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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 13, 2011 • Issue 11:06:01

Trade Association News

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.

  • Dodd never thought the Durbin Amendment would become law, and he's not optimistic that it can be reversed. "It's going to be almost impossible to craft something that works," he said.

  • Dodd did hold out hope that the Federal Reserve will back down from a plan to cap debit card interchange at 12 cents, with an exemption for community banks. "A dual system creates too many complications," he said.

  • Dodd feels ISOs, MLSs and their partners need to do more to reach out to local politicians if they hope to fend off further legislation like the Durbin Amendment. "Very few members of Congress understand financial services," Dodd said. "I can assure you that if you were to invite your member of Congress to come to your business to learn what you do and about your issues, you'd have a lot more luck than anyone standing in the halls of Congress trying to [lobby] staffers."

  • Wozniak observed that technology experiments don't always end up as planned. "We didn't design the Internet to be a brain, but it turned out that way," he said.

  • Though he no longer works at Apple, Wozniak seems confident that payments are not at the top of the company's to-do list. "I think they'll hold off and not make any moves until they know they can do it right," he said.

  • Wozniak believes mobile payments that use near field communications (NFC) technology are poised to take off in a big way. "Tap-and-go technology is so compelling that it will be in everyone's hands within just a few years," he said.

  • Wozniak is especially enthralled by Square, the miniature card reader from Square Inc. that plugs into mobile devices and facilitates payments. "A little person can now do what a giant corporation once could only do," he noted.

Enthralled by mobile

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.

Big on technology, certification

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:

  • First Data Corp., Business Partner of the Year
  • Greg Cohen, Moneris Solutions, Member of the Year
  • Deanna Rich, Rich Consulting, Committee Volunteer of the Year
  • Payment Alliance International, ISO of the Year
  • Debra Rossi of Wells Fargo & Co., 2011 Distinguished Payment Professional

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. end of article

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