SEAA 2017 energizes base (The Green Sheet)

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Approximately 650 attendees joined 100 exhibitors at Le Meridien Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., March 19 to 22, 2017, for the 17th annual Southeast Acquirers Association's conference. The growing mid-Atlantic city, home to NASCAR and nicknamed the "International Gateway to the South," provided a fitting backdrop for the not-for-profit regional association's eclectic mix of keynote addresses, educational sessions and networking events. Established in 2000, the SEAA has provided education, training and networking to the industry's feet on the street, as well as other key players in the acquiring community.

"We exhibited at SEAA and it was a full house," said Barry Davis, Vice President of Business Development at Womply. "We had a constant stream of people at our booth and found it to be a well-attended show with a diversified agenda."

Test Track 17

Davis represented Womply in a breakout session and TestTrack2017, a NASCAR-themed competition for technology startups. Each finalist had 8 minutes to present his or her product innovation. Judges rated the finalists on originality, revenue opportunity, presentation quality and impact to the market.

Womply won the first-place TestTrack2017 Innovation Award, which included a $1,000 cash prize and complimentary exhibit space at Transact 17, the Electronic Transactions Association's annual conference to be held in May 2017 in Las Vegas. "It was an honor to compete with such prestigious and technologically advanced companies as POPcodes, OneSource, ControlScan and Protocol," Davis said.

Following is a list of TestTrack2017 winners:

  • 1st Place: Womply
  • 2nd Place: POPcodes
  • 3rd Place: OneSource
  • 4th Place: ControlScan
  • 5th Place: Protocol Nexus

NASCAR focus, agility

Keynote speaker Matt Clark, Chief Marketing Officer at Charlotte-based Allegiance Merchant Services, regaled the audience with his experience as a former NASCAR analyst at Fox News. Clark noted similarities between payments industry stakeholders and high-performance pit crew teams. "We stack pennies and operate on small tight margins, and pit crew teams measure their work in seconds," Clark said. "There are five different lug nuts in a tire. Cars must withstand high temperatures, G-loads and stress, and without tight lug nuts, we lose the opportunity for winning."

Continuing his lug nut metaphor, Clark cited the following five lug nuts of success:

  1. Never stop learning: "Take the time to read. Some of the greatest, most successful people are readers. They consume material, meditate and develop themselves."
  2. Plan: "Know the track conditions and pay attention to detail."
  3. Analyze the numbers: "Know all the components in an 11-second pit stop."
  4. Partner: "Build strategic alliances to reach desired outcomes."
  5. Get the right people in the right positions: "Continually train and recruit. Culture and chemistry matter. Know everyone's strengths and weaknesses."

Never stop learning

The SEAA's focus on education was reflected in seminars, panel discussions and breakout sessions that covered a variety of topics, including chargeback management, portfolio valuation, residual reporting, customer engagement, alternative finance, and value-added products and services.

In a presentation titled Adapting to Change and Capitalizing on the Future of Payments, payment veteran and ETA immediate past president Greg Cohen urged the audience to "get vertical" by specializing in specific industry sectors. "In the evolving payments industry, the ask is different than ever before," he said. "Instead of asking for help accepting payments, merchants are asking for help in growing their businesses."

Cohen recommended working with small to midsize business owners, a category he described as highly fragmented, where people are generally loyal to suppliers and there is still money to be made. He additionally suggested thinking deep, not broad. "Software wins," he added. "Hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it."

Far-reaching breakout sessions

Breakout sessions covered numerous aspects of payment technologies, business models and industry initiatives, including the following:

  • Chargeback Management, Benjamin Grossman, Pinpoint Intelligence
  • Running a Business 101, Garima Shah, Direct Connect
  • Plan, Track and Adjust to Maximize a Portfolio’s Value, James Huber, Global Legal Law Firm
  • From Payments to POS: Things to Know as You Go, Kelly Funk, RSPA
  • Residual Reporting: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Mark Dunn, Residual Sheriff
  • Value Beyond Processing: New Revenue Streams from Non-Transaction Related Products; panel led by Sonny Wooten, National Benefit Programs
  • PCI Clarity, Your Path to Great Customer Engagement & Organic Growth, Giles Witherspoon-Boyd, Protocol PCI
  • American Express: A Trusted Brand and Valuable Partner, Allison Keane, American Express Co.
  • Recent Changes in Working Capital Landscape and How ISOs Can Take Advantage, Andrew Altschuler, Strategic Funding Source

This event was another hit in a long string of dynamic SEAA conferences. Congratulations to all who had a hand in organizing it.