In his Oct. 23, 2013, letter to the payments industry (An Open Letter to the Electronic Payments Industry from Bob Carr), the chairman and CEO of Heartland Payment Systems provides a compelling historical overview of the challenges faced by our industry some three decades ago. As detailed in his letter, a perceived lack of professionalism in the industry in the 1980s created a need for an industry association to address reputational challenges to industry growth and success. Carr and his industry colleagues seized the initiative to form the Bankcard Services Association, the trade association now known as the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) that I have the privilege of leading.
Bob Carr is a distinguished industry visionary, Heartland Payments is a well-regarded innovator and ETA member company, and Heartlands vice chairman serves on ETAs Board of Directors. I read Carrs letter as a helpful reminder that certain practices found in the payments industry 25 years ago should not be replicated by any company today. As the CEO of ETA, it is my opinion that such behavior is not common in our industry in 2013. Indeed, I believe that through its trade association, the payments industry is doing what is necessary to ensure best practices and professionalism are the hallmarks of the services our member companies provide to their merchant customers.
We can all agree that maintaining and encouraging professionalism is good for every company in the payments ecosystem. Lets look at some examples of how the ETA of 2013 is helping the industry grow and move forward to the future.
An important ETA program that helps ensure the highest level of professionalism in our industry is the ETA Certified Payments Professional program. The ETA CPP is the industrys highest level of certification, reserved for industry practitioners who pass a rigorous program of study and an independently administered examination. Hundreds of industry professionals have obtained their ETA CPP in just the first 18 months of the program. Many of ETAs larger member companies have extensive in-house training and compliance programs, but particularly for smaller member companies and those companies that interface daily with merchants, the ETA CPP program has been a helpful industry resource. Many ETA member companies even use the ETA CPP program as a competitive differentiator in the marketplace, highlighting to current and future customers the high level of industry education attained by their employees.
A second example is ETAs ongoing Best Practices educational initiative. Developed with the input of dozens of ETA member companies, this important addition to the ETA University program of industry education is designed to help ETA member companies detect and prevent bad merchant behavior that would harm consumers who use electronic payments networks. As an educational program, ETA University helps further industry professionalism by ensuring that all payments companies, regardless of size or resources, have access to information and training about the best practices in our industry. ETA University programs are taught throughout the year by industry professionals at multiple industry events, and we have an expanded calendar of educational programs ready to go in 2014.
Third, ETA committees are addressing industry-wide issues that benefit growth and innovation in the payments industry. For example, ETAs largest committee, the Mobile Payments Committee, brings together the nations top acquirers and ISOs with new technology companies, mobile network operators and equipment manufacturers to address important issues of merchant and consumer education like security and data protection. ETAs newest committee, the Large Processor Council, is addressing policy issues with state and federal agencies that impact the entire payments ecosystem and result in more efficient and cost-effective payments service offerings.
In sum, these and many more ETA programs are helping lead the payments industry to a bright future, and we will continue to address whatever issues arise that call for a unified industry solution. I am proud that Heartland Payments and more than 525 other member companies (a number that grows every month) have embraced ETA and our work to ensure that all participants in the payments ecosystem operate in a way that makes our industry shine. A rising tide lifts all boats, and ETA member companies fierce competitors in the marketplace all share a common interest in growing the electronic payments industry. I think we can all agree that our industry today innovative, robust and competitive is a far better place because Bob Carr and his payments industry colleagues and competitors helped create ETA and continue to support our mission to grow the payments industry.of
(Jason Oxman is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)