When Noel Fundora heard about the passive, residual income the payments industry can provide, he was immediately impressed. "In my old equipment business, Miami Office Systems, we sold equipment, but then, at the beginning of every month, we started again at zero," he recalled. "We had to go sell again to make money."
Fundora started his career in payments as an agent for Cardservice International and grew his business to become a top-20 producer for the ISO. When First Data Corp. purchased CSI in 2002, the acquirer asked Fundora to become its Southeast Regional Manager. "I had a tough time with that because I was always an entrepreneur and had never worked corporate," Fundora said. He added, however, that after months of negotiating, he sold his portfolio to First Data and accepted the company's employment offer.
After more than a dozen years at First Data, Fundora thought he was ready to retire and spend long, sunny days cruising the Caribbean on his boat with family and friends, but his days of leisure didn't last; he couldn't leave the business behind. "I have processing in my veins," he said. "So I opened up my own ISO in partnership with my daughter."
The three-year-old venture, Volt Merchant Solutions Inc., is a First Data ISO. Fundora said it was a "no-brainer" to continue that relationship because he understands the inner workings and structure of the company, and he has friends there. As President of Volt, Fundora devotes time to mentoring employees. In addition to explaining the ins and outs of payments to mentees, he strives to understand their unique desires and challenges. "It's not just how we put deals together; that is important, but life experiences are equally as important."
Also essential to Fundora are a solid value proposition and a strong work ethic. "If we go out there leading with rates, that is a sure way to not make a lot of money and probably lose the client right away," Fundora said. "It's important to do your job well, with finesse and fire every day ‒ having the passion to do it right, as well as bigger and better than the guy next door. …
"You don't have to be the sharpest pencil, but you have to be the hardest working pencil." In addition, he believes a focus on specific verticals, along with excellent service and true caring for employees and partners, distinguish his company from the competition.
Fundora has observed that paradigm shifts in payments have accelerated from six- to seven-year intervals to 18-month intervals. "We are seeing a lot of people coming into our space with fintech and so forth, with a different model, so we have to adapt and change," he said, adding that if transaction processing is all you bring to the game, "you are not a survivor." That said, he believes opportunities in this space will continue. "For payments to go away, society, products and services would have to go away," he said.
Fundora's family immigrated to South Florida from Cuba when he was eight years old, and he is grateful for the life he has built here. "I came to America with nothing and have realized the American dream," he said. "What I'm most proud of is the amount of people that I have been able to touch throughout my career. Providing for them an opportunity where they can take care of their family. A lot of them have become extremely wealthy. But at the end of the day, it is not what is in the bank account; it's what on my conscience."
Fundora puts the most value on time spent with his family. "The older you get, you start realizing that you are running out of time," he said. "Whatever I did in the industry is great, but that's going to go away. The impact I leave with my family and my kids, who I have touched with my life, that is going to be meaningful."
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