Greg Cohen, previously VeriFone's senior vice president and general manager for commerce solutions, left the terminal maker last month for a position at Merchant Warehouse. The Boston-based independent sales organization named Cohen its chief revenue and strategy officer.
After helping VeriFone with its emerging-technology strategy for about a year, Cohen decided his experience could help bring the Merchant Warehouse's Genius Customer Engagement Platform to scale. The Genius product, which allows merchants to accept multiple payment methods at the point of sale, was launched for general availability in January.
Cohen's departure from VeriFone comes at a time of major transition for the company. Just this year, VeriFone sold the assets of its Sail mobile-payments business, saw its CFO retire and its CEO step down.
In an interview with PaymentsSource, Cohen describes the opportunities that arise for companies like Merchant Warehouse amid the rapid changes taking place in the payments industry. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
PaymentsSource:Why did you decide to move to Merchant Warehouse from VeriFone?
Cohen: When I joined VeriFone, the company was moving into some new, exciting technology areas like mobile, transaction routing and offers presentation, or as many of us referred to it, the "new world of payments." It was a great time to be at VeriFone, and during my tenure, I was focusing specifically on emerging business segments and opportunities.
It was an extremely difficult decision to leave VeriFone, but I can directly credit the innovative work I was doing at VeriFone as a fantastic foundation for the work I'll be doing on the Merchant Warehouse team. I view this as an opportunity to work at a "startup with history," since Merchant Warehouse has been in the payments space for the past 15 years. My goal in joining the Merchant Warehouse team is to work in scaling the business, and leveraging my nearly 20 years of experience in the payments industry to do so.
PaymentsSource: With your past experience in the industry, what are you hoping to bring to the company?
Cohen: I'm really excited about the work that's being done at Merchant Warehouse. It's a team full of creative, intelligent people who are working to change an industry that has seen relatively small shifts in the past 20 years. I'm hoping to leverage my experience to scale the Genius platform, to bring it to as many merchants, distributors and channel partners as we possibly can. I'm also focused on expanding the partners integrated within the Genius platform to create a strong network of payments solutions, providers, loyalty programs and POS systems that will revolutionize the payments space.
PaymentsSource: Many things are changing with the way consumers make payments and the way merchants accept payments, but what remains constant for the industry?
Cohen: The one thing that will not change is the complexity at the point of interaction (POI); there are new solutions coming to market every day, but the complexity at the POI remains constant. The POI is an intricate set of relationships between processors, banks, POS vendors, networks, issuers, data service providers and other channel participants and stakeholders.
But the POI represents the biggest challenge for new payment solutions and technologies to take hold, since it creates a barrier that prevents new payments technologies and solutions to scale quickly.
PaymentsSource: The industry is evaluating many new technologies at the point of sale EMV chip cards, Near Field Communication and quick-response (QR) codes. Which technology do you see winning out in the next few years?
Cohen: We're seeing a new world of commerce emerging, and I think for any technologywhether it's NFC, EMV, or QR Codesto actually gain adoption, or be a "technology winner," there will need to be a catalyst to propel mass change at the point of sale. The good news for all of these emerging technologies is that the 2015 liability shift driven by the primary card brands around EMV should be enough of a catalyst to cause major change at the POS. I believe we will actually see a few technologies reach critical mass in the end.
PaymentsSource: What opportunity does this create for companies like Merchant Warehouse?
Cohen: The Genius platform will have merchants prepared to accept commerce transactions from any solution provider deploying any technology. Platforms like Genius allow for an oligopoly-esque mobile payments industry, because merchants and consumers have control over what type of wallet application or mobile payment platform they'd prefer to use. I think we'll see a rise of similar multi-functional solutions for merchants and retailers.
PaymentsSource: This amount of change can be alarming. What advice would you give both seasoned players and startups?
Cohen: We're on the brink of something huge right now in the payments space. In 10 or 15 years, I think the way we shop, search, pay, earn rewards and interact will be drastically different. My biggest piece of advice for companies in the payments space is to embrace the change that is happening and learn from your knowledge of the ecosystem. Position your company and your product in way that will allow you to grow and change quickly and efficiently.