Ecosystems rule and one need not look further than Apple to see the powerful innovation that they can unleash. MPD CEO Karen Webster goes deep with three key stakeholders in the new Ignite Payments ecosystem designed to unleash entirely new sources of value to merchants. Ignite Payments is the independent sales agent distribution system of First Data. Hear what Noel Fundora, SVP, Ignite Payments, Mark Schulze, co-Founder of Clover and Luis Requejo, owner of his own Ignite Payments agent office, One Payment, have to say about how the sum of their parts is much greater than the whole when it comes to reinventing the acquiring model.
KW: Noel, as someone who’s been in the acquiring business for a while, what’s the biggest change you’ve observed over the last several years – and what has the impact been on your business?
NF: The entire industry has changed dramatically in recent years, and for us that’s very exciting. The information and technology access that the consumers have has really transformed commerce and expectations of those consumers. The ability for them to research products for better ways to obtain services has made the merchants think about how they deliver services. Smart technology makes smart consumers, and merchants need to keep up with consumer demand. That’s the bottom line. We have the responsibility as acquirers to deliver value through the tools and services that help merchants thrive.
KW: Why is the agent/reseller model still relevant and how, in your view, does this add value to the merchant?
NF: Ignite Payments has always been an agent model. We feel that the agent model in this particular space are the ones that are closer to smaller and medium type businesses out there, and are reacting to those needs that merchants have. They have the closest line of interaction with merchants and they can focus on helping them and identifying to us some of the needs that they have. These guys are independent, own their own businesses, and motivated to grow those businesses. That agent model is still relevant today and will be even more relevant tomorrow.
KW: So, Luis, how would you define a successful agent/acquirer partnership? What’s the perspective that you bring to the biggest change that you’ve observed over the last few years?
LR: It is a changing industry, and like Noel said, we need to keep up with the technology. Ignite Payments has done just that by bringing in Clover, and other solutions that actually help us in the frontlines. The distribution system that Ignite Payments has regarding the agent model is great for people who want to own their own business. There are a lot of benefits of being with Ignite Payments, including the fact that if offers a true revenue share program, flexible pricing options, upfront conversion payment, guaranteed residual buyout, and much more.
KW: What do merchants now consider as table stakes that they didn’t before, and what should they be demanding from their acquiring partners now and why?
LR: The merchants want simplicity. Before, they had nothing to go by as a business management solution to handle all of their financial situations and inventory. We’re meeting the goals of the merchants and clients now. We’re making it a simple package – they’re there to do their business, and we’re here to support them. It’s a system that allows you to grow with your business without thinking too much.
KW: Mark, I’d love to get your perspective as the co-founder of the Clover platform. Tell us how all of this comes together for you. Obviously, having a strong network to take your product to market is helpful, but aren’t all distribution networks equal and why does the network matter?
MS: We built Clover because of the interactions with the merchants, after hearing their needs. We got so much consistent feedback about how merchants wanted something better than what was available. Some of the systems out there are costly, and difficult to maintain and setup. Merchants want something that is out of the box easy, a solution that that allows them to track inventory, manage employees, build lasting customer relationships, and accept payments. What’s exciting is that this cloud-based platform gives them the opportunity to do all of this this in real-time, from anywhere.
Also, because First Data is so large and has so many merchants, we’re getting a flood of third-party developers that are looking at our platform and saying “Gosh, not only is this powerful, but it’s easy and fast to integrate. I can help reach and serve merchants better.” That’s really what this is all about, and the truth is, everyone wins.
KW: Are there things that come to mind – innovations in the form of apps that are particularly interesting or solve a problem for a merchant category?
MS: A couple that come to mind that are powerful include Homebase – any merchant can download and install it using Clover, and it allows employers to schedule and time-keep with employees, and looks at the clock-in and clock-out function and sends a text message when an employee doesn’t show up. Another thing that we’ll be launching is an accounting integration, allowing merchants to manage their accounting with one click. Also, there’s inventory management, for example, bars will be able to keep track of their bottles and let the merchant know if their servers or bartenders are over-pouring.
KW: Noel, finally, how does all of this come together for the merchant? What is the value of such a “triumvirate” and how unique is what we’ve just heard described from you, Louis and Mike?
NF: It’s the trifecta – it’s all about bringing value and solutions to merchants that never existed before, and this team really has it all. Mark talked about technology, Luis shared his experience being on the frontlines – we’re at a time and space here where this will be a game-changer. This is changing the way American small businesses will be run in the future. What’s more, there are apps being developed out there that will revolutionize businesses of all sizes, and we’re in the middle of it.
Fundora started in the acquiring business 18 years ago as an independent sales agent and built a top-20 agent office with First Data. Eight years ago he sold his agency and migrated to Regional Sales Director for the Southeast territory to manage the agent offices and hire new agents. He later assumed the national role of managing a team that was responsible for hiring new agents and Independent Sales Organizations (ISO) for First Data. Fundora currently manages Ignite Payments, the independent sales distribution system of First Data.
Prior to working with Clover, Schulze built the publisher business for Quantcast, now serving over 17 billion impressions a day across over 5,000-plus publishers. Before Quantcast, he ran product and engineering for Match.com, an IAC company. Starting his technology career in 1995, Schulze ran several groups at AOL, including shopping, small business and community before leaving for Intuit and eventually AltaVista. Building great customer and merchant experiences is what drives Mark.
Owner of One Payment, an Ignite Payments agent office
To listen to Part One of this podcast, click here.
For more details on the First Data ecosystem, and specifically, Ignite Payments, Clover and the agent model, listen to the full podcast here. Additional information can be found at www.ignitepayments.com/paypodcast.