While Arizona's warm, desert breezes whispered through palm trees on the grounds outside the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa; inside, the Western States Acquirers Association wowed attendees and exhibitors who came from as far away as Florida, Puerto Rico and Ireland. Vibrant and informative, the show was a reminder that WSAA and other regional acquirers associations provide exceptional value for the industry's feet on the street for several reasons.
While exhibitors prepared for the opening reception on Wed., Sept. 14, 2016, the knowledge imparted to attendees began with the ETA University's Introduction to Electronic Processing by Payment Alliance International's Chief Payments Advisor, Donna Embry.
This was followed by Mark Dunn's Field Guide for ISOs, an afternoon of talks by industry experts on building a strong ISO – from starting with a solid foundation, to using big data and other tools to create long-term value, to monetizing and selling a merchant portfolio.
Thursday morning's educational sessions included two panels: one on corralling big data, and the other on the pitfalls of mergers and acquisitions and portfolio sales. In the afternoon, the major card brands, Visa Inc., Mastercard, Discover Financial Services and American Express Co., each reached out to agents and ISOs with presentations about their latest products and programs, and how agents can take advantage of them.
Two additional panels took place in the afternoon: one consisted of merchants, who discussed, with passion, the ongoing issues they have with card processing and fraud prevention; the other featured industry experts discussing the state of EMV after the liability shift.
In addition to the ample chances to chat with old friends and meet new ones throughout the event, official networking opportunities on Wednesday included a mixer for women in payments sponsored by Women's Network in Electronic Payments (W.net) and an opening reception in the exhibit hall, where approximately 392 attendees had an opportunity to talk with representatives of the 307 exhibitors. Exhibitors included a range of companies from large enterprises that have been in the industry for decades to small startups exhibiting for the first time.
Networking continued on Thursday with time to mingle in the exhibit hall at breakfast, lunch and during the closing reception.
Particularly inspiring at WSAA this year were the opening remarks on Thursday by Xavier Ayala honoring WSAA co-founder and payments leader Ken Elderts, who passed away unexpectedly in August. Ayala's remarks were preceded by a moving slideshow with gentle music highlighting moments from Elderts' life, most of which centered on his beloved family.
In addition, the keynote address by Frank Abagnale ‒ whose life story was the basis for the book, Catch Me if You Can, which was adapted into a movie and a Broadway musical ‒ brought home the fact that it's not money, glitter and glory that make for a good life; it's being ethical in all of your dealings. For him, this means his roles as husband and father are the center of his life, and his renown as a reformed confidence man who became an authority on forgery, embezzlement and secure documents can never compare to the importance of his family. That said, he imparted significant insights about how to prevent identity theft and related crimes to an attentive crowd.
In addition to providing a free shuttle to and from the Phoenix airport and delicious, free meals in the exhibit hall throughout the show (compliments of several industry sponsors), the organizers of this event ‒ who did all the work involved as volunteers ‒ scheduled gatherings (also funded by industry sponsors) where participants could socialize in a relaxed way. Among these were an early morning golf tournament in honor of Ken Elderts, a "cowboy up or cowgirl down" casual evening where flip flops or boots were the preferred footwear, and a special meet and greet with Frank Abagnale.
Speaking on behalf of WSAA, Steve Eazell, President Emeritus of WSAA and Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Mavenstech/DayGot, said, "We are thrilled to be associated with such a successful show. We want to thank all of the participants that made this year's 2016 Western States Acquirers Association's Annual Show one of the best ever.
"We were told over and over again how much the attendees loved the venue, the food, the exhibit hall and, most of all, the content. Thank you, again, to Frank Abagnale, our keynote speaker, for knocking it out of the park with his overwhelming knowledge of the payment space and its pitfalls. We are so grateful and humbled to be a part."
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