The Merchant Acquirer’s Guide To The Onboarding Galaxy

Merchant online

Merchant acquirers face a conundrum. They must keep acquiring merchants – and yet need to do so with speed and efficiency, but are stymied by an inefficient onboard process. Agreement Express CEO advises merchant acquirers to Pac-Man and rock blast their way to onboarding efficiencies.

It’s not every day a 1980s video game offers lessons in merchant acquisition.

But Mike Gardner, CEO of Agreement Express, an automated onboarding technology firm, says the merchant acquiring industry is like a round of Pac-Man, where gobbling up merchants is the name of the game. Otherwise, he writes, “you will be gobbled up by the competition” all against a backdrop of a growing population, globally, with more merchants coming into existence every day. Given the inexorable growth of credit card transactions, Gardner says that the “eat or be eaten” game is never-ending.

But how to survive the game? According to Gardner, another familiar metaphor: rock blasting. This is a concept borrowed from construction industry parlance, where chunks of rock are literally blown away to make roads or other traffic conduits safer and straighter. Used here in the guise of payments, Gardner says that the concept extends to onboarding and underwriting merchants in a streamlined manner. There’s room for improvement in onboarding, as it takes the average merchant acquirer as many as five days to get a merchant up and running on a platform.

A good onboarding process, he says, allows for better ways to solve merchant abandonment of an acquirer due to slow, inefficient – and yes, even paper-based – processes. Gardner estimates that organizations lose between 25 percent to 40 percent of merchants just because the onboarding process is so bad. Yet the rewards can be great if the right processes are in place, as studies have found that more than 60 percent of clients will refer others to merchant acquirers if the onboarding experience is deemed an excellent one.

Speed and convenience are key, he says, and that means that automation can go a long way toward ensuring both. Another benefit comes as the sales team becomes more productive, and can shift efforts to bear more on bringing in new clients.

Though data is plentiful, Gardner noted, it is important to determine just what will be done with that data. If streamlined processes are at the heart of an improved onboarding process, then actions should be streamlined, too, including asking only the most pertinent questions of merchants and also running the fewest (and most pressing) data checks.

Merchant acquirers, in an effort to “rock blast” through the more glaring inefficiencies inherent in the underwriting process, should look to tackle manual workflow, which includes physical paper and also spreadsheets, in a crusade to eliminate wasted efforts and also truncate the steps of an onboarding process – and creating what the firm terms a minimum viable process.

Then, Gardner posits, comes the eternal conundrum: build or buy? Building such a system from scratch is a costly endeavor in terms of time and cost, while buying means that a software company can help customize solutions to an organization’s specific needs. Partnership with an existing platform, he emphasizes, can be likened to industry best practices. Too many firms, however, channel their inner Frankenstein approach, where build and buy are commingled.

Regardless of which avenue a merchant acquirer takes, Gardner says that some initiatives are universal, including digital forms interface, risk scorecards, and dashboards that extend across analytics and document management.

More details on how merchant acquirers can Pac-Man and rock blast their way to a non-Frankenstein merchant onboarding model can be found in Agreement Express’ latest eBook entitled "The Merchant Acquirer's Guide to Onboarding More Merchants.”

Your First Name (required):

Your Last Name (required) :

Title (required):

Company (required):

Your Corporate Email (required):



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

Click to comment