For many companies, the moniker they choose becomes their public persona. So imagine the shock of executives at banks and communications companies involved with the Isis mobile wallet when news broke of a militant group whose name translates into English as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short. ISIS is a militant group that has made headlines with a violent sectarian campaign against civilians and governments in Iraq and Syria. In an effort to distance itself from the group, the Isis mobile wallet will be renamed, the company stated.
"However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence," said Michael Abbott, Chief Executive Officer of Isis, a mobile wallet joint venture formed in 2010 by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless.
American Express Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. also back Isis. Yet despite all the big-name backers, Isis has failed to take off. The rebranding process may further stymie adoption. In a July 7 statement, Abbott suggested it could take several months for the company to settle on a new moniker.
Isis isn't the first payment services provider to reassess its name in an effort to distance itself from unrelated negative publicity. Instabill, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based merchant services provider that specializes in serving high-risk businesses doing e-commerce and MO/TO transactions, found itself in a similar position in 2009 when an Australian company that went by the name Intabill ran afoul of the law. Intabill was also an ISO with a focus on e-commerce, specifically online poker sites.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it a criminal offense for U.S. financial institutions and payment processing companies to process transactions related to online gambling. Intabill nonetheless continued to acquire payments for poker sites frequented by Americans until its collapse in 2009, which was followed by arrests of key company executives.
Jason Field, founder and President of Instabill, soon found himself on the defensive. But he wasn't keen on changing his company's name. "We were well established," with 10 years in the market and a growing clientele, he noted. So he opted to ride out the storm. "We spent a lot of time schooling our account managers on how to respond to questions from customers and prospects," he added.
The biggest challenge may have been press reports. "A lot of the reporters got the name wrong," reporting that arrested executives were with Instabill instead of Intabill, Field said. Looking back, he is confident he did the right thing. Within about 18 months of news breaking of the arrest of Intabill executives, questions from Instabill customers and prospects about the corporate connection had subsided. And, today, Instabill continues to grow its portfolio.
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