Technology developers are both the stars and the target audience for payment companies looking to be on the right side of the industry's mobile-driven future.
"Developers are our customers and partners. They are the ones making decisions," said Dan Charron, executive vice president of Global Business Solutions at First Data.
The processor on Friday launched its Integrated Solutions Group, a new segment that focuses on software development tools for integration with First Data platforms. The group is designed to lure independent software vendors (ISVs), resellers, developers, integrators and others in payments innovation.
Developers can access a library of integration specs, enabling programmers to embed payments and other services, as well as self-certify or work with First Data specialists for certification. ISG will include sales, marketing and training support, automated boarding, "competitive and transparent" compensation and incentives. First Data is also providing access to its global merchant acquiring footprint through a single integration.
The company's Clover digital point of sale platform is additionally being opened to enable developers to build their own branded solutions for merchants, supporting PCI compliance, EMV, gift cards and electronic checks. First Data is providing access to Clover's source code, which allows developers to write their own register and order applications that can be deployed through Clover's cloud-hosted operating system.
"It's not us versus you, it's we together," Charron said. "It's 'Clover as a service.' We've opened all of this up to the developer community."
One of ISG's early collaborations is with KWI, which sells cloud technology to specialty retailers. "We're inviting any group of people that looked at us as a light switch," said Charron, adding First Data sees these companies as potential collaborators on new merchant services.
ISG is designed to give external partners a deeper dive into First Data's technology, to broaden services and add more speed of deployment as the company wards off alternative providers and API-driven startups.
"We historically have had thousands of technology people certified to us. We're shifting and are looking at adding a business layer to those relationships," Charron said.
ISG follows myriad moves First Data has made as it diversifies beyond a traditional payment processor, leveraging its global scale to offer a range of digitally driven merchant services. It recently partnered with Silicon Valley Bank to provide payment services to that bank's clients, a move that also gave First Data visibility into the Bay Area's development culture. The processor also partnered with Capgemini to smooth processing inefficiencies with clients, a strategy designed to accelerate First Data's broader technology transformation.
Other recent First Data integrations include Bypass, which makes point of sale software for sports and entertainment merchants; and Booker Software, which sells cloud-hosted appointment booking and marketing software for the service industry.
First Data has hired EJ Jackson to lead ISG. Jackson has served in leadership, strategy, business development and sales for VC-backed companies. Jackson comes to First Data from SAP, where he was senior vice president and GM of SAP Anywhere. He also has worked in a technology development capacity for a number of years.
"It's not just the payment, but the e-point of sale, gift card, loyalty, there are so many things," Jackson said, adding developers are primarily seeking a partner that's large, diverse and has a technology infrastructure that's easy to work with. "The payment industry is in a state of transition, and there's so much marketshare to be taken."
First Data's not alone among large payment industry companies that are extending their technology tools to outside developers. Visa opened its network about a year ago, calling the opportunity to work with developers "staggeringly large," and Mastercard in the fall of 2016 launched a developer program.
Another noteworthy example is PayPal's purchase of Braintree about four years ago with the goal of attracting innovators to build new payments technology. Later, PayPal moved some offices to a development center in Toronto.
The gating factor in implementation through developers is processors, which has been particularly true through the EMV migration, said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst with Aite Group.
"It's a challenge for processors to adapt to the fluidity of the ecosystem now, but several are working to adapt and deliver offerings that are at least competitive with fintech startups," Peterson said. "It's an encouraging sign that First Data has established a group to focus on this."