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Article published in Issue Number: 070202

Industry Leader: Steven Peisner
The accidental advocate

Have you heard of Sell it Safe Inc.? Also known as SellitSAFE.com,the company monitors hacker chat rooms and maintains a database of compromised credit card numbers and related identity theft information.

It shares the data with e-commerce and MO/TO merchants and consumers to help prevent credit card fraud.

Steven Peisner is SellitSAFE.com's President and Director. He is also Vice President and Director of Acquiring Solutions International Inc., as well as Director of ASI's subsidiary, Worldwide Payment Solutions Ltd.

Peisner established SellitSAFE.com a bit by chance. In 2004, he was processing credit card transactions for PeopleData.com. One of his merchant customers was suffering excessive amounts of fraud and chargebacks, so much so that the merchant's acquiring bank issued a 60-day termination notice on the account.

After searching for a solution and coming up empty, Peisner created his own method for reducing the merchant's fraud. It was intended for that client only, but it worked so well, he tested it on other businesses. Time and again, it worked.

Peisner thought more companies might benefit from the service. He needed some research to test his hunch. However, purchasing research data was cost prohibitive for a company that didn't even exist yet.

So he did his own. He culled information from hacker chat rooms and blogs and then phoned people whose data had been compromised.

Spreading the word

Finding that most people did not know the extent to which their personal information was at risk, Peisner realized he had an opportunity to help merchants and consumers alike. He named his service SellitSAFE and began offering it to the merchant community.

Every day, Peisner calls five to 10 people to tell them they are victims of identity theft and to notify the authorities and credit reporting agencies.

Peisner's commitment to fraud prevention reaches far beyond his company. He is a member of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) and serves on the association's Government Relations Committee.

He is also a member of the ETA's Merchant Acquirers Committee and Chairman of its Finance Committee. He previously was on the organization's Risk and Fraud Management Committee.

He is a member of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators and the Direct Marketing Association. He is also a Civilian Volunteer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

A family business

Like many financial services professionals, Peisner did not start his career in the merchant services industry. One of his first jobs was selling life insurance for his family's business.

He soon switched gears and started selling commercial liability insurance to retailers and building contractors. Peisner found this avenue more suitable because he didn't have to force people to face their own mortality.

And, he was selling something his clients needed. "Businesses needed insurance," he said. "If you beat the price, you won."

One day, Peisner's father asked him to attend a training session on credit card terminals. His dad and a partner had invested $100,000 in bankcard processing and were hoping Peisner could convince some of his retail customers to switch to the elder Peisner's processing company.

Also, since Peisner was struggling a bit, his dad thought his son might benefit from selling credit card terminals. So, the younger Peisner took a break from calling on insurance customers, jumped in the car and drove

90 minutes to the training. Peisner recalls the experience vividly. It lasted three hours and had 10 attendees whom Peisner suspects were lured by the free coffee and donuts.

He received a binder with pictures of two terminals. He was told the rates, where to have his merchants sign applications and leases, and how to read a merchant statement. When the training was over, Peisner left the venue wondering if he'd missed something

When he returned to his office, he called his dad. "I asked him if he could get his money back," Peisner said. "When he asked, 'Why?' I told him that the only thing the training was missing was a few key elements like prospecting, probing, objections and closing."

But, the training did get Peisner's attention because he had the chance to earn $150 per lease if he sold 10 deals a month, $250 each if he sold 20 a month and $350 each if he sold 30. So, he developed his own pitch.

Armed with a recent diploma from the Xerox Phase Three Sales Skills School, Peisner was ready to go. "I was hungry and eager to put my new skills to work," he said. "I put together a flip book and hit the streets."

He sold three deals his first day and pocketed $450. After three months of selling terminals, he told his dad he was quitting the insurance business.

Peisner looks back on those days with fondness. "Back then you could cold call all day long, walking in and out of businesses, and merchants actually were happy to see you," he said. "Those were the good old days."

A salesman from the start

From a very young age, Peisner knew he was destined to work in sales. In school, he was the first to volunteer for fundraising projects, such as selling candy for Junior Achievement.

Trekking door to door he learned early on about sales and closing. "'Do you want to buy any candy?' was the wrong question because eight out of 10 times the answer is no," he said.

"I quickly learned to ask, 'Do you want one box or two?' and then kept my mouth shut. Usually someone would buy at least one box. Same principles still work today."

Since then, he has held a variety of positions within the bankcard industry. He founded Shared Information Systems and was responsible for the sales, marketing and product management of nochargebacks.com, an Internet-based business services resource.

In addition, he was Vice President of Bankcard Relations for E-Commerce Exchange; co-founder of Worldwide Merchant Services; and Vice President of Sales for Cardservice 1st NFS, the leading agent for Cardservice International (CSI).

He was also Special Accounts Manager for CSI headquarters.

Some great influences

Peisner pointed out that while he started his sales education early, he did not achieve successes alone.He was lucky to have been mentored by three remarkable men.

He proudly considers his dad his first mentor. "My dad gave me some really great advice 21 years ago when I started in this industry," Peisner noted.

"'Steven, pick one thing and be the best you can be at it,' my dad said to me. And it is what started me on what continues to be a great career."

Peisner was also fortunate to learn from industry veteran Florian DeVitis, Chief Executive Officer of TransOne Merchant Services.

Their first real encounter was when DeVitis fired him for showing up three hours late to a sales meeting. "I proceeded to tell Florian, 'I take orders from two people here - my old man and his partner - that's it,'" Peisner said.

Peisner marched into his dad's office and relayed the story, looking for an ally. Instead, his dad told him to get his résumé together and search the want ads.

"With my tail between my legs I asked Mr. DeVitis for a second chance," he said. "And with that, I never missed another sales meeting."

That same day DeVitis promised him a management position, and a year later Peisner was a manager. Peisner clearly remembers DeVitis' "one-minute management training" advice:

"Salesmen don't want to hear how great you were, they want you to listen to how great they are. Forty deals a week or you're fired."

While Peisner's first two mentors were those with more experience than he, he has also been mentored by his peers, including Michael Fisher. He and Fisher met while working for CSI. They have been partners at Acquiring Solutions International Inc. since 2001.

"Many years ago Mike brought to my attention that I was not saying please or thank you to people who worked with us," Peisner said. "I have been using those little words ever since."

No regrets

Peisner wants to take action and never look back with regret. "Joe Kaplan once told me, 'It's about taking risk and owning it,'" Peisner said.

"That same philosophy is why we started SellitSAFE.com," he added. (After almost a decade of industry success, Kaplan co-founded mega processor Innovative Merchant Solutions in 1999. He sold it to Intuit Inc. in 2003.) Another of Peisner's philosophies is one he teaches his merchants: "It's not

how much you make, it's how much you keep."

Peisner works on the acquiring side of fraud prevention. But, his ultimate goal is to expand these efforts to encompass the consumer side of the equation.

"I see myself as a merchant advocate," he said. "I would like to have an active role in changing [some] of the rules that are in place with respect to chargebacks and merchant processing."

Peisner is realistic, knowing that fraud can never be completely eradicated. "We know we can never eliminate it," he said. "It's spy versus spy. If we build a 10-foot wall, they build an 11-foot ladder."

His goals are to provide a service that cardholders use to reduce identity theft, as well as to better educate consumers and merchants.

Considering that Peisner has dedicated years to helping merchants and consumers fight fraud, you might assume his proudest moments would relate to consumer advocacy. But, Peisner's proudest achievement is truly a matter of life and death.

Eleven years ago, while donating blood platelets, Peisner found out his blood contains a rare antibody that can aid in the regeneration of platelets in bone-marrow-transplant and leukemia patients.

Since then, he has been a regular donor and recently donated his 327th pint of platelets.

Finding a niche

It's not surprising that Peisner feels the biggest job our industry faces is reducing fraud. Not far behind is education. "SellitSAFE.com has opened my eyes to fraud on a worldwide scale like I have never seen before," he said.

Peisner said identity theft can strike anyone, and the only way to break the cycle is through education and government intervention. He noted that the protections offered to consumers do not apply to business owners.

"The only reason there is zero liability [for consumers] is because the merchant has all the liability," he said. This is one of the issues he is working on through his ETA committee memberships.

Peisner's father's advice still resonates with him today. His advice for agents is to find their niche and provide superlative service.

That's what Peisner has done. He found his niche, fraud prevention, and is providing merchants and consumers the best service possible.

Article published in issue number 070202

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