EMV’s Place At The Heart Of Payments

The human heart performs a hugely vital function in the human body in a similar way that Creditcall processes hundreds of millions of transactions a year in the world, says Jeremy Gumbley, CTO of Creditcall. Today, the company is especially focused on one particular “valve” of that payments heart – EMV. In a recent podcast with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Gumbley explains how Creditcall is enabling North American merchants to more easily and quickly integrate EMV technology, and which sectors he thinks Apple Pay could play a major role in complementing – or possibly leapfrogging – the migration process in the next six months.


The human heart performs a hugely vital function in the human body in a similar way that Creditcall processes hundreds of millions of transactions a year in the world, says Jeremy Gumbley, CTO of Creditcall. Today, the company is especially focused on one particular “valve” of that payments heart – EMV. In a recent podcast with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Gumbley explains how Creditcall is enabling North American merchants to more easily and quickly integrate EMV technology, and which sectors he thinks Apple Pay could play a major role in complementing – or possibly leapfrogging – the migration process in the next six months.


KW: Creditcall is a global payments company with offices in North America and Europe, and one that says it is the heart of payments. Why is Creditcall the heart of payments?

JG: We often looked at articulating what Creditcall is to consumers that didn’t actually know exactly what we did. So we did a little bit of self-examination, and the best analogy that we drew was the human heart. Often, the human heart is overlooked, but it performs a hugely vital function in the human body in the same way Creditcall processes hundreds of millions of transactions a year throughout the world. We’re seamless – and at the same time very reliable and efficient, so we drew that parallel between the human heart and us. If we don’t perform reliably and efficiently, then businesses large and small will suffer.


KW: So you’re pumping away in the background, making sure these hundreds of millions of transactions flow smoothly. One of the big areas of focus of yours is EMV, and certainly North America, the U.S. in particular, is very focused on that now. What are you doing in trying to enable that capability for the merchants that you serve, hoping to make that an easier process for them?

JG: For a bit of background, the United Kingdom migrated over to EMV in 2005. I personally have been involved with EMV, particularly at the lower level, since 1995. For me, I’m a bit of a veteran when it comes to EMV. What we were looking to achieve in the North American market is to bring our skills and lessons we’ve learned elsewhere in the world with EMV to that market, with kinds of solutions people need to easily, cost-effectively and quickly migrate. Over the last 3 years, we’ve been on the rollercoaster of EMV in the North American market – it was happening, it wasn’t happening – and we persevered throughout those various cycles of negativity.

We are now in place with some great solutions around EMV migration for various kinds of merchants. Typically, there’s a lot of focus on retail – and obviously that’s perhaps where most of the transaction is derived from. But we also specialize in the unattended space. So the transportation ticketing machines you’d find in the subway, or wherever else, bringing our expertise in those verticals as well.


KW: I can imagine there are unique requirements in the unattended space that do require the benefits of lessons learned elsewhere in the world. What are some of those lessons, and how are you applying them to our market in the U.S. in the unattended space?

JG: Where we’ve specialized historically is in the parking sector. Most people see that as rather unglamorous, but there are some significant transaction volumes that occur in that vertical. What we’re bringing to the party is a thorough understanding of how the U.S. will work in relation to EMV in that unattended environment. For example, we have tens of thousands of these parking meters across the world that are running EMV now. We know that because of the way EMV will be in the U.S., some of the issues we’ve encountered abroad – PIN issues and so on – we won’t be encountering necessarily in the U.S. But I think we are providing a nice way for manufacturers of pieces of equipment to quickly and easily add EMV into the mix.


KW: Is that a time-consuming, expensive process? The clock is ticking in terms of the liability shift coming next year. Are all of those locations going to be compliant?

JG: I think that there will be a number of them that will be compliant on time but some merchants will take a view on how they transition some of this equipment. The major difference between attended and unattended is the fact that with retail, standalone terminals can be replaced very easily. In the unattended space, the solutions tend to be hugely integrated. That means that not only is there a card reader that’s potentially a PIN pad, there has to be metal work changed on the front of the machine to fit this equipment. So I think that what’s actually happening in the industry now is manufactures are seeing this deadline come up and are beginning to offer solutions around EMV.

As to how many will actually ready by the deadline, we’ll know more next year but already we’ve seen significant interest from very large municipalities, for example, who definitely want to support the EMV standard among their unattended devices.


KW: I know that there are a lot of other payment capabilities that you enable. Are there alternatives that some of these players can consider, like mobile? There are a lot of apps now that enable payment at some of these unattended parking locations. I know it varies based on whether it’s a meter or garage – but is that a solution that could potentially leapfrog the hardware swap-out?

JG: I think anything is possible in the world of payments. You never know exactly what’s around the corner. But there are a number of mobile-centric solutions across retail and the unattended space, but typically they’re very fragmented in that one scheme will have a few hundred thousand users in North America, and another scheme will have a very fragmented user base elsewhere in the world.

What manufacturers of this equipment really seek is a standard – they don’t want to spend time developing a solution for a particular segment of the population in a particular geography. They want a solution that they can implement once and deploy across the world. If we’re looking at those sorts of solutions, we’re naturally led to EMV and we’re also led to newer mobile initiatives such as Apple Pay. With Apple Pay, only time will tell whether we’ll see the adoption rates Apple is probably hoping to see, but it’s got a very good chance of becoming another mechanism of paying. I think in the next 6 months, I think we’ll really begin to see what kind of verticals Apple Pay is suited to and sticks, and which verticals in which we don’t see much adoption at all.


KW: So your view is that potentially the in-app version of Apple Pay could solve some of these problems? Or will the Apple Pay NFC-enabled version will solve the problem – or both?

JG: If we limit this to the unattended space, I think that with the NFC version of Apple Pay, there is certainly a possibility that it will become popular. The reason behind that is in enabling NFC, you’re enabling contactless cards as well as Apple Pay with a compliant gateway like Creditcall.


KW: It has changed the conversation about payments generally, hasn’t it?

JG: Absolutely. I think that Apple Pay is very good – it addresses some very interesting security concerns and does a lot for the industry. My only question about Apple Pay is whether consumers identify with the benefits of having payments on their mobile device. Certain niche applications like Uber is a fantastic seamless experience, but whether we can get that same seamlessness elsewhere in verticals that aren’t specifically in-app or internet-focused like a pay station at a subway in New York will be the leap of faith. Only the consumer and the data we’ll see in the next 6 months or so will prove whether it will be popular or not.

I can see Apple Pay working fantastically in certain verticals – others I’m not so sure about right now.


KW: So if you were making your list and checking it twice, which verticals do you think Apple Pay would work perfectly in, and which are you not so sure about? 

JG: I would say that, if we take a look at the recent news on how Whole Foods has processed more than 150,000 Apple Pay transactions, that’s very interesting. But I also think Whole Foods is a very Apple-friendly demographic as well. Wherever we see a correlation between consumers and where they shop, we’ll see some potentially significant take-up. Outside of retail experiences, coffee also screams Apple Pay to me. In the unattended space, there is a potential case for Apple Pay in unattended, but it will be in mass transit. People will want to use their Apple Pay accounts to pay for their metro subscription on the New York subway, for example.

I would say definitely in certain retail verticals for sure, unattended – the jury is out on that one. But we’re already being asked about Apple Pay in some very common unattended applications such as parking and ticketing. I’m really excited to see what will happen now – I think it really is during the next 6 months where we’ll see Apple Pay is sticking and where it’s not.

And while I like the idea of NFC, I also think Apple Pay targets a subset of the total number of users. It’s a step forward, but it’s only available on the iPhone 6. What about all of those other users out there that have Android, for example? And it will be interesting to see what happens with Google Wallet, too.


KW: I agree, it’s a fascinating time in the business. Where is Creditcall spending a lot of time in addressing merchants’ concerns, and how has that shifted over the last year or so? Is it really focused on EMV?

JG: This time last year, basically no one was talking about EMV. We had a few of the processors that had their own roadmaps around EMV that were talking about it, but there wasn’t a huge amount of interest out there.

This year, that has completely reversed. What we are seeing now is a huge amount of interest in the North American market over EMV. That’s really gone from a trickle to a flood. We can see that in terms of the number of visitors to our website, how many people are asking questions, the number of questions at trade shows and presentations, and how long the Q&A sessions go. I think that’s a very good way to gauge how hot the topic is, when it’s presented at a trade show or conference and the Q&A session goes into an hour. But that could also indicate that there’s a lot of confusion.

What we’re doing now is that we see a lot of pain points over EMV, and we’ve seen them elsewhere in the world as well. As you know, there’s quite an arduous certification regime that you have to go undergo for EMV – there’s a lot of moving parts in the EMV ecosystem. Now, you have to deal with the full EMV technology stack, which involves understanding the differences in transaction flows and some of the terminology, which can be difficult. When you start adding the complexity of EMV to the onerous certification regime, that makes for a lot more complexity and sheer amounts of time. That’s going to clog up the system. In order to make an EMV terminal live, you have to go through Visa and MasterCard’s certification, and there’s also the equivalent with American Express and Discover. That can take huge amounts of time.

What we pioneered well over 10 years ago now is the concept that this software stack that you need to support EMV can be wrapped into a technology stack that runs on common platforms like Windows. Then, everything that a merchant or integrator needs to migrate can be put in a single SDK. That enables the integrator to quickly put that functionality into their application with no additional certification. One of the things we learned very early on is that if you can certify a solution and then license it to multiple parties, you’ve done the certification piece and it’s ready to deploy. What we’ve created is a fantastic solution that allows for the integration of the entire EMV technology stack, complete with all required certifications, with minimum amount of fuss and development. It’s a black box format, off-the-shelf solution.


KW: Wow. It sounds like you are busy and will get even busier as the window closes between now and the date of the liability shift. If your technology enables the certification process across all networks to be simplified with your SDK, that’s pretty powerful.

JG: It’s very powerful. It’s worked very effectively for us elsewhere in the world as well, where you face the same challenge but on a smaller scale. Let’s not forget this is the largest card payment market in the world. Depending on who you believe, there’s anything from 8 million to 22 million terminals out there. That’s an awful lot of re-terminalization and some very specific niche applications out there. And we have the interest grow dramatically over the last 6 months.


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Jeremy Gumbley
CTO, Creditcall

Jeremy Gumbley is a veteran of the payments industry having driven product and technology development roadmaps to accommodate EMV Migration programs in the UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as the U.S. and Canada. Jeremy has driven Creditcall’s technical development since 1999 and was appointed chief technical officer and technical director in 2001.

He is responsible for the design, development and implementation of the company’s market leading card payment solutions and portfolio of EMV Level 1 Library and EMV Level 2 Kernels. Creditcall has licensed and deployed over 1 million Kernels over the last 10 years. In addition, Jeremy oversees the maintenance of the company’s PCI DSS Level 1 compliance.

Prior to Creditcall, Jeremy was managing director of his own software business, CGCS, and also developed software systems for CallShop and Command Software Systems, Inc. In the mid-80s and early 90s, he was very involved in the Anti-Virus and Computer Security business and developed one of the very first commercially available Anti-Virus packages. He also pioneered the concepts of televoting via premium rate telephone numbers and of low cost telephone services through retail outlets and prepaid telephone cards.

He is frequented quoted in the media and is actively involved at many industry events. He continues to serve as a CNN Money trusted resource on EMV Migration, recently published PYMNTS eBook chapter, “Cutting through EMV Hype and Confusion in the U.S.,” and has spoken at numerous events including CARTES on “Diagnosing the EMV Migration Pain Points” and at the Smart Card Alliance Payment Summit on, “EMV in the Cloud as well as the International Parking Institute (IPI) Conference & Expo “Payments Innovations and EMV – What does it mean for the US parking industry?


To listen to the full podcast, click here.