What Makes the MAG Work

What Makes the MAG Work
John Drechny CEO Merchant Advisory Group
Jun 18, 2024

You may have noticed over the last couple of years we have accelerated the way the MAG supports the merchant community. Most notably the addition of our tech community, online-learning education courses, and international expansion. Our mission of giving the merchants a voice in the payment system has improved many aspects within our industry. This is all possible because of the merchants who make the MAG a special place. As we look to the future, merchants’ participation will be the key to our continued growth and success. Let me give a couple of examples of how this has worked and led to our growth.

Our tech community initially started as an idea on how to bring the business and technology people together to talk about what is happening in the payments industry. Our first Chair for the Tech Advisors Frank Libero, former CIO of McDonald’s and RBI, helped us create the forum and continued to drive it for the initial years. But Frank was not the only one who brought about the success of the forum. Current Chair Sorin Hilgen, Group CDO and In-Country CIO at EG Group, and Wes Sweet, Vice President of Technology at Walmart, were just a couple of the additional leaders that helped us push the purpose of the tech community. Through these merchant volunteers, we have created the Tech Forum which now has more attendees on average than the MAG had overall when we started it.

Once we had the tech community established, we began looking at how to support it through MAG staff. Steve Cole, Director of Tech Engagement has collaborated with our Tech Advisors to create world-class education and conference sessions. He has also deepened the MAG’s engagement in standards bodies like EMVCo and X9. Through this work, we are changing how payments get done from the very foundation of which they are developed. Merchants now have a strong voice in several forums where new payments technology is being developed.

Education has always been a passion of two retired MAG Board members, Gina Powers and Alok Mathur. Together they established the vision for education.  We again brought on MAG staff to help develop this area of the MAG. The combination of Eric Vescera, now Director, Payments at Inspire Brands, and Leah Collins, Senior Director of Education and Design, proved to be a powerful combination to create and launch the MAG MP101 course. Currently, the combination of 100 and 200-level courses have reached over 1,000 graduates. 

We have added education for our tech community and recently launched two microlearning courses, with our most recent covering Payment Account Reference (PAR). As we move forward with education, our education steering group, which is comprised of merchant members, will continue to guide the development of our future courses and the level of education the MAG develops. 

I remember my first international trip with the MAG; it was to represent the merchant community at an EMVCo meeting in Hong Kong. Little did I know at that time it would also be the start of our international expansion. Again, it was driven by a group of merchants requesting the MAG to consider representing merchants in the APAC area. Vishal Metha (formerly Microsoft), Shobhit Mehra (formerly Expedia), and Ivan Chang, The Walt Disney Company, were the driving force in the developing years. Like the MAG’s origins in the U.S., they took on the work of developing our first conference and recruiting both merchants and sponsors to attend. We have since grown the group of APAC advisors to ten with a strong combination of regional brands including foodpanda, Wego, AirAisa, NetEase, Agoda, DFI Retail Group, Q0010 PTE, and global brands like Google, Amazon, and Uber.

As engagement grew internationally, we added staff to support our efforts, starting with Paul Tunstall, Vice President of International. Paul has been instrumental in the launch of the MAG in Europe with our first MAG Payments Summit-London 24 which occurred 10 -12 June. Paul is building our support staff which now includes Ivy Lee, Director of APAC Membership and Sponsorship, Ruth Akiba, Director of EU Membership and Sponsorship, and Lovina Montgomery, International Administrative Lead.

International growth allows the MAG to influence payments being developed around the world and expands our ability to understand how different regulators are involved in payments. This gives the MAG a global voice in representing the merchant community. It will be critical to our growth for both membership and sponsorship. 

Each area of growth started the same way, with merchants seeing a need and driving the MAG to engage in these areas. Through their drive, the MAG has built the support needed to deliver these programs. Additionally, many people who drove change in the past have continued to move on, which creates the opening for a new group of merchants to step in and continue to drive the MAG.

The MAG is dependent on you, our members, to drive us forward. There are so many ways you can make this happen. Tell another merchant about the MAG, thank a sponsor for their support of the MAG, lead one of the committees or special interest groups (SIGs), or let your international counterparts know about the work of the MAG. While we have developed an outstanding team at the MAG, at the core we are a merchant-driven organization, and without your continued support we will not reach our full potential. We are the voice of the merchants in the payments system, led by the merchants. I am personally grateful for all those who have chosen to spend time to make the MAG what it is today!

If you would like to learn more about how you can become more involved in the MAG please reach out to me; I would love to talk with you.

The Merchant Advisory Group

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