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Issue 03:11:01

Industry Update

Trade Association News

By Julie O'Ryan-Dempsey

First American Payment Systems Acquires CMS

U.S. DOJ Files Suit to Block First Data/Concord EFS Merger

Regional Clearing Houses to Consolidate


Advances In Wireless Portable Payment Terminals

By Michelle Graff


Industry Leaders: Steve Eazell
Steve Eazell's Secret for Success? A Passion for Payments

White Paper:
New Technologies Mean Upgrades and Revenue Opportunities in ATM Market

By Eric Thomson

White Paper:
History's Lesson: How the Global Ecomony Can Benefit From Non-cash Payments

By Eric Thomson


Street SmartsSM:
Meetings of the MLS Mind

By Ed Freedman

Visa's Agent Registration in a Nutshell

By David H. Press

The Importance of Value-added Training

By Peter Scharnell

Interchange Untangled - Part 3

New Products

New Tranax Triple DES-Compliant ATMs

POS Terminal Makes Merchant Move to EMV Like Magic

Company Profiles

Retail Decisions, Inc.


Financial Statements: A Critical Part of Your Business Plan

Safety Nets and Lightning in a Bottle



Resource Guide


NAOPP Kickoff Event Scored!

In late February 2003, a few ambitious people convened in Tampa, Fla. to discuss the formation of an association for independent sales contractors in the financial services industry. They knew the task ahead of them was no small undertaking, and certainly the next eight months proved them right-and then some.

Turning what's been a concept for so long into reality is never easy. Building an organization from the ground up meant organizers had to come up with not only a playbook, they also had to get the players to agree on an overall game plan. The process hasn't been simple.

Facing fourth and long, organizers of the National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP) dug deep and rallied. They proved that their hopes of forming an association specifically for independent sales agents would most certainly materialize, and on October 10, 2003, the group held its first official membership meeting.

The successful event was highlighted by several key plays including a very respectable attendee turnout and the introduction of an interim Board of Directors to the membership.

Recognizing the need for and importance of an association for independent sales reps, several industry leaders showed their support and participated in the daylong conference. The meeting's sessions covered operational issues such as membership development and continued the debate on various policy and purpose topics.

The conference also included panel discussions relevant to the industry; panel members included industry representatives and a legal expert.

Planners were very encouraged with the results of the first NAOPP membership meeting. More than 50 people attended, extending their stays in Orlando by a day, directly following the Southeast Acquirers Association conference at the Rosen Centre. As of press time, membership in NAOPP is more than 40 people.

But what these numbers don't illustrate is the nationwide and industry-wide interest in this association. Independent agents and contractors have long felt unrepresented in the financial services industry. For example, some feel that other organizations are better suited to serving larger companies; expensive fees for association membership and trade show registration can be prohibitive for independent salespeople.

NAOPP started from scratch, formed with the intention of serving needs of Merchant Level Salespeople. The organization's purpose is to improve the way MLSs work by providing opportunities for education and forums for discussion and setting industry standards.

At the initial planning conference held last February, organizers decided on a few details. They chose a name, established bylaws and defined a mission statement: This organization shall exist for all those selling in the Payment Processing industry, by providing Education,

Benefits, Liaison/Representation and Certification.

In February, The Green Sheet spoke with organizer Steve Norell about his hopes for the then-unnamed group ("New Association's Aspiration: Pave the Way to Street Savvy," Feb. 10, 2003, issue 03:02:01). What he said then seems to be coming true as NAOPP moves ahead and plans for the future of an independent, affordable association.

One of the association's goals, then and now, is to add credibility and professionalism to the industry. Training and certification are elements that have been missing for the estimated 24,000 to 28,000 MLSs, Norell said.

Providing MLSs with information and opportunities for education will raise the standards by which they will all work. Direct contact between vendors and agents also increases the quality of information to which MLSs have access, he said.

Since February, NAOPP has filed incorporation papers as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation; the charter and by-laws have been filed with the Delaware Secretary of State.

The interim Board is comprised of representatives from sponsoring companies and is in place until a permanent one is elected by the organization's membership, although no timetable for this transition has been set. (The NAOPP by-laws stipulate that the majority of the voting members of the Board of Directors must be MLSs in order to protect the interests of the people the organization was created to help.)

The entire meeting, moderated by Cory Saftler, Integrated Leasing, was conducted in an interactive discussion format and resulted in some very interesting Q&A. Speakers were limited to brief presentations.

Mary Dees, President of Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), was the first speaker and she addressed the different roles ETA and NAOPP play in the industry. ETA is chartered as an association of vendor companies, while NAOPP is a professional trade association for individuals.

In a very positive step forward, Dees addressed ways ETA could work with NAOPP on behalf of MLSs. She offered to work with ETA to make the ISO regulations published by Visa and MasterCard readily available to NAOPP members.

Dees also discussed her role as court-appointed receiver for CMS, responding to several questions from the floor and clarifying some details that have been misunderstood in the marketplace.

At the conclusion of her remarks, one meeting participant apologized for statements that had been posted to The Green Sheet's MLS Forum, stunning everyone in the room. Others concurred, and invited Dees to come back into the Forum. The consensus of the attendees is that neither the ETA nor Dees is in any way "the enemy." [GS applauds this development.]

Ben Huddleston, a corporate attorney with Nashville, Tenn.-based firm Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, fielded questions during the meeting's next segment. Huddleston has worked extensively for more than 10 years with participants in the electronic transactions industry, dealing with contract issues, mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings for various companies in the industry.

During this portion of the meeting, Huddleston discussed several areas of concern for MLSs, including issues involving corporate organization, non-compete clauses, portability of merchant portfolios and the protection of the revenue stream.

The session provided a good overview of the most common legal issues in the industry and underscored the importance of using legal counsel with industry-specific experience when facing significant issues.

Two more panel discussions were held during the day concerning equipment and check guarantee/conversion. Lipman, Thales and Hypercom were each represented, but VeriFone was notably absent from the equipment panel. Discussions centered on what was coming next and addressed questions relating to wireless performance and multi-MID capability.

The check guarantee/conversion panel included Steve Eazell, Secure Payment Systems, and Tim Hutchinson, Western Clearing. They briefly addressed the reality of conversion transaction processing, with and without check guarantee.

A drive to increase membership in NAOPP was the meeting's true success: a majority of the meeting's participants became members or sponsor-members. The push is on to build membership in the MLS segment in order to move the organization to the next level. The Green Sheet will be involved in supporting NAOPP in all its endeavors.

The success of this first meeting proved there is enough interest to move ahead with plans for the future. NAOPP intends to continue holding its membership meetings in the open Q&A format.

The Board is currently exploring opportunities to piggyback onto the regional acquirers association meetings; plans are currently underway for a meeting in February 2004 coordinated with the Northeast Acquirers Association event (see related story on page 16).

In keeping with the mandate to keep participation in NAOPP affordable, membership fees have been set at $25.

For more information on YOUR organization visit the Web site at . Look for news and information on NAOPP in upcoming issues of The Green Sheet.

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