I’ve been in the payments industry for more than twenty years, a fact that shocks me every day. I’ve seen a thousand innovations and I’ll see a thousand more. The ISO landscape is always shifting. It is different today than it was yesterday and it will change again tomorrow. That’s why it’s so exciting to be part of this industry.
Believe it or not when I started out, one of the most talked about industry updates was the drop-in paper loading feature of the Verifone 3750 countertop terminal. It sounds ridiculous today, but it was a revolutionary change back then.
In the two decades since, we’ve seen the rise of PIN based debit, wireless processing, gateways, cash discount, EMV, and NFC. Without a doubt we’ll be talking about the emergence of crypto currency, NFTs, and Blockchain technology as the next iterations of the payments industry.
Opportunities at every step
It used to be that leasing terminals was the standard in our industry and a prime revenue generator for most ISOs and agents. Then the “free” equipment boom began and folks started asking if there was still any opportunity to thrive. A few years later, EMV came onto the market and there was an equipment selling rennaissance (and the profits to go with it).
Merchant pricing models have changed so many times. From 3 tiers, to 4 tiers, to Interchange Plus, to cash discounting. Every step along the way, there were folks who threw their hands up in the air and said “That’s it! The industry is dead, there’s no money left to be made.” At the exact same moment someone else said “Here’s a great opportunity for me be successful” and then went out and became a multi-millionaire.
Every innovation comes with challenges and opportunities. A new solution often disrupts the status quo which leads to a certain level of uncertainty in the ISO world. One question I’m always asked, “Is there still opportunity in this industry?” The answer is, of course, a resounding YES!
Opportunity often looks like hardship
The past two years have taught us that unexpected disruptions can come from both inside and outside of our control. Contactless payments were certainly popular prior to the pandemic, but the market changes accelerated adoption rates at an unprecedented speed.
I’ve heard plenty of stories of individual agents and ISO offices who didn’t or couldn’t adapt to the changes the pandemic wrought on our industry. Their model was to walk into businesses, go to Chamber of Commerce meetings, sit across from their prospects and talk face to face. When that wasn’t an option, they simply stopped talking with clients.
Processors and larger ISOs quickly learned that their portfolios were full of retail and hospitality businesses that were closed and their processing revenues absolutely tanked. In some cases, they were forced out of business entirely.
Others pivoted quickly. Remote offices were set up within days. Operations teams had to streamline deployment as service flows. Sales teams concentrated on non-retail/hospitality businesses and learned how to conduct business effectively over onine conference calls. ISV and Enterprise partnerships, especially those that served critical industries, were strengthened to help bring in much needed revenue.
The way forward
Along the way, we took note of what was happening in our own portfolio. We surveyed merchants, asked them what their biggest challenges were, and added services to meet their most pressing needs. We learned business owners are fatigued, overworked, and dealing with a lack of available staff to run their businesses. And many were looking for a trusted partner to provide them with guidance and support.
Our model looks at our customers’ businesses holistically. They aren’t just a processing unit or a POS opportunity. There are real people, working hard every day, passionate about what they do and, many of them are rebuilding right now.
We look to understand how all their critical business needs impact their day to day operations and work to find solutions with them. That’s why we’ve expanded our product suite to include full HCM & Payroll, Digital Marketing, and Online Ordering & Delivery. It’s not enough for Simpay to just offer basic credit card processing. Our customers are demanding more.
Of course, there’s opportunity there to drive profit presenting these programs, but it goes way beyond that for us. True to our Simpay values, we see an opportunity to build stronger relationships with our clients and help their business thrive. It goes without saying, but when they thrive, we thrive.
Lazaros Kalemis is a first generation Greek-American businessman and payments industry veteran. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Simpay, a payment processing and merchant business solutions company based in Pennsylvania.