The payments industry is always evolving. Laws and regulations governing financial services are in a state of flux and new technologies are debuted at warp speed. It seems that once a merchant level salesperson (MLS) obtains any sort of mastery, the landscape changes, making it difficult to stay abreast.
The National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP) aims to help members stay a few steps ahead of the payments curve by keeping them up-to-date on changes happening within the industry. "Wherever payments happen, that's where we want to be," the association's Web site declares.
Founded in 2003, NAOPP's mission is to provide education, benefits, representation and certification to sales professionals, particularly MLSs, in the United States and Canada. According to Craig Lesser, President of NAOPP, the association was constructed with the interest of helping an estimated 15,000 MLSs in the industry.
"We are a professional organization dedicated to promoting education and ethics of the industry," Lesser said.
The association's Web site is equipped with a list of upcoming events, along with downloadable content in the membership area. Those with access are able to view and print out past presentations given at various industry conferences. The Web site appears to be a necessity for NAOPP members. In 2007, it received roughly 210,000 hits.
NAOPP aims to stand apart from other associations with the creation of an MLS certification program. The association's objective is to attract membership by developing valuable training programs and ultimately create and administer an MLS certification program.
"We are the only [association] that is looking to educate from a professional standpoint and to move toward a certification program," Lesser said. "All the others are geared toward the registered ISO. No one is for the street level sales merchant."
NAOPP's vision is to produce training modules that lead to a certification test to earn MLS credentials. Agents would then be able to approach prospects and say they are certified MLSs. Although the program is in the preliminary stages, Lesser said the project is progressing.
In December 2007, NAOPP conducted a membership survey to determine what types of training members wanted and preferred. Through an analysis of those results, the association created four interactive modules. Working in conjunction with the regional acquirers associations, these will be presented throughout 2008 and 2009.
The first module, entitled "What do I need to know to be a legal sales rep in the industry," will be presented at the Midwest Acquirers Association's annual conference July 21 to 25, 2008.
Each module will culminate in an MLS certification exam, which the NAOPP board projects will be presented and administered at an Electronic Transactions Association event in 2009.
NAOPP does not hold member meetings, but it does offer benefits with each membership. These include:
Membership privileges are divided into five categories: MLSs, individual ISOs, organizational ISOs, correspondents and vendors. The annual membership fee is $99.
MLSs of all experience levels can benefit from the educational opportunities NAOPP provides. Through webinars, hands-on learning experiences and seminars, NAOPP members gain access to some of the payments industry's leading marketing and legal minds.
NAOPP is constantly looking for deals to offer its members. Starting in June 2007, members will be able to receive cash rebates on equipment leasing through Barclay Square Leasing Inc. Barclay will issue a $25 rebate for every lease funded by a NAOPP member.
The association also has arrangements with the ETA to provide the following to NAOPP members: ETA's member pricing when registering to attend ETA University, which offers classes that address key facets of the industry to expand knowledge and expertise; discounts to fee-based regional acquirers associations; one-year subscription to Transaction Trends; and a discount on the ETA's Encyclopedia of Terminology.
All agents can benefit from having an experienced legal eye review their contracts with ISOs, banks and processors. Members receive discounted legal representation from industry expert, Paul A. Rianda, who has more than a decade of experience. NAOPP recognizes it can be difficult for smaller agent offices to advertise their services and compete with larger organizations.
Therefore, the association has teamed with Nancy Drexler to offer members a free marketing consultation. Drexler, Vice President of Marketing for SignaPay Ltd. and a member of the NAOPP board of directors, has more than 25 years of marketing experience and can assist MLSs as they prepare ads, brochures and sales materials.
All members are eligible to receive a complimentary review of a marketing piece. Health coverage might be hard to obtain when running your own business, especially during the startup phase.
In addition to offering group rates, members have access to supplemental insurance through Hewitt & Associates Inc. and underwritten by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. Members also have access to other insurances covering cancer, short-term disability and life.
Dental insurance is offered through Long Island Planning Group Ltd. and underwritten by Aflac. Policies can cover basic, preventive and major dental benefits.
NAOPP strives to create opportunities for education and enhancement, as well as access to topnotch networking opportunities, and it does it all as a nonprofit organization.
The association officers are volunteers who give their time, energy and expertise because they believe in the value and future of MLSs.
With so many regulations to keep up with, MLSs need an extra eye to watch out for evolving issues. NAOPP wants to be that additional guide in an effort to keep MLSs on top of their game, thus giving the merchants reassurance that their businesses are in good hands.
NAOPP encourages MLSs interested in learning more about the association to browse the Web site at www.naopp.com.
For additional information, call Lesser at 262-613-4142 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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