Maureen Elworthy reflects on 15 years of advocating and collaborating on behalf of merchants, consumers, and payment providers. First with AHOLD USA and now with JPMorgan Chase, Maureen has a uniquely valuable perspective into the ways the MAG has empowered merchants to create, grow, and protect enduring customer relationships over the past decade and a half. Covering interchange, alternative payments, the Durbin Amendment, transaction security, and more, here are five questions for a MAG supporter!
What led you to become a member of the MAG?
Before joining J.P. Morgan in 2016, for more than a decade I was on the treasury team at AHOLD USA which served millions of consumers through six supermarket brands in several U.S. states. Given the critical role payments play between merchants and customers, I quickly developed a passion for payments.
What drove my interest and involvement in the MAG was ensuring merchants have a voice in creating and maintaining an efficient, secure, and dependable payments ecosystem. That’s something that benefits merchants, consumers, and payment providers. Today, I have the first-hand perspective of a consumer, a merchant and a leading payment processor which enables me to understand and advocate for the interests of all three.
AHOLD joined the MAG as one of the first merchant members at a time when the complexities of multichannel shopping and payments were emerging. Prior to the MAG’s existence, there were limited merchant and consumer advocacy platforms. I saw the MAG as a powerful way to help the industry and understand the voice of the merchant and client in the context of the rapidly evolving payments landscape.
What were the top priorities or pain points for merchants in 2007?
Looking back to the early 2000s, the merchant community was still getting their heads around increasingly complex payments interchange rules. In addition, brick-and-mortar merchants were seeing unprecedented changes in consumer behavior. One such change was consumer adoption of eCommerce, which required merchants to create new shopping and payment experiences to enable card-not-present transactions.
Thinking of ways to improve the customer experience while keeping transactions fast, efficient, and secure was paramount. Managing transaction costs was also very important because it translates to savings for the consumer on the cost of goods sold. Alternative methods of payments were one way to control transaction costs. Strengthening consumer and transaction security through EMV, PCI compliance, and proactive fraud mitigation continues to remain top of mind for merchants.
The emerging commerce ecosystem that global multichannel merchants must navigate can challenge legacy FX, liquidity, working capital, supply chains, and payments strategies. Digital transformation has set new standards for speed, efficiency, and agility. The MAG provided a valuable forum for merchants’ key decision-makers and digital commerce experts to collaborate and understand the broader implications of new consumer behavior and commerce models.
In your role as a Merchant at the MAG, what were you / what are you most proud of?
I take pride in being part of an organization that provides merchants with a platform to directly inform and influence public policy and industry standards that are designed to improve the consumer and merchant experience. As digital commerce continues to evolve across sales channels, the MAG continues to drive initiatives that create faster, safer, and more efficient payments experiences.
To that point, the MAG has been instrumental in driving innovation that aligns the needs and priorities of consumers and merchants. A real-world example of such innovation is the MAG’s role in driving consumer adoption of digital wallets and mapping loyalty programs to a customer’s preferred methods of payment.
Has the MAG been beneficial to you in terms of career growth?
I have benefited from the MAG both personally and professionally over the past 15 years — not simply from being a merchant member but also serving on the MAG Board as vice chair and now being a part of the acquiring side at J.P. Morgan Payments.
When speaking with merchants today, I always reference my experience as being a merchant member. As an elite sponsor, we proudly champion the MAG as an excellent way to maintain and grow payments knowledge. The conference sessions, speakers, and networking events provide outstanding continuous learning opportunities. In my role at J.P. Morgan Payments, we leverage the MAG as a way to drive innovation and create new value for consumers and merchants — many of whom are MAG members themselves.
I am passionate about serving as a voice and an advocate for merchants and consumers. I’m particularly proud of the real-world innovations the MAG has helped to bring to in-store, online, and mobile payments.
For those just starting their careers in payments, why should they get involved with the MAG?
Digital technology will continue to transform payments and their role in the relationship between merchants and consumers. This means there will always be opportunities to influence payments ecosystems and serve as a true consumer and merchant advocate.
When I attended my first MAG conference, I went in thinking I knew so much about payments, but I left humbled and grateful that I had learned so much more. I’ve developed a global professional network that has endured 15 years and counting and it is another great benefit of being a part of the MAG. Networking with peers when I was on the merchant side was invaluable. Today I get to meet with so many clients at the biannual conferences to learn what is top of mind for them and how J.P. Morgan can optimize payments.
I’m also seeing more people in roles outside of payments, like marketing, product development, customer experience, and technology, becoming more involved in and making strategic decisions about payments at their organizations. The MAG is an amazing forum for continuous learning about payments and related business processes.
Looking ahead to 2024, what are you most excited about in the world of payments?
Right now there are three areas that promise to create value for merchants and consumers in both the near- and long-term. Firstly, I am excited to see customer experiences grow more convenient, personalized, and uniquely rewarding for consumers by integrating the best of digital and physical commerce and evolving the historic multi-channel experience into a truly omnichannel experience. Payments are at the center of omnichannel and transaction agility will help merchants serve customer needs more conveniently.
Secondly, connected car and mobility experiences will see payments seamlessly empowering consumers as they go about daily life — changing the way we fuel cars, check in to hotels, personalize trips, and more.
Finally, embedded finance promises to strategically place relevant and valuable banking solutions, like money management and credit solutions, at key points in the customer journey. Doing so could speed up incoming and outgoing payments and financially empower consumers in new ways.