CHICAGO — A small "sound off" session here Thursday at a trade show could signal the beginning of better communication between acquirers and the rest of the payment industry.
At least that's Donna Embry's hope for the session at the Midwest Acquirers Association 10th Annual Conference.
Embry, senior vice president of strategic development for Louisville, Ky.-based Payment Alliance International and incoming association president, outlined her vision to the 25 or so members of the industry gathered in the early-morning meeting
"There doesn't seem to be a voice for pure acquiring," Embry said.
To remedy that, other regional acquirers associations are organizing similar sessions at their annual conferences. Working together, the nation's four regional associations could amass enough power to make their views heard by the major credit card brands, Embry hopes.
The independent sales organizations represented by the association have a number of issues they'd like to air with the card networks and card issuers, but America' impending switch from magnetic stripe cards to EMV chip cards seems to drive the current effort.
Embry told the group she had attended a recent MasterCard International EMV workshop and found the information focused on issuers' concerns. Moreover, MasterCard laid out its rules and advised attendees to consult with Visa.
"Everybody is so confused," she said, speaking not just of the meeting but of the payment industry in general. "Until you've got ubiquity, it's not going to work," she said of the EMV switch.
Others at the meeting agreed that uncertainty reigns in the EMV transition.
"It's hard enough to get a merchant to buy a (payment) terminal — unless it's broken — without introducing EMV into the discussion," said Linda Rossetti, president of Atlanta-based Bluestone Payments.
ISOs hesitate to sell EMV-enabled terminals to merchants because hardware and software requirements appear likely to change as the U.S. EMV standard develops, noted Tami Cohorst, vice president for ABTEK Financial, a Waterford, Mich.-based ISO.
"There will be twists and turns, no doubt about it," agreed Linda Perry, a consultant and former head of acquirer and processor relations for Visa Inc.
Much of the burden of the EMV introduction will fall on acquirers, who will prove themselves up the challenge, Perry maintained.
"You will all step up," Perry told the room. "We are the ones who bring all the creativity" to payment industry she said of acquirers.
The "sound off" discussion also covered incursions into the payment industry by such companies as Google Inc. and Square Inc., with participants expressing concern about ISOs losing market share to those new players. Yet the group found reason for optimism despite that challenge.
"I think there's plenty of money for everybody" in acquiring, Perry said.