Online Credit Card Services and Payments Online
Judson Smith – Merchant Account Card Services Online Payments CEO BIO
Judson Smith (Jud) began his career in the merchant card services industry in 1999. By 2010 he had assembled one of America's largest online ecommerce payments portfolios in house for PowerPay -(powerpay.biz).* EVO Payments International acquired PowerPay in December 2012.
Jud’s career began in the Technical Department at First Merchants Bancard (FMBS), starting out setting up and programming credit card system merchant accounts in the Technical Services and Deployment area. As the company was starting to grow, some bottlenecks were created in the Technical merchant account setup areas. By identifying these bottlenecks, and streamlining merchant account setup and installations, independent agents and affiliates significantly increased the number of applications submitted. The goal was to improve all areas of the Technical setups so merchants could process credit and debit cards on Visa and Mastercard networks more quickly. Short credit card system merchant account setups became crucial to attracting new agents, which were the companies’ main channel. Turnaround and setup time that most processing companies could not match became part of the companies success.
As the Internet grew during the 1999-2002 time period, emerging markets began accepting payments online. Around this time, the emergence of B2B payments, medical payment processing and recurring payments for medical and dental payment processing started to gain traction, setting the stage for the coming Internet rush for online merchant account gateways and online payment software to accept online payments. From there, retail payments wanted to offer gifts cards and accept gift cards. The payments technology executives who developed the software and equipment needed during this busy time were amazingly innovative and agile. It was during this time that Jud began to realize that technology would drive the payments world one day.
In the years 2000–2001 the need to accept online payments through traditional retail credit card payments and merchant card services companies gained a tremendous amount of momentum. New merchant account sales agents were entering the payments industry daily – attempting to cash in on the new “Wild West” of leasing credit card terminals and shifting to online ecommerce payments as their business model. The ability to provide a retail payments environment with an online credit card system to process ecommerce payments online resulted in consolidation within the industry – processors were being bought for the portfolio of merchants they processed credit cards payments for. The rush to provide credit card payment systems for new merchants, now with a merchant account payment gateway component - exponentially increased the risk involved for processors and merchants now accepting ecommerce payments. This created a whole new set of internal guidelines to follow in the underwriting process, technical deployment setup and Risk Departments. The ability to process payments online through a merchant card services payment gateway created different challenges with customer service billing – merchants were not familiar with card services fees for Internet transactions. Overall the solution was to have the Technical department take on additional merchant training during deployment, which reduced end of month credit card merchant account ecommerce billing fee customer service call volume.
Jud was eventually internally promoted to the Underwriting, Risk and Operations side of the company - assigned the task of streamlining those departments as well, which began to have a significant impact on the organization as a whole. Due to the payments consolidation during the early part of the 2000’s, FMBS was target a few times to be acquired – eventually being sold In 2002 to iPayment (Nasdaq: IPMT) which completed a successful IPO. At that time of closing, Judson was responsible for the Risk Management of accounts worth more than $1.1BB per year while incurring less than $100,000 in losses. As the company winded down, it was apparent that the next evolution of the industry was online payment gateways, Authorize.net and online ecommerce merchant accounts. Internet payment gateways were fast becoming the preferred method to increase sales to a merchant account. The ability to accept credit card payments online through a merchant account gateway became one of the fastest growing segments of the payments industry to date. The writing was on the wall - those payments companies that could embrace ecommerce change would be out in front. Jud was determined to one day use the unique, inside processing knowledge he had acquired. As FMBS was sold to iPayment in 2002, it appeared Jud’s merchant account career might be over.
PowerPay was established just as the US economy started to pull into a very optimistic bull market. A few talented former FMBS staff began to rebuild the infrastructure needed for a new card services payments company. PowerPay finally began to breathe - and Jud was again brought back into the payments world in 2003. This time it would be to build a new channel of business, (after establishing the Risk and Underwriting departments which were still in beginning stages). This time Jud would focus on sales with an ecommerce payments focus which required different marketing methodologies than retail payments.
Integrating affiliate marketing into the sales methodology Jud was developing, he was promoted in late 2003 to the position of Vice President of Affiliate Relations. From 2003 to 2010 he blended years of Risk/Underwriting experience to construct one of the largest, low-risk ecommerce portfolios in the country. Eventually, the PowerPay Affiliate Relations platform became an online payments home for many Internet ecommerce marketers who needed to accept card services and payments online. His unique ability to see behind the curtains of thousands of merchants and business models allowed him to develop relationships with some of the most brilliant online marketers in the world. In turn, these relationships provided Jud a unique platform to inquire about digital ecommerce marketing. At the same time – it allowed online merchants and affiliate marketers to query information related to risk and business models in the processing world; paying dividends. They learned to process more credit card payments, safely, and kept the Risk down by posting and adhering to solid return policies for online products and services they sold. Processing more volume than ever before - this fueled the affiliate model Jud was using to promote and refer more business to the Affiliate Channel. The marketers learned to process more online credit card payments, while reducing the overall exposure the increased credit card processing represented.
Biggest lesson - providing VIP customer service to a merchant – directly from a payments executive- was not, and is not something that even today most merchants have access to. This was the single biggest key to the success of the Affiliate Relations Channel, and building such an effective referral platform. Customer service could be turned into an opportunity to drive more referrals. It was simple, and effective - and still works today across many industries.
Over the years Jud began to attempt to seek out the more common keys to ecommerce success – identifying key traits with online ecommerce merchants who processed through the affiliate channel. Jud dreamed he could he one day build his own card payments company using the knowledge gained through the years. The thought then, and now is the same: The ability to accept card services, or process credit and debit payments online can be a complicated process. There is no doubt providing merchant account education decreases overall risk, and allows a merchant to process more credit card payments. The result is lower losses across the board. Knowing your merchant is risk management at its’ purest. After more than a decade in the merchant card services industry catering to an exclusive group of ecommerce merchants - Jud established Paygrip, LLC in 2011.