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Table of Contents

Lead Story

Understanding the 2015 U.S. fraud liability shifts Version 1.0 – May 2015


Industry Update

Samsung Pay to arrive Sept. 28

Debit card growth data, Durbin ruling

Square's fee for Instant Deposit might not matter

ISO 20022 blazes trail to real-time global payments

Cash growth eclipses mobile payments


The power of social

Mobile shoppers on fast track


EMV is coming along, slowly

Patti Murphy
ProScribes Inc.

Sharks and sharps: Who's buying your bankcard business?

Adam Hark


Street SmartsSM:
The power of residual income – Part 2

Jeffrey I. Shavitz
TrafficJamming LLC

Bring Tour de France teamwork to your business

Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

The one-man show: Approaches in B2B sales

John Tucker
1st Capital Loans LLC

EMV myths debunked

Company Profile


New Products

Comprehensive, cloud-based business ecosystem

Jory LLC

Reliable, secure e-commerce authentication



Back to school at work


Readers Speak

Letter from the editors

Resource Guide


A Bigger Thing

The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 14, 2015  •  Issue 15:09:01

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Sharks and sharps: Who's buying your bankcard business?

By Adam Hark

For years now the bankcard space has been, and continues to be, a hotbed of merger-and-acquisition activity. Whether at the merchant portfolio or residual level or at the platform level with merchant processing ISOs, plenty of opportunities always exist for buyers and sellers alike.

For those who deal with these kinds of transactions professionally, as intermediaries, there exists the constant need to not just understand and evaluate sellers and sellers' properties, but also the need to understand potential buyers. And for any sellers looking to bring their property to market themselves, that is, "for sale by owner," the ability to properly evaluate potential buyers is of the utmost importance. It can also be extraordinarily challenging.

A little analogy

In the world of card playing, particularly poker, we often hear the terms "cardsharp" and "cardshark" mentioned together in reference to highly skilled players who benefit from exploiting the less informed and less adroit players.

However, in the American lexicon, there seems to have evolved a nuanced distinction between the two terms: cardshark often is not used as a pejorative, but rather as an affirmation that a card player has reached a very high level of play through practice and experience, and although a superior player, the cardshark still approaches the game with a sense of integrity and fair play.

Alternatively, a cardsharp has come to denote a card player who has also reached a very high level of play through practice and experience, but the cardsharp applies that learned gamesmanship in a less than honest manner, often availing himself or herself of deceitful practices that go unnoticed and unchecked by the novice player.

Shark v. sharp: Who's who?

So to apply the card player analogy to sellers of bankcard portfolios and ISOs, and the buyers of these assets, we need to create a profile of these two classes of buyers we frequently face at the other side of the negotiating table. We can then use these as templates to help us better understand who we are dealing with when entering into discussions involving portfolio or ISO sales.

Sounds like there is no good option for sellers, right? No, not right. And here are the reasons:

Get in the game, play your cards right

If you are going to market with your bankcard property, understand that part of the process involves a bit of self-education in addition to the normal, and expected, "dressing up" of your bankcard property, merchant processing ISO, portfolio or residual stream. Part of that self-education process means putting yourself in a position to be able to recognize the type of buyer you're dealing with.

The other part of that self-education process involves providing yourself with the resources necessary to navigate successfully through the negotiations with that buyer. So do your homework, get on out there and don't be afraid of the game. And to all of you sellers out there, good luck!

Adam Hark is co-founder of, a dba of Preston Todd Advisors Inc. With over a decade of experience in the payments industry, Adam specializes in M&A, growth and exit strategies, and asset and enterprise valuation for payments processing and payments technology companies. Adam Hark can be reached at or 617-340-8779.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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