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Understanding the Payment Processing Trade Association Events

By Peter Scharnell

As many of you saw in the "2004 Events Calendar" in the January 12 issue of The Green Sheet, there are many financial services events to choose from in 2004. With so many events throughout the year, how does an ISO or merchant level salesperson (MLS) choose which ones to attend? In this article I will focus on the various payment processing associations and what their events mean to the ISO/MLS community.

Electronic Transactions Association (ETA)

Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) is perhaps the most well-known and respected association within the payment processing industry. The association began in 1990 as the Bankcard Services Association (BSA), with fewer than 20 people from the industry gathering to discuss ways to develop a credible voice within the industry.

In 1996, BSA saw the need to expand its scope of industry representation and changed its name to the Electronic Transactions Association.

ETA is now an international association with more than 400 member companies from seven different countries. Because of this tremendous growth and breadth of coverage, the annual ETA meeting and expo is considered the most renowned event within our industry.

Not only does ETA provide a venue for all of the vendors to showcase their products and services, it also facilitates training seminars and keynote speakers in order to present and discuss the new advancements and best practices for the processing industry.

It's been an extremely successful event to date; however, many of the smaller MLSs and single-office sales agents have expressed the need for regional shows that are less expensive to attend and more focused on the sales and product needs for the feet-on-the-street sales person.

ETA listened to their needs and is creating a series of low-cost regional events. It is also looking into modifying its current membership fee structure to accommodate the sales agents that-up until now-could not afford to attend the big event.

Stay tuned for more announcements on the progress of these events from ETA.

Regional Acquirers Associations

The Regional Acquirers Associations have been around since the late 1990s and were founded with one primary objective-"to serve as an Educational Forum for Financial Institutions and ISOs/MSPs in the acquiring industry."

The Acquirers Associations events consist of the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and the recently added Western seminar series. The events are funded through vendor sponsorship and nominal registration fees, and they typically have about 45 to 50 vendors and 150 to 250 attendees.

Like ETA, the Acquirers Association events focus on new products and services and provide training seminars and speakers from the industry; however, it's a more intimate venue. And because the events are regionally located, it's generally easier for the busy sales person to attend the show.

The associations keep the cost to attend the shows minimal, and they provide a very good setting for the smaller and growing ISOs/MLSs to attend and meet the vendors face-to-face. The Acquirers Association events are growing in such demand that some of them are actually turning down new vendors that would like to display simply because they want to keep the events from getting too large and costly to produce.

This increased growth, and more importantly, the demand for additional hands-on industry training, has led to the formation of even more payment processing associations that are trying to meet the needs of the MLS.

National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP)

The National Association of Payment Professionals exists for all of those selling in the payment processing industry by providing education, benefits, liaison/representation and certification. It was formed to bridge the gap between the sales person at the street level and the decision makers at the larger processors and ISOs.

MLSs can join the organization for an introductory price of $25, and they currently schedule their events in conjunction with the various Acquirers Association shows. This way, MLSs can get good hands-on regional training and additional information at a low cost; they also have the option to meet with the vendors that attended the various Acquirers Association shows.

The NAOPP is another avenue providing MLSs with access to detailed training that-up until now-was either to costly or not currently offered by the existing associations.

Institute for Payment Professionals (IPP)

The Institute for Payment Professionals' (IPP) mission is to provide MLSs with an opportunity to acquire (no pun intended!) the training and tools that are necessary to compete in the processing industry.

According to its Web site, IPP is a training company, dedicated to the payment services sales person at the street level. It keeps the membership fee extremely low and uses sponsorships from processors and equipment vendors to help subsidize the training seminars.

The good news is that all of these associations and their events are designed to help educate ISOs/MLSs and to provide access to the vendors at a face-to-face level. Where there were once very few training opportunities provided within the industry, ISOs/MLSs now have an abundance of choices.

It makes sense for sales representatives to gather more information on all of the associations via their Web sites and to choose the association event that best meets their needs. Chances are you'll find that each organization has its own merits and you might end up giving them all a try at some point.

Also, you should check with your ISO or processor to see what educational programs they are offering and how the association events can complement their efforts.

Visit The Green Sheet Online's Tradeshow Directory at

Peter Scharnell is VP Marketing for Electronic Exchange Systems (EXS), a national provider of merchant processing solutions. Founded in 1991, EXS offers ISO partner programs, innovative pricing, a complete product line, monthly phone/Web training, quarterly seminars and, most of all, credibility. For more information, please visit or e-mail Peter at

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