Known for brisk ocean breezes and redwood splendor, Eureka, Calif., became a payment hot spot from April 25 to 27. Sales reps and vendors associated with Humboldt Merchant Services converged on The Red Lion Hotel at the hub of the company's hometown for the HMS Partners Conference 2007.
HMS hosts these gatherings for its business partners every 18 months. Some attendees drove to the April meeting; others flew in from offices as far away as New York, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin and Arizona. All came to learn from the presentations and panels, network in the exhibit hall, and enjoy the hospitality of the HMS staff.
Robert Peisner, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Worldwide Merchant Services, attended with his wife, Eileen. He has been in the industry for about 25 years.
"After so many years in the business, you would think that many things would seem to be repetitive and old hat," he said. "I have never failed to learn something and also pick up some new ideas from the other attendees.
"It has been a real pleasure both observing and being a contributing part of the growth and progress of HMS over these past years. And since I have no intention of ever retiring, I am looking forward to attending many more in the future."
HMS President Ken Musante gave the keynote address, kicking off the conference's educational offerings. "Ambition is something you have within yourself," he said. "What we hope is to increase your skill and knowledge to increase your financial wealth."
He predicted that interchange will not be regulated by the government anytime soon and said interchange-related lawsuits "are great news because they are going to lead to radically decreased interchange that will be a windfall for us and for merchants."
He also said that wireless payment form factors are "not yet ready for prime time" and that integrated POS systems are "where the growth will be."
In addition to discussing specific attributes of HMS' structure, programs and pricing, Musante talked about the impact of Visa U.S.A.'s new rates, effective April 14. "Visa raised interchange without raising interchange," he said. "They came out with a new card type that's to be used for our most exclusive cardholders."
(For more information about Visa's new rates, see Visa U.S.A. interchange rates, effective April 2007" and "Visa's changes muddy interchange waters," The Green Sheet, May 14, 2007, issue 07:05:01.)
Presenting vendors included First Data Corp., JCB International Credit Card Co. Ltd., Planet Payment, American Express Co., First Data Global Leasing, Northern Leasing Systems Inc., Secure Payment Systems Inc. and Merchant Capital Source.
They covered such topics as processing platforms, multicurrency pricing, prepaid programs, how to establish partnerships, merchant funding, terminal leasing and much more.
Two panels proved to be very popular: One was on gateways, which included representatives from Authorize.Net, USA ePay, eProcessing Network LLC and Netbilling Inc.; another was on terminals, which included representatives from Hypercom Corp., VeriFone and ExaDigm Inc.
Guest speaker Paul Martaus was also well-received "not only because he was a great speaker but he brought humor to some difficult topics," Cynthia Hunsaker said. She is HMS' Sales Training Administrator. Areas Martaus touched upon included the industry's penchant for dramatic upheaval, increasing competition and the potential effects of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.'s buyout of First Data.
Additionally, Musante and HMS Vice President, Xavier Ayala, met individually with many participants "to go over their portfolios and determine what HMS can do to assist in growing their business," Hunsaker said.
"We have found these individual meetings provide both HMS and the sales partner a great opportunity to cover issues that either side might not feel as comfortable discussing over the phone," she added.
All meals were provided by HMS. Breakfasts and lunches were catered in-house. Dinners were held at local restaurants, including a murder-mystery dinner theater event at the Scotia Inn, a former haunt of lumber barons.
When all the work was done, attendees who could stay chose from a list of outings such as a scenic drive, hiking in the redwoods, beer tasting or touring nearby Ferndale, which sports much Victorian charm, followed by another scrumptious dinner. Then they bid one another farewell, until the next gathering, which is slated for autumn 2008.
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