One of the nation’s largest payment processing companies has made a decision to bring its technology and data security products and services to the timeshare industry. CardConnect provides secure technology solutions and facilitates over $16 billion in payment processing annually for more than 50,000 merchant clients nationwide.
The company’s clients range from small and mid-size businesses to Fortune 500 companies, as well as the Social Security Administration. In April of this year, CardConnect joined ARDA and made its first appearance at the annual convention in Las Vegas. According to company executives, its market entry decision followed over a year of research that, in the company’s view, revealed an industry under-served because it has been broadly, and erroneously, categorized as “high risk” by other providers. Usually, a high risk assessment translates into higher costs to merchants for credit card transactions. Company executives disagree with this generalized assessment and are committed to cost-effectively bring to the timeshare business its “state-of-the-industry” technology and data safeguards. “We are a payment technology company,” explained Card Connect’s national head of business development, Josh Robinson, “and what sets us apart is that we are an all-encompassing provider. Instead of focusing on a narrow niche, such as restaurants and bars, we can effectively engage with any merchant class. In addition, we offer customized solutions rather than just a ‘one size fits all’ product. We network our merchant clients to each other, and we aggressively form strategic alliances with companies who can provide value-add products and services.”
“The company was formed in 2006 by leaders from other companies in our industry,” Robinson explained. “Our first step was to become a wholesale Independent Sales Organization (ISO) of First Data, the largest company of its kind in the payment processing industry. For the first several years, our target was small and medium size companies and our focus was on products and services that would save them money. In 2012, we purchased Princeton Payment Solutions, the first of nine acquisitions, and broadened our business model with an emphasis on sophisticated and propriety technology. This move took us quickly and successfully to the very large client arena where our enterprise solutions have been exceptionally well received. We are now one of the largest companies of our kind in the United States.”
The Vacation Ownership Industry
When asked what CardConnect expects to achieve in the industry, Robinson responded, “We are fully committed to become the timeshare industry’s best-in-class provider of payment processing and related technology. That may sound like a bold statement, and I guess it is. But it is one we can back up with performance. Although we are one of the largest processing companies in the country, we are very entrepreneurial, very creative and very nimble. And, we are absolutely intent on being more competitive than other providers available to timeshare companies.” Why does CardConnect see an opportunity in an industry it believes has been under-served for decades? “It’s all about being focused and opportunistic,” Robinson responded. “Very early in our 2013 research we were introduced to Gildersleeve Partners in Seattle. We fully vetted its principal, Larry Gildersleeve, and asked him to join us in our due diligence. Larry was able to accelerate our learning curve and focus us on where we could benefit the industry while at the same time open up a new avenue of commercial opportunity for our company. He facilitated introductions to industry leaders and each one validated our conclusions. So we engaged Gildersleeve Partners to lead our market entry and advise on our business development initiatives. We joined ARDA and attended our first industry conference in April. And I am pleased to say we now have contractual relationships with companies large and small.” “We know every timeshare company accepting credit cards currently has a payment processing provider. But what we have discovered is often there is no formalized internal review process at the executive level to from time to time assess costs, service levels and the availability of a better mousetrap. What we will be seeking is simply an opportunity to tell our story.”
Robinson said “The best way to illustrate our partnerships is with examples, such as Womply. This company provides technology to enable merchants to identify, understand and engage their customers and increase revenue. It also facilitates analysis capability in areas such as social media and online reputation management, and all without new hardware or software installation. Our relationship with Womply has enabled us to private label their products as CardConnect Insights. We also handle payment processing for Avero, a restaurant business intelligence tool, and that relationship enables us offer their services to timeshare resorts operating restaurants. Avero provides historical sales trends tying in attributes like special events and weather. Additionally, a service component provides managers with detailed performance statistics around bartenders and wait staff. Another partnership, this one with Revamp Engine, will greatly enhance a resort developer’s ability to remain engaged with owners and potential owners by leveraging social media communication channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Such partnerships may sound like departures from our core payment processing business, but they are all carefully selected to be synergistic to help companies such as resort developers and property managers to acquire, retain and appropriately monetize customers who will often make payments using credit or debit cards, as well as gift cards and loyalty offers.”
The timeshare categorized as “high risk” by other providers. Usually, a high risk assessment translates into higher costs to merchants for credit card transactions. CardConnect executives disagree with this generalized assessment and are committed to cost-effectively bring to the timeshare business its “state-of-the-industry” technology and data safeguards.
When asked about their cost structure, Robinson replied: “With size comes the ability to downstream cost savings to customers while still providing the best products and services. If you process $16 billion in payment transactions annually, you are in a position to be price competitive with virtually any size merchant. Our full service, ‘one-stop shopping’ business model enables us to eliminate a variety of recurring charges encountered when multiple service providers are engaged for the same merchant customer. We are not a fixed cost provider, and we initiate individualized pricing discussions with each potential customer based upon their specific needs and circumstances. We truly believe,
across the board, that CardConnect offers a better solution at a lower overall cost.”
When asked about distinguishing characteristics and differential advantages with CardConnect, Robinson responded: “Today, our company is distinguished by a carefully crafted marriage of payment processing, leading edge technology and an unparalleled commitment to the security of consumer data obtained by our clients in their daily course of business. As I mentioned earlier, I’m confident we can save companies in the timeshare industry a lot of money and make their operational lives easier with our proprietary technology. But we also will be creating awareness of the challenges and potentially enormous liabilities that can burden any company that experiences a security breach that creates exposure of confidential customer data. This has certainly gained widespread awareness as a result of Target’s problem last Christmas shopping season, and many other prominent occurrences this year. It’s a problem for which we have the solution.”
“It is also important for me to say that while processing transactions is our core business, we are very open to making our technology and data security services available to timeshare companies who are unable to change their payment processing relationship.”
2014 and beyond
In reviewing Card Connect’s first year and a look to the future, Robinson said: “We acknowledge our business has a long sales cycle, and we know our entry into the timeshare industry is a marathon, not a sprint. We have secured some great clients early on, and as of this interview we have numerous strategic alliance discussions underway with other prominent industry professionals. We will be very active within ARDA in areas in which we can be of assistance. We recognize we are industry newcomers, and we are intent on learning as much as we can as quickly as possible.”
Robinson: “Our company is distinguished by a carefully crafted marriage of payment processing, leading edge technology and an unparalleled com- mitment to the security of consumer data obtained by our clients in their daily course of usiness. I’m confident we can save companies in the timeshare industry a lot of money and make their operational lives easier with our proprietary technology.”