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Acquirers and independent sales organizations in Canada have found a voice in the newly formed Canadian Acquirers Association.

The group, meeting in Toronto last week for the first time, hopes to represent the industry in Canada, provide educational material for members and serve as a networking venue.

The formative meeting of about 50 executives apparently made an impression on Adam Atlas, a Montreal-based attorney specializing in the merchant-acquiring industry who is on the group's board.

"Everyone is thrilled to meet the other people here," Atlas tells ISO&Agent Weekly. This is the first attempt to form such a group in Canada, (ISO&Agent Weekly 1/18).

Meet and Greet

"The real challenge for anybody is of knowing who's who in the acquiring industry," says Kevin Turko, president of Data Shapers Inc., a Calgary, Alberta-based financial-services company.

Atlas says the Canadian acquiring industry is smaller than its U.S. counterpart, which has a national association and four regional groups.

Canadian banks often control the merchant relationship, while their U.S. counterparts often hire ISOs to sell processing contracts on their behalf.

The Canadian group hopes to hold a conference in 2009, Atlas says. In the meantime, the association will add more information to its Web site, www.acquirers.ca.

Other companies represented on the board are CardSolve International, a Canadian ISO owned by First Data Corp.; Data Shapers Inc.; VersaPay Corp., a Vancouver, British Columbia-based ISO; and NxGen Payment Services, a U.S.-based ISO with a Calgary, Alberta-based subsidiary, NxGen Canada.

The association has not set its objectives, but Michael Gokturk, VersaPay CEO, envisions the trade group as a "self-regulator" or Better Business Bureau among Canadian acquirers.

 "An accreditation process with the CAA seal might distinguish the accredited acquirers or ISOs from those who do not commit to this code and conduct policy," Gokturk tells ISO&Agent Weekly.

"Of course, the CAA will also provide education, seminars, network building, [and] introduction of new and emerging payment technologies to the Canadian marketplace," he says.

Gokturk also sees a role for the association in explaining interchange rates and other fees to merchants.

That would help ensure merchants use the right merchant-category code, which Gokturk says is incorrect 50% of the time. Using the correct code means the merchant gets the appropriate rates, he says.

A heads-up

NxGen came to Canada more than two years ago, says Bill Ryken, the company's vice president of global sales, and found success by striking referral deals with its business-to-business customers. Those companies refer their merchant customers to NxGen for processing services. Ryken says that model has worked well in Canada.

NxGen is involved in the association because of the networking and educational value, he says.

At Beanstream, a Victoria, British Columbia-based payment processor, CEO Craig Thomson anticipates the association helping acquirers and ISOs get to know each other and "to get a little heads-up on changes in the industry." That insight could prove valuable as ISOs look for ways to sign up merchants, Thomson says.

Vendors also say they welcome the new association.

"It's absolutely necessary," says Bernie Chalmers, a Canada-based special markets development consultant for Data Systems Co., a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based imprinter and receipt-paper supplier.

Chalmers views the association as a way to bring buyers and vendors together.

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