Payments…the “Pandemic Effect”

Payments…the “Pandemic Effect”
Kathy Hanna Sr. Director, Enterprise Payments & Store Support Enterprise Payments Dept. The Kroger Co.
Dec 27, 2021

Rewind twelve months and some aspects of life and business look very similar to the end of 2020, while other aspects have changed. We hear the continued urge to wear a mask, get vaccinated, and be aware of in-person and indoor gatherings. The Covid-19 virus, and its variations, created what I call the “pandemic effect.”  Consumers are continuing to shop online at greater numbers than in the past.  In-store purchases have returned for many customers and more companies are offering buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) or delivery services for those customers who want to come to the store, just not inside.  This warp speed of consumers’ payment choices and behavior continued to create issues for businesses.  MAG continued to provide our membership with unparallel information to the changes happening at record speed.  

While education leads MAG’s accomplishments, much work was done in advocacy and communications, collaboration, and tech. All areas are either supporting or impacting our businesses.  The leadership MAG is providing in the payments marketplace is the highest it’s ever been. For some of the biggest issues in payments this past year, whether news, regulatory, legislative, and legal developments, organizations came to MAG for information on the impact these developments have on merchants. It’s clear that MAG is recognized as a leading voice of the merchant community from all angles. 

One of MAG’s most exciting accomplishments in 2021 was the launch and implementation of premier payments e-Learning courses.  Merchants Payments 101, with almost 200 graduates, many of whom now have higher confidence in the payments field, was just the beginning.  At the end of 2021, MAG launched the next level of e-learning courses with MP 201. The 200-level courses will be a five-part series that delves deeper into payments.  In addition to the e-learning courses, MAG published three best practice guides on downgrades, payments data, and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL). 

The other big story of 2021 was the Federal Reserve’s request for comment on a proposed rulemaking to clarify the routing provisions of Reg II. MAG held weekly conversations with membership and other retail associations to discuss the proposed rules and the communication sent in by MAG on the proposed changes. While MAG has had good relationships with other retail associations, these weekly meetings created a deeper collaboration between MAG and these organizations. As part of communications, MAG redesigned the website, which launched in late 2020.  The redesigned site won MAG the Communicator Award. Congratulations!! In addition, MAG published original articles by Board members, merchant members, sponsors, and staff through the new format of the newsletter, MAG Insights, and they continue to share payments news published by news outlets on Payments News. To make things even easier, you can subscribe to each feed and be alerted to new articles. When it comes to a one-stop-shop to know what is happening in the payments space, MAG has delivered! 

One of the most constructive ways to achieve change is to talk directly to the card brands or other payments stakeholders to collaborate so that the merchants’ voice is heard.  The MAG team spent much time and effort having those conversations.  The outcome was Mastercard creating a reasonable timeline to retire magstripe cards, a process that cannot happen overnight and needs planning.  Fuel merchants have many challenges due to their specific industry.  MAG influenced Visa and Mastercard to modify the standardized authorization limits at fuel dispensers, eliminating one issue for petroleum merchants.   

MAG continued to grow our membership in 2021 and created a new Digital Access Membership that expands education and networking, one of the great assets of MAG.  Networking was on full display as MAG held the annual conference in person and provided a virtual version, where over 400 hundred members attended. Technology played a significant role in the virtual world, but also the MAG Tech Forum grew.  Technology is a fast-growing aspect of payments; and members, both business and technical, value hearing how the two worlds are interacting. 

2021 was an incredible year for many reasons. The MAG could not have achieved all these results without the support of our members and sponsors. Our members and sponsors contribute through their financial and intellectual support to the work MAG does. As a member and board member, I am very appreciative of everyone’s contributions both financial and intellectual.   

As we end 2021 and look forward to 2022, one thing is crystal clear…payments have gone through the “pandemic effect” and will have a lasting impression on businesses and consumers.  MAG will continue to amplify the merchants’ voice in 2022 and beyond. 

On behalf of the MAG board, we wish you each a healthy and happy holiday and new year. 
The Merchant Advisory Group

Driving positive change and innovation in the payments industry that serves the merchants interest through collaboration, education, and advocacy.