwise connect. (It won the ETA's Technology Innovation Award in 2010.) Sean Gately, ROAM Data's Sales Director, said orders for ROAMpay were arriving "fast and furious," adding that the company shipped 100,000 of the devices during the first quarter of the year.
VeriFone Inc., which has an offer outstanding to acquire Hypercom, exhibited a turnkey solution that integrates new media and payments, and can be marketed to merchants on a monthly subscription basis. PayMedia, as the new VeriFone offering is called, supports traditional and emerging payments, as well as assorted related services (like electronic couponing) in nontraditional environments.
Paul Rasori, VeriFone's Senior Vice President for Marketing, described the innovation as "a complete payment-enabled digital media ecosystem that brings the full potential of online payment-oriented and social media services to the offline retail counter." VeriFone revealed that nine ISOs already have signed on to offer PayMedia solutions to small and midsize businesses.
Merchant Warehouse was on the floor showcasing a new iPad-based tool that makes it possible for agents to complete and submit merchant applications in real time, as well as to help manage their portfolios while on the go. Basic tools - such as a calendar, driving directions and email - in addition to sophisticated cost and analysis tools are included.
"We've been making a splash with this big time," said Michael Gavin, Vice President for Third-Party Sales at the Boston-based ISO, which is giving iPads to its agents.
Apriva, a Scottsdale, Ariz., firm specializing in secure wireless solutions, celebrated an initiative it calls "Freedom to Choose," which enables merchant acquirers and ISOs to customize mobile payment solutions to individual merchant requirements. Apriva said it aims to support all types of mobile payment devices and platforms.
Not to be overshadowed by compelling product launches in the expo hall, the ETA used the conference forum to promote its new certification program. Representatives of six leading payment companies were on hand at the opening session to voice support for the Certified Payments Professional program, which officially launched in February 2011.
MasterCard Worldwide said it was on board with the program. So did Visa Inc., First Data Corp., National Processing Co., Fifth Third Processing, CoCard Marketing Group and Merchant Warehouse.
The ETA hopes to position the new Certified Payments Professional as the industry's first professional certification process for sales agents and others engaged in the distribution of electronic payment products and services. Test vehicles are under development, and a first round of testing is anticipated during the fourth quarter of 2011.
The ETA also used the annual event to honor industry leaders in several categories. Those lauded at a May 10 awards ceremony included:
In addition, SparkBase Inc., based in Cleveland, was honored with the ETA Technology Innovation Award for its Paycloud Mobile Wallet, a smart-phone enabled loyalty and gift card application that integrates with a full line of merchant POS devices.
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