Welcome to PYMNTS.com’s 2014 CEO Series: a quick and concise glimpse into the minds of the leaders of the payments and commerce industries and how they view innovation, change and growth. We’ll ask each top exec the same six questions about the payments industry to gauge who they view as innovation experts and why they feel their company stands out. So, what advice do these leaders have to offer to those looking to survive in this complex and dynamic environment?
Meet Marc Gardner, President and CEO of North American Bancard. His company powers the mobile and storefront payment service PayAnywhere, which is democratizing retail by giving SMBs the tools they need to play with the big guys. Marc started North American Bancard 22 years ago after realizing the opportunities that the bankcard business had to offer and working as company sales manager at an ISO. Through his force and determination, his one small office grew into an established ISO that processed over $15 billion in 2013. So how does Gardner define innovation and where does he seek inspiration for innovative ideas?
How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?
Innovation is at the core of what we do every day. Technology is changing constantly, and it’s our job to be at the forefront, offering the best of what’s out there to merchants. The goal is to equip small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with the same tools and resources that larger companies have, and we have some of the best engineers in the business that are constantly coming up with new ways to make that possible. At the end of the day, that means providing low cost, high-tech equipment and constantly updating that equipment to stay at the cutting edge. With the payments space continually evolving, we need to make sure we’re steps ahead of the competition at all times and help our customers improve their bottom lines.
PayAnywhere is a great example of this philosophy. We started a great payments service for mobile, but we’ve transitioned and adapted to include a standalone tablet because that’s where we saw both the need and the trajectory of the industry.
What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market – and what value did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?
PayAnywhere Storefront is something we’re really proud of, and we are excited to see how it pushes a shift in the industry. Not only are we able to provide a full tablet solution with advanced business intelligence and security, we are able to provide it to SMBs for free. We deliver all the tools that merchants need to process payments, create inventories and generate customized reports. We also manufacture the equipment ourselves, so we’re not partnering with any original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop PayAnywhere Storefront. It’s an innovative product that really meets the needs of merchants in the most cost-effective way possible, and we’re already seeing great feedback from customers after its first couple months on the market.
Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?
We look to those who know the retail business the best – the merchants and we listen to what we’re hearing on the ground. Their needs change, as the way people interact with businesses change. The idea that a coffee shop would be using social media and data analysis in ways that truly improve their bottom lines would have been unheard of 10 years ago. As the technology landscape evolves and the needs of small businesses adapt, we need to adapt along with them in order to provide products and services that really fit their core business needs and makes their lives easier.
What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?
There are a million good ideas out there. We encourage our entire company to think originally and envision what’s coming next. We try to look at all of our innovations, find the best parts and package it into one integrated product that makes our customers’ lives simpler. Securely and effectively handling payment data is complicated, but the end user has to feel that services are being delivered simply.
The real challenge that I think people underestimate is actually how quickly technology can become obsolete. The industry moves so fast and there are so many new competitors and new products constantly entering the market that we have to always be looking at the next big thing. So even though we just introduced PayAnywhere Storefront, we’re already deep in development on the next big thing to follow.
What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it and why?
Nest is a great innovation, a perfect example of a new technology providing practical utility to consumers. On the other hand, you have companies like Apple that, after being incredibly innovative for years, are now just making updates to existing products. They started by revolutionizing the personal computer and changing the way we consume music – they were at the forefront of a lot of innovation. Apple’s challenge, though, will always be continuing to innovate in the same way. With mobile, they’re head-to-head with the up and coming Android/Google market and struggling to maintain market share. We’ll see what happens, but if they don’t make disruptive innovation happen soon, they might lose a battle in an important market for them.
What advice would you give a young innovator in this space and why would you tell her to heed it?
Keep up on what’s happening and challenge yourself. When you find success, you can’t rest on it. You have to constantly be moving, challenging yourself and others around you for the next big thing. That said, stay focused, have a clear product path and stick to it. Make your product the best product on the market, and success will follow.
For more information on PayAnywhere’s Storefront solution, watch the video below.
Founder, CEO and President of North American Bancard
Marc Gardner is founder, president, and CEO of North American Bancard, a multi-faceted payment solutions provider dedicated to delivering the latest payments technology with the highest level of customer service. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, North American Bancard ranks as one of the industry’s top 30 acquirers; an achievement due in large part to Marc’s commitment and vision. North American Bancard was also named 2014 ISO of the Year at the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) Star Awards.
Through Marc’s driving force and determination, one small office grew into an established ISO that processed over $15 billion in 2013. Marc now employs over 900 people at his corporate office and other locations with an additional 3,000 plus independent agents located across the country. Today, North American Bancard continues to expand both organically and through strategic acquisitions.
Under Marc’s leadership, in 2010 NAB launched PayAnywhere, a mobile point of sale solution designed for businesses of any size. PayAnywhere was born from Marc’s vision of harnessing the computing power and mobility of smartphones and tablets to mobilize the point of sale. Leveraging the considerable payments industry resources of NAB, Marc brought PayAnywhere to market with its free mobile credit card reader and highly regarded iPhone app. Executing against Marc’s vision, the company has since added support for the most popular smartphones and tablets and expanded its merchant-centric feature set to establish PayAnywhere as the mobile POS solution of choice for businesses of all sizes. PayAnywhere continues to usher NAB into the mobile frontier as a leader in the disruption of the traditional point of sale experience, maintaining the striking growth momentum that NAB is well known for.
Ernst & Young recognized Marc as the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Great Lakes region. This award is considered the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs and it is recognized globally. An active philanthropist and avid supporter of the arts, Marc serves on the Board of Directors at MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) and provides philanthropic support to numerous organizations, including: AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Friendship Circle, Detroit Public Television, Cranbrook and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.