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A Thing

Southwestern Automated Clearing House Association

MLS contact:

Deborah Matthews, AAP
Director of Marketing and Member Services
Phone: 214-953-4716
Fax: 214-720-0029

Company address:

1999 Bryan, Suite 1500
Dallas, TX 75201
Phone: 214-954-0585
Fax: 214-720-0029
Web site:

MLS benefits:

  • Access to toll-free payments Answerline
  • Access to the members only Web site
  • Discounts on customized, in-house training
  • Educational events
  • Free ACH rules publications
  • Quarterly newsletter

An Electronic Payments Resource

Imagine you're in the middle of a presentation to a potential client, and he stumps you with a question about electronic payments. Perhaps he wants to know the specifics of how electronic check conversion works.

You don't know the answer, but you want to be able to say, "That's a great question. I don't have the answer for you now, but I will find out." The last thing you want to tell a prospective client is "I don't know, and I don't know how to find out or who to ask. Sorry."

What if you had "Answerline," a phone number to call and ask another person questions about electronic payments? You could return to the prospect and answer his question, demonstrating your follow through, dedication and ability to get the answers he needs.

Such an Answerline does exist, and it's just one of the many benefits SWACHA members enjoy.

SWACHA isn't the plastic watch that was popular in the 1980s; it's the Southwestern Automated Clearing House Association.

SWACHA - The Electronic Payments Resource is a not-for-profit regional payments association. Since 1974, SWACHA has served organizations across the Southwest.

SWACHA's staff of 12, including five Accredited ACH Professionals (AAPs), is based in Dallas. (Only about 2,300 people in the entire world are certified AAPs. )

SWACHA members serve on virtually every major committee and panel of NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association, including the Board of Directors. In other words, these people know what they are talking about.

"SWACHA provides a comprehensive range of training in electronic payments, risk management and regulatory compliance to our members and other automated clearing house stakeholders," said Deborah Matthews, AAP, Director of Marketing and Member Services for SWACHA.

"We also actively participate in the development of rules that support electronic payments."

While one of the association's most popular membership benefits is access to the toll-free Payments Answerline, SWACHA provides much more to its members, including education, training and information regarding electronic payments and payment system risks.

"SWACHA's education programs are designed to help members reduce risk, increase customer satisfaction, create a knowledgeable workforce and enhance employee effectiveness," Matthews said.

You don't need to be a bank or large corporation to be a member. SWACHA designed a category of membership for corporations and non-financial institution industry stakeholders; ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are welcome and encouraged to join.

ACH Is on the Rise

If you don't feel it's important to understand electronic payments, consider this: According to NACHA, 1.25 billion consumer checks were converted to ACH payments in 2004. NACHA estimates that number could grow to 2.5 billion by the end of 2005.

Additionally, more than 12 billion ACH payments occurred in 2004, a 20% increase over 2003. NACHA estimates that by 2006, 15 billion ACH transactions will occur.

When most people hear the term "ACH," they think of tax refunds or direct deposit. But ACH payments also include direct payment of consumer bills, such as Internet ACH payments. Internet-initiated ACH payments are also on the rise. Last year, consumers made more than 900 million ACH debits via the Web.

This represents more than $300 billion, a 40% increase over the previous year. Combining ACH credit payments with debit, last year consumers used the Internet to initiate more than 1 billion ACH payments worth $350 billion.

Benefits for Members

While Matthews reports that "Our members are predominantly in the Southwest and are comprised predominantly of banks and credit unions," SWACHA welcomes a variety of business types including ISOs, MLSs and software vendors.

SWACHA bases dues for financial institutions on the number of ACH commercial items originated and received by the institution annually. However, ISOs, MLSs, software vendors and others qualify for an affiliate membership, which costs only $300 annually.

Upon joining, members receive $150 worth of "SWACHA Bucks," which they may apply toward the cost of a conference or seminar.

Other member benefits include access to industry information, industry specific training, and discounts on services and publications.

Teach a Man to Fish

As mentioned earlier, SWACHA's toll free Answerline serves as a valuable member benefit when faced with a prospect's tough question.

Let's take the example a step further. Wouldn't it be better if you already knew the answer and could satisfy your prospect's curiosity on the spot?

That's where SWACHA's education programs come in. "As a knowledge-based organization, a main goal of SWACHA is education," Matthews said.

"Because we believe that a small investment in education reaps substantial results, we offer a wide range of educational programs."

However, many people don't always have the time and funds available to travel to conferences.

"SWACHA provides the total spectrum of training and education that successful industry professionals require in today's fast-paced business arena, utilizing only the most effective, convenient learning vehicles and communication tools," Matthews said.

For example, SWACHA offers payments education through a variety of channels: conferences, seminars, teleseminars, Webinars, and customized and online training.

"We deliver the information in the best way for our members," she said.

One such way is through the association's annual two-day conference. The conference started years ago when SWACHA received money from the Federal Reserve to promote ACH and direct deposit.

"It was up to us to collaboratively decide how to use money," Matthews said. "We could use it for advertising, anything. We decided to host a conference. The first one had 115 banks and customers in attendance."

The fifth annual conference, "Brave New Frontiers in Electronic Payments," will take place in Dallas, Oct. 26 - 27, 2005. The conference will cover regulatory issues, new frontiers in electronic payments, check conversions versus check truncation, and emerging issues in debit transactions.

As part of its education efforts and risk management services, SWACHA also facilitates Financial Institution Crime Day conferences hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Albuquerque, N.M., and Oklahoma City.

"The FBI selects the topics for each conference, based upon critical issues facing financial institutions in the areas of fraud and crime," Matthews said. "We do the logistical work."

SWACHA's Risk Management Services also include Fraud Reduction Meetings in 12 geographic locations, for the purpose of fostering communication between security professionals from financial institutions and the law enforcement community.

Although the payments industry is continually evolving, one thing you can count on is that there is always more to learn. "As new issues emerge, SWACHA responds with quality training," Matthews said.

As new payment mechanisms enter the market, consumer and merchant attitudes fluctuate, and regulations continually change to keep up with the pace, staying on top of it all can be challenging.

So why not accept a little help when an organization as knowledgeable and experienced as SWACHA offers it for the taking?

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