Friday, December 12, 2008


I realize every industry has its share of acronyms. However, it does seem that the payments biz is beyond overload on this front. Having been involved in this realm for 30 years, my brain is crammed with them. I come across people that are new to the biz every day and I really feel for their struggle to understand the language. I thought it was bad trying to figure out what my kids were saying in their texts to me but at least there is a site you can go to to figure those out.
Welcome any feedback!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Under the heading, I MUST try every new payment thing...(& plenty of them do not work)

I read this week about the new PayPal Mobile Security Key. Rather than having to carry around one of those annoying key fobs, I could simply register my cell phone with PayPal and they would send me a 6 digit text message for me to enter when doing a transaction. So, I went to enroll. Well, I am now waiting almost 8 minutes for my initial enrollment text message to arrive. No sign of it. Oh well, so much for progress.

This reminds me of when I signed up for the original AMEX BLUE card that came with that free Smart Card reader. I could not wait to set it up when I first got it. This was the 1st generation unit from Gemplus and it plugged into the serial port (pre-USB days). No luck getting that thing to work. It was in conflict with also using the port to synch my PDA (PDA!, remember those...). I spent the next 30 minutes on a call with their tech support rep trying to figure out what was wrong. It would not have mattered even if I had gotten it to work, there weren't any merchants set up to accept it.

p.s. It is now 15 minutes and no sign of the text message. I have clicked the "Resend SMS" button 4 times now. Tomorrow I will probably get 4 SMS messages. Luckily I am on an unlimited SMS plan!!
p.p.s. I have one of those annoying $5 key fobs from PayPal already, had to have it as soon as they became available, but of course I never activiated it since I know how annoying it is when you want to do a transaction and don't have the token with you. :-)
p.p.p.s Wait, just got a text. Nope, just my 17 year old letting me know he was leaving the party he was at and about to drive home before the 11pm curfew!

All to save $8, the risks we will take...(oh wait, I have no risk!)

Upon return to the 5th and Mission St garage in San Francisco today, after an enjoyable visit to the SF Auto Show, I was about to pay for parking at the machine in the lobby. But, wait, there was a woman with a Visa logo on her jacket offering to comp my parking. All I had to do was have a Visa Signature branded card and let her slide it through a hand held card reader. So, putting my fears aside that she was actually a crafty card skimmer, I handed her my card. I am quite confident this was legitimate but this is the classic "cheap T-Shirt shop in the vacation spot" scam scenario where the whole purpose is capturing card numbers for resale. I wonder if the Visa security department knew what the marketing department was up to. Of course, knowing I had nothing to worry about (ie; $0 liability guarantee), I went ahead with the transaction. At today's prices, I can buy 4 gallons of gas with that $8!!!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Challenge Questions --- CHALLENGED!

I am sure you have all experienced recently a new phenomenon where you are regularly being asked to pick challenge questions as part of a new or existing username/password login. In and of itself, this isn't completely useless albeit insulting when the site claims that this is dual factor authentication which it is not.
Having a little bit of experience in this area from my Passmark Security days, it is simply amazing to me how inept most companies are at choosing what challenge questions to offer.
What is your favorite __________________?
Are they kidding?
In 12-36 months from now when the site needs to ask me one of my challenge questions, how likely do you think my favorite ___________ is still going to be the same?
The other thing which will usually render the whole purpose of these questions moot is the need to make an absolute match. Let me see, was that "School #25" or "School25" or "School#25" that I answered to the question about what grammer school I attended?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What does this have to do with payment?

So where does my skepticism come from? Having majored in marketing, I learned to question every marketing message. What I did not realize back in college is that "news" about some magic fix for problems such as SPAM would also typically be filled with a lot of wishful thinking and result in lots of unfullfilled promises. How many times have you seen articles about some consortium of big name brand companies coming together to solve the big problems of Phishing or Spam? I found it quite entertaining the other day, as an AT&T/Yahoo customer, that the Spam filter associated with my AT&T/Yahoo email account placed a promotional email from none other than Yahoo Greetings itself in the Spam filter bucket. Yup, this is art, not science and it likely always will be. GET OVER IT!!!

How does this relate to payment? Payment is all about trust. We have to trust our systems and providers. However, it is very difficult to get the general public to realize that no system is ever going to be perfect and that they have to accept some responsbility and take some risk in order to have access to various payment products and services. Instead we bombard everyone inside and outside the industry with messages about magic fixes. In the end, all this does is perpetuate a larger and larger gap in expectations versus reality and reduce the notion of what Trust even means. Thus we have a vicious cycle and no end in sight.

Oh well, back to watching college football...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learn to read between the lines...

I was just reading my daily Finextra newsletter and came across an article with the following headline - "WorldPay merchants to offer PayPal and RevolutionCard". ( Of course Marketing 101 says this is what you should do, create a provocative headline. However, the devil is in the details. Many people would read this and assume that automatically and overnight tens of thousands of merchants are all of a sudden going to be taking these new payment types. In fact that is not even close to the truth. The article itself actually was reasonable about this by saying "allows WorldPay clients to offer" but to someone not close enough to understand, even this can often be taken out of context. There have been dozens of articles about Revolution card that claim they are getting close to a million merchants. In fact, I doubt there are even 10% of those that are actually accepting it. For any merchant, both ecommerce and retail, to take a new payment type, they have to seriously consider a lot of issues such as; cost, reconcilement issues, shopping cart abandonment due to confusion or access, customer service training, programming costs, etc... It is really challenging to create a new payment brand. I have witnessed both success and failure such as Discover Card, BillMeLater and PayByTouch, BitPass respectively. It is very hard for any company trying this type of endeavor to avoid the tendency to create smoke and mirrors during the chicken and egg phase but this lack of transparency has led to a lot of skepticism. My advice - make sure you do a little deeper investigation before you leap.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Official, I am now at Vindicia

As of Monday, I am the SVP of BD for Vindicia. Here is a little background on what the company does;
Vindicia offers on-demand billing solutions for recurring and real-time payments, coupled with fraud screening and chargeback management. Our expertise and focus is around sale and delivery of digital goods. Here is a recent press release:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

News Flash!

I am starting a new job on October 13th (luckily it is a Monday, not a Friday and happens to be Columbus Day for whatever you wish to read into that). This coming Monday will be my last day at Danal. I wish the company future success. The product concept deserves to see the light of day. Stay tuned on both fronts!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Direct Response Forum

I just returned from what I think is about my 10th Direct Response Forum. The DRF has been around for 19 years. Polly Bauer ( did an excellent opening keynote and recounted the history of the DRF. Polly was one of the original founders. The DRF was founded to bring together Card Not Present (CNP) merchants, their card processors (Paymentech, First Data, Transfirst, etc.) and the card associations/brands (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) to help deal with the gap that did (and in many cases still) exists between the needs of these merchants and the payment card rules and processes which were created for face-to-face transactions. There were approximately 500 attendees at this year's conference in beautiful San Diego. (During my time at CyberSource I had the pleasure of being on the Advisory Board and speaking numerous times). The attendees include representatives of the CNP merchants, both newbees and veterans, often from operations, cash management or fraud management along with reps from the card brands, processors and various technology providers. Vendors can only attend if they already have DRF member merchants as existing clients. For anyone that is involved in the CNP space (which includes mail order/telephone order and ecommerce) this is a must attend event for both the content and networking opportunities.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"We no longer take cash, just credit cards"

Last Friday, I decided to be a good corporate citizen and take a bus from downtown Seattle to the airport rather than a taxi. I bought a ticket with cash (only option) at the Concierge desk at my hotel. The bus arrived promptly and I was on my way, only 3 other stops and then straight to the airport. At the last stop, the driver began collecting the fare. His pronouncement was, "We no longer take cash, just credit cards." He reached up and got a handheld terminal/printer out and began his trek down the aisle. On one hand, I was really impressed and amazed. I had been involved many years ago in an initiative at VeriFone called ValuCard. One of the reasons for its downfall was that the sellers, in this case, cafateria and vending machine operators, would not switch 100% to ValuCard and continued to take every other form of payment. As the situation unfolded here on the bus, I became less impressed and amazed and began to think this was pretty stupid. One interesting thing was that the Grey Line marketing brochure/schedule stated boldly that "Drivers only accept cash." What was wrong with this picture? The driver started doing one TX at a time and even though under new rules, receipts would not have been required for a $11 fare, of course since this was business travel for many, a receipt was necessary. Luckily the bus only had a dozen passengers and about half had paid in advance. It this had been a full bus, this could have turned into a nightmarish delay and a lot of unhappy customers. So, hats off to some acquirer who made this sale but I am not sure if this particular environment gives the notion of taking electronic payment a good name. p.s. The driver was a nice guy who did apologize for the delay. Feel free to click on the Comment link and add your comment! THANKS

Monday, June 30, 2008

Biggest issue; "lack of viable payment method"

I heard this message time and time again while attending the conference called Social Gaming Summit on Friday June 13th in San Francisco ( This was a very well attended event with many of the major online game and social network companies represented; Nexon, K2 Networks, Neopets, Gaia, Three Rings, Sulake, IMVU, etc. While there was one particular session on Monetization... (which of course I had to miss), during several other sessions, the speaker's frustration with a lack of a viable payment mechanism for their needs was music to my ears.

We all know that the field of micropayments is littered with failures. While I was at CyberCash, during the initial internet commercialization phase, we had an initiative called CyberCoin. I treated this like a radioactive pit for a variety of reasons, of which there are too many to dwell on here. Other companies; Digicash, Peppercoin, Magnacash, First Virtual, etc. are all other examples of roadkill in this arena.

Existing payment mechanisms, while in theory could technically satisfy the needs of the below ~$10 digital goods market, for a variety of "incumbent dilemma" and serious issues around fraud prevention have all sidetracked these alternatives.

If anyone has any questions or thoughts to contribute to this subject, please make a comment. THANKS

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rules are made to be broken

I was having coffee this morning with a wonderful person who works at Visa who I worked with on a project when I was at CyberSource. We were talking about some of the "funny" ( you have to be a payment geek ) things about the payment biz. It always made me chuckle when I ate at a Chinese restaurant that was just down the hill from Visa's offices in San Mateo, where a lot of Visa people ate, and they had a sign like the one in this post about the minimum purchase when paying with a card. Of course, Visa's rules clearly state that merchants are not allowed to have a minimum. I doubt if anyone ever called the merchant on it. Over the years as I have conversed with industry outsiders they viewed these rules as absolutes. I would refer to this story to set them straight.

Monday, May 26, 2008


This evening I was shopping for a new technology cordless phone (DECT 6.0) and came across a sweet deal at When I went to check out, they were offering eBillme as a payment alternative. Since it is mandatory that I try every new payment method, I gave it a shot. I was pretty impressed. For those of you not familiar, this is a Push payment. You shop, choose eBillme, then are given instructions to log in to your bank's bill payment site and set eBillme up as a payee and make a payment. That part was easy since eBillme was pre-registered within Wells Fargo's bill pay service. All I had to do was cut and paste the Account number I was assigned, fill in the amount and I was done. Within the next 2 days or so, eBillme will get paid by Wells and then I imagine it is another 1-2 days and the merchant will get paid. I am guessing, the fee is less than credit card and it is a guaranteed payment. In theory, I believe there could still be fraud if someone takes over your online banking account, but the consumer would be protected by RegE. Welcome any feedback!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Games + Mobile Forum @ LA Games Conference

I just returned from yet another conference covering the area of casual gaming, MMOGs and Social Networks. This was a much smaller conference than the ION conference from last week. On a scale of 1:10, it gets about a 6.5. It was mediocre on content but surprisingly the quality of the speakers and attendees was relatively high. One of the key debates in this realm is where the revenue is going to come from. Is it advertising or subscriptions or micro-transactions or some combination. Unlike the session I did at ION, there wasn't a session to educate this audience about the nuances of payment which they could definately benefit from. One of the sponsors of the conference was PaymentOne which offers landline billing and has signed some name recognizable game companies. My personal opinion is that mobile billing will be far more successful. Landline billing has been around for a long time but with landlines diminishing, the user experience being very time consumming and inconvenient (ie; you have to be home), you can't be on VOIP and the lack of being able to tie a transaction much more positively to a particular user, I not only do not see it being viable but in fact gives the notion of billing to a phone bill a bad name. I welcome any debate or questoins on these topics. p.s. The food was 10x better at the ION conference!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mobile Forum of Telecom Council

On Friday, I attended a meeting of this organization. It was very well attended, oversubscribed actually, by members of the mobile carrier industry, bunch of VCs, mobile phone manufacturers, emerging mobile payment players, etc... Most of the talk was about Person<>Person (domestic and cross border) transfers and NFC (oops, I mean RFID, oops, I mean Contactless). Presentations were made by Visa, Obopay, SK Telecom, Firethorn, and Vivotech. The presentations were very good, lite on the sales pitches. The 800 lb gorilla in the room is on the on-going debate over the business model between the FIs and the Mobile Carriers. Of course, it you like seeing big fat gorillas dance, this would have been a great oppty since no one wanted to take on the issue directly. Lucky for us here at Danal, our BilltoMobile service is not a victim of this debate. If anyone would like any more specific info on the event, feel free to place a comment. Unfortunately as a pre-revenue start-up, we cannot afford to pay $4k to join the Telecom Council so we won't be getting copies of the PPTs. We could only afford the $100 ticket price.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Where do we go from here...?

I am going to start communicating this blog url out to folks. Rather than me simply blurting out my opinions on the many diverse topics of interest in the payment world, I just want to open it up and have people start "talking" and we will see where it goes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

1st Note

This should be interesting!