Editor's Note from the April 2010 issue of ISO&Agent magazine.

Optimistic outlooks are rampant among salespeople and managers in the ISO and merchant-acquiring industry. Even in the midst of the recession, industry insiders professed to me their optimism while they dealt with challenging economic conditions, patiently waiting for the recovery.

Now, as the start of the second quarter of 2010 begins, it is easier to be optimistic. As ISO&Agent reported earlier, merchant portfolio deals once again are being made, and hiring is starting to pick up.

While talking with attendees at recent regional acquiring conferences, it became apparent many once again felt relaxed enough to be excited about merchant sales.

But a recession as deep and pervasive as the latest one can affect even the ardent of optimists.

Results from ISO&Agent's 2010 Compensation Survey, featured in this issue, provide evidence of the recession's impact. Of the 124 ISOs and acquiring salespeople who participated, 56% said the recession "somewhat" affected their compensation, while 26% said it "very much" or "drastically" altered it.

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.

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 last year's dearth of big bonuses-payouts that were 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. "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.

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, suggesting hiring should pick up this year.

The recovery's timing and pace could be better, some may say.

Regardless, the recovery's presence is a good sign, and one that should build more optimism.

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