A majority of ISO and merchant-acquiring salespeople say the nation’s latest recession had an impact on their compensation, the results of the ISO&Agent 2010 Compensation Survey show.

Of the 124 ISOs and acquiring salespeople who participated, 56% said the recession “somewhat” affected their compensation. Another 26% said the recession “very much” or “drastically” altered their compensation, while 19% reported no effect.

Indeed, there were subtle shifts within reported income levels. Just as in last year’s survey reflecting 2008 compensation, 11% of respondents said they made $50,000 or less in 2009. However, 31% reported they earned between $50,001 and $100,000 last year, up from 33% who said so the previous year. Also, 5% of participants reported earning between $150,001 and $175,000 last year, down from 8% who did in 2008. The 2010 survey also found that 11% of respondents reported making $300,001 or more last year, down from 16% who said so a year earlier.

Full survey results appear in the April issue of ISO&Agent magazine.

Some big earners have moved on and left the industry for various reasons, and that may have helped cause the decrease at the top of the compensation scale, suggests David Fish, senior research analyst at Mercator Advisory Group Inc., a Maynard, Mass.-based consulting and research firm.

The compensation shifts also reflect the dearth last year of big bonuses–payouts as big as $50,000 or more in 2008, says Curt Hensley, president of CSH Consulting Inc., a Phoenix-based payment-recruiting firm. “In general, a lot of the really high-end salespeople who were making over $300,000 have dropped into lower brackets,” Hensley tells ISO&Agent Weekly. “There are a lot of high-end earners who have been put out of positions.”

That partly could explain why fewer industry members reported making more than $300,000 in this year’s survey, he says. Another factor may have been that senior-level people in good positions chose to stay in them instead of move to another firm, Hensley says.

The nation’s financial crisis swelled, business retreated and hiring slowed beginning in October 2008, Hensley says. A year later, however, conditions began to improve as businesses started hiring again last October, he says, predicting hiring should pick up this year.

Compensation during the recession also took a hit from reduced bonuses and commission changes, says Mike McCormack, president of Palma Advisors LLC, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based payments consultancy.

The decline in same-store sales, an increase in small-business failures and a reduced number of small-business start-ups all have affected ISO compensation, McCormack says. The result is that many ISOs have reduced the size of sales bonuses, he says.

Some ISOs also may have altered how much they pay sales agents based on the quality of the merchant. One ISO McCormack works with pays less commission if the merchant has a lower quality credit rating, especially if the merchant leases equipment.

“It makes the lease technically risky,” McCormack says. A lease held by merchant with a lower-quality credit rating does not garner as much value as a merchant with better credit, he says.

Echoing Hensley, McCormack sees general economic improvement in 2010. “It will be a very gradual rise,” he says.

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