The Washington-based Electronic Transactions Association is taking the first step in what could become a new mission as an international trade group.

That initial move, a Sept. 17-19 gathering called the International Acquirers Forum, will convene in a London hotel conference center, says Jason Oxman, the association's CEO.

Besides providing members with a venue to learn about acquiring-industry opportunities abroad and connect with colleagues from other countries, the meeting will help the association gauge the need for an American trade group to pursue an overseas agenda, Oxman says.

"This is the ETA's first foray outside the U.S. in terms of doing an event, and this event will give us a lot of good intelligence about what the international landscape looks like for future activities,"  Oxman says.

The prospect of venturing abroad was among the first issues Oxman raised with the association's board after becoming CEO a little more than a year ago, he says. "The response I got was positive, and it was clear there was an appetite for doing it."

Among ETA members, working abroad may offer more possibilities for processors and acquirers than for independent sales organizations, Oxman says.

American processors are already beginning to establish themselves in Europe, with EVO and startup Anovia both making strides there.

ISOs often find their business model has no place in countries where large financial institutions wield monopoly control, but that could change, Oxman says.

"Clearly, the international marketplace is a huge and growing opportunity for processors, but the expertise that ISOs bring to providing services to merchants … could be applied around the world," he says.

ISOs account for more than half of the ETA's membership, and the organization is seeking opportunities and addressing obstacles for them in other countries, Oxman says.

To that end, the association met recently with the Office of the United States Trade Representative to request that payments become an issue in international trade negotiations, he says.

In the meantime, planning continues for the London conference. Preparations began when two acquiring industry veterans, Linda S. Perry, an independent consultant, and Tom Layman, head of Global Vision Group, approached the ETA board with the idea for a conference.

Perry and Layman, both former Visa Inc. executives with international experience, have been lining up speakers and taking care of details for the conference, says Perry, who was recently named one of the Most Influential Women in Payments by PaymentsSource editors.

Oxman anticipates a meeting that's "truly international in scope," with attendees streaming in from South America, Asia, elsewhere in Europe and North America.

"We expect a number of ETA members with current or future business plans outside of the U.S. to view this as an attractive opportunity," Oxman says.

Perry wants to limit the conference to 150 or fewer participants to avoid becoming overwhelmed at the first iterations.

Oxman doesn't say how many attendees he expects, but he hints at a modest gathering.

"Is it going to be as big as the ETA show?" Oxman asks rhetorically. "No, certainly not in its inaugural year. But our hope is that it will be the 'must-attend' event outside the United States for the payments industry." 

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