Can you describe your journey into the payments profession?
My journey began about 16 years ago when I started at Wakefern Food Corp. My entire career has been in Treasury/Cash Management, but this was the first job where I also had responsibility for electronic payments. Once I was exposed to the debit/credit card world, I was hooked! There is so much going on - some of it defies logic. I really got addicted. I found there were not many people who really understood this space and I was fascinated by everything that was going on and how few options the merchant had to keep costs under control. I also found that the payments professionals I got to know were always willing to help out someone with less knowledge and experience than they had and wanted to make a difference for their company and the payments industry in general.
What motivated you to get involved with the MAG?
I thought the MAG was a great organization to share experiences and gain knowledge. There are so many payments professionals who are willing to share their experiences and help others. I thought it was a great organization to learn and grow in the payments space as well as help make a positive difference in the payments ecosystem. I was very impressed by the passion and dedication of those who were part of the MAG organization and those who attended the conferences. It became clear to me that the MAG was "The Place" to be if you were a merchant and involved with payments.
How does the MAG engage with its members and stakeholders to address their needs and concerns?
I think the MAG does a great job of listening to the concerns of the merchant community and working with all the players involved in a positive way to help make the space better for all. The MAG has some very good dialogue with the card brands, issuing banks, and vendor community all for the purpose of addressing the needs of the merchant community.
Can you share some examples of successful collaborations or partnerships the MAG has forged with other payments stakeholders?
An example that comes to mind is the elimination of signatures on receipts. Another successful collaboration that the MAG has forged is the dialogue with the card brands. Now, the brands will often ask the MAG for their thoughts/concerns regarding upcoming potential changes and address the feedback they are given before implementing the final version of the change. In the past, the brands would just enact change and it would often cause headaches for the merchants as everyone would have to scramble to address it; I think that happens a little less now than it did before.
What opportunities exist for merchants to get involved with the MAG and contribute to its mission?
Participating in the conferences or in the various committees the MAG has is a great way for merchants to contribute to the success of the MAG. Even if you can't make all the meetings, participating as much as you can is a big help. It's great to see how the COPs, SIGs, and committees have increased with many members wanting to participate. At the first few MAG conferences I attended, there were maybe 15 or so of us in the SIG meeting covering all topics. Now we have several different SIG groups and some have 70+ participants. It's also amazing to see how many people are comfortable speaking up in the SIG meetings; you won’t find the same five or six people always talking. The payments educational courses the MAG offers are also a great way for those newer to the payment space to learn more about it.
Are there any recent regulatory or policy issues that have an impact on the grocery industry?
In the grocery space, it seems that in every Farm Bill we need to address fees for SNAP transactions. There are other payments systems players who would like to get into this space and bring their fee structure in with them. It's important to educate lawmakers so they understand how costly this would be to the merchants - and ultimately to the consumers - and why we need to keep fees out of this space.
What do you believe sets the MAG apart from other payments trades, and what unique benefits does the MAG offer?
What sets the MAG apart from other payments trades is the people who are part of the MAG - who attends the conferences and participate in the committees. The MAG has become "The Place" to be in payments, especially if you're a merchant. The fact that MAG membership is for merchants only is huge. In my opinion, the biggest benefit of participating in the MAG is the networking, sharing, and education that they offer. It's unparalleled in the payments industry.
What advice do you have for merchants considering joining the MAG or becoming more actively involved in its initiatives?
Do it!! When you look at the amount of fees that merchants pay in this space and how quickly things change in payments, what you get from the MAG more than justifies the membership fees charged. The MAG has such a great retention rate with merchants because the value received by participating far outweighs the cost of membership.