Keeping up with technology could pose one of the greatest challenges for the acquiring industry in the coming year.
That's why independent sales organizations could benefit from thinking like tech startup entrepreneurs, and startup execs could gain from thinking like payments people, says Linda Perry, an independent consultant and former head of acquirer and processor relations for Visa.
"We need to see our world through their eyes sometimes," she says.
The next big thing in payments could come from the acquiring side if ISOs and agents abandon their rigidity and embrace new ideas, says Perry, who has been working as a consultant to startups in California's Silicon Valley.
It's easy for ISOs and agents to fall victim to tunnel vision, get caught up in rules and issues, and ultimately overlook the big picture and the opportunities it presents. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have a fresh view of payments and don't worry about some of the things ISOs do, she says.
Payments professionals get frustrated with tech startups that don't always play by the industry's rules. At the same time, entrepreneurs see things in a different way, and that's how innovations like Square are born, Perry says. Then ISOs end up asking themselves, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Entrepreneurs from outside may not recognize the complexities of payments, but they should still accept those complexities. "It's good for them to look at us and realize, 'Oh, that's why you have PCI [data security] rules,'" Perry says.
There's reason to be optimistic about payments, Perry says. It's a growing industry, as evidenced by investors pumping millions of dollars into electronic payments businesses in Silicon Valley.
Perry sees possibilities for growth in 2013 from new technology, whether it's from mobile payments, wallets or chips, she says. Trying to stay on top of trends such as mobile payments and chip card readiness will be key for ISOs large and small this year.
Perry advises ISOs and agents to explore opportunities in their established client base. It's important to protect and retain that base and take care of those customers, she says. "They're everyone's lifeline," Perry says.
Aside from a few anticipated end-of-year consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, Perry doesn't expect huge changes for the industry just yet in terms of mobile, chip cards and other technologies. More likely are gradual changes, much like the industry's shift to e-commerce, which took about a decade to become big enough to notice. "This industry is too big to shift dramatically," Perry says.