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Letter from the MAG Board Chair: Merchant Advisory Group Top Accomplishments of 2019 (MAG Quarterly- Volume Seven, Issue Four)

By Troy Carrothers, Senior Vice President, Kohl's Department Stores, Inc.

December 5, 2019

This year MAG launched new strategies which identified 5 core pillars: Collaboration, Education, Advocacy, Innovation and Engagement. In each of these key pillars we have identified top objectives for moving MAG forward and have seen great results through these efforts. Membership has increased to 157 members, a 9% increase, which now reflects all of the top ten and 19 of the top 20 retailers.  Conference attendance has increased by almost 30% and sponsors represent 66 of the leading payment companies, a 10% increase.

Besides these great numbers, we have also added staff to support MAG efforts with four new people joining MAG this year: Eric O’Brien, Director of Education; Kacie Paine, Director of Tech Engagement; Leah Collins, Content Manager; and Lisa Mercurio, Conference Coordinator. We are well positioned to support our growth and find new areas of opportunities. 

The following are some of MAG’s key accomplishments in 2019:


  •  Continued to refine and encourage adoption of our Best Practice Roadmap through steps towards alignment with senior leadership from each of our global network partners and awareness among our domestic debit network and acquirer partners.
  • Influenced the opportunity for merchants to retain more control over practices in which ACH transactions are transacted as instant credit card transactions at a higher cost of acceptance and risk to merchants.  
  • Engaged in several industry boards including EMVco Board of Advisors and Faster Payments Council. 
  • Launched the following Communities of Practice engaging merchants in several industry efforts with the objective to ensure the merchant voice and awareness is an integral part of the future of payments:
    • EMVCo COP – This community has influenced the network plans for implementation of a new digital checkout process, Secure Remote Commerce, to allow more time for evaluation and planning as well as a more thoughtful approach to mass launch post-holiday to minimize the impacts of a new product launch during the time of significant seasonal volumes.  In addition, this community has influenced the approach towards the consumer experience to help improve choice and prioritization of digital payment choices as well as influence the consumer “branding” of this digital checkout alternative. This community has also helped MAG’s representatives at EMVco Board of Advisors meetings prepare and deliver the merchants’ thoughts on new specifications being contemplated.
    • Petro Fraud/EMV – With liability shifting at automated fuel dispensers within the short-term, this community has concentrated on alternatives to minimize the negative implications as much as possible for the merchant community. Although MAG’s request of all networks to delay this liability shift with plausible justification, we understand there is no plan to delay.  As a result, this community has been working on possible alternatives which could be implemented to reduce the burden on the merchants.
    • Debit Routing – In light of the consistent challenges that remain in the U.S. market with regards to merchant routing choice, this community was formed to focus on evaluating the barriers to merchants’ choice in routing transactions and developing plans to reduce them.  The first priority focus is on PINless capabilities from an acquirer, merchant, and issuers perspective with the latter two taking precedence.  The objective of this community is to increase PINlesss usage in the U.S. market which offers value in the form of choice and competition.
    • 8-digit BINs – In light of the ISO standard published several years ago on the need for BIN expansion as a result of multiple factors, this community has been working to identify the potential impacts to merchant and develop best practices for consideration as merchants evaluate the implications to their environment and/or questions they should ask their third-party providers.


  •  Developed a partnership with American Financial Professionals to jointly deliver core educational classes focused on payment acceptance
    • Developed the educational class outline for a 101 course
  • Executed four educational sessions at MAG conferences and made these available on the MAG website
  • Delivered 16 webinars on a range of topics
  • Formed the Cryptocurrency COP to examine existing and emerging companies, processes and methods relevant to the use of Blockchain technology in payments-related activities; to exchange ideas and understandings among MAG and other industry participants involved with the examinations; and to provide pertinent educational material for the MAG membership’s consumption.

Advocacy & Communications

  •  Released and promoted the Smarter Payments video series to help membership educate their C-Suite on payments issues facing organizations today
  • Developed and released a tokenization page on
  •  Completed a thorough audit of MAG’s communications vehicles and developing a digital strategy
  • Successfully encouraged the Federal Reserve to create a faster payments system
  • Advocated with regulators for competition and merchant choice in transaction routing
  • Broadened our reach among payments and business reporters to enhance and amplify the merchant voice 


  •  Formed the Innovation Committee of key merchant members with the goal to facilitate innovation and influence future FinTech product development 
  • Engaged with the FIN Tech community sharing the Top Ten Improvements Merchants Desire from FinTech Solutions
  • Created and launched the Tech Forum with over 350 people in attendance
  • Gained full sponsorship of the Tech initiative 
  • Founded an Executive Tech Advisory Board  
  • Launched webinar series specifically designed to educate merchants’ tech teams on technologies relevant to payments


  •  Record-setting attendance at both the mid-year and annual conferences with 850 attendees at annual conference
  • Continued high ratings for both conferences at 4.5 out of 5
  • Renewal rates for merchant members and sponsors above 90%
  • Reached 157 merchant members with increased penetration in key segments including fuel, insurance, and online

We now have seven different committees, and the discussions at the Board of Directors and committee level drive the strategy of the MAG. We continue our progress on becoming a stronger voice among the stakeholders within the payments industry which has allowed us to influence many outcomes to the benefit of merchants. 

The MAG is a merchant member driven organization, and if you believe there are opportunities which need to be addressed, there are several avenues in which you can engage including: joining a committee, proposing or participating in a Community of Practice, leading a special interest group, or simply reaching out to a board member or MAG staff member.

We look forward to 2020 and know anything is possible with your continued participation. As I pass the baton of the Chairmanship to Kathy Hanna, I couldn’t be prouder of all we have accomplished and the positive momentum we have built to ensure a bright future for the MAG.