Alto Global Processing: When Projecting Payments’ Future, Look First To Its Past

By Ben Carsley, Managing Editor (@BC_PYMNTS)

Welcome to PYMNTS.com’s 2013 CEO Series: a quick and concise glimpse into the minds of the leaders of the payments industry and how they view innovation, change and growth. We’ll ask each top exec the same six questions about the payments industry to gauge who they view as innovation experts and why they feel their company stands out. What advice do these leaders have to offer to those looking to survive in a complex and dynamic industry? On PYMNTS.com, you can find out.

In this installment, we speak with Ken Paull, CEO of ROAM, to learn his thoughts on payments innovation, how the industry is changing and more. What does Paull believe many players forget when trying to innovate in payments, and what does he say payments’ past tells us about its present and future? Find out below.

How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?

It’s a collaborative effort between our own vision of where we see this industry going and the demands coming from our customers and partners. We put a lot of pressure and responsibility on ourselves to be visionaries in this space, as evidenced by delivering the first encrypted card reader to the market and some of the more recent innovations we’ve worked on with customers, such as the integration of payments into a broader mobile experience.  You learn so much more and shape such a stronger vision by engaging your customers in this process and jointly leveraging each other’s ideas.

What is the most innovative thing that you have introduced into the market – and what did it deliver to the stakeholder group that was its target?

I’d have to say the most innovative thing we’ve done is architecting our entire platform in a way that’s not only fully brandable and customizable, but also flexible enough so that it can be unbundled into separate offerings. Taking that approach has allowed many major players out in the market to leverage our platform to not only compete with the likes of Square and the other players in the market, but actually break out more value-added solutions and do it with ease and agility. We’ve given other players in the market a huge competitive advantage by providing an affordable way for them to get to market with a mobile commerce solution of their own.

Where do you look for innovative ideas and why?

I already spoke about how important our customers are to our innovation process, but in our goal to become a best of breed provider, we acknowledge that we can’t always develop everything in-house ourselves, especially not in such a rapidly growing segment. So, we also look to key partners for their input and expertise. By integrating some of our partners’ solutions into our platform, those partners become another source of innovation. We’re always surveying the market for other businesses that are providing new and innovative mobile development tools and software modules that might bring value to our customer base.

What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?

Many companies don’t look backwards and learn enough about where the payments industry has been and how it has evolved. Even though mobile is a new frontier, the mobile payments space is following a lot of the same trajectory that physical payments and eCommerce went through. For example, if you look at a physical countertop device, at first it only accepted credit cards, next it was debit cards, then it was prepaid cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, etc. That’s in essence what we see happening in our industry. Now the software and value-added applications are really streaming in to surround the existing hardware capabilities for mobile card acceptance. I think people underestimate how much innovation has already taken place in the industry and how much of the groundwork has already been laid for the new players entering this space.

What person or company do you think “gets” innovation and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it and why?

That is a very difficult question. In terms of mobile payments, we are probably working in some form or fashion with a majority of the industry players, so it’s difficult in two respects.  The first is that many of them ask us not to disclose information about our relationship, as is the nature of being a “behind the brand” technology platform. The second is that there are just too many people we could offend by excluding. Being an Ingenico company, we obviously have a bias in this respect because we certainly think Ingenico “gets” innovation. By investing in ROAM and building out a mobility line of business, they have the vision to understand how key mobile is to the transformation of this industry and how important it is to their future. On the contrary, we have seen many of Ingenico’s competitors put a less persistent effort into this market during a time that is a very critical inflection point in our industry.

What advice would you give a young innovator in this space and why would you tell her to heed it?

Never lose sight of the wants and needs of your customer (or in the case of a distribution channel environment – your customer’s customer). And don’t be afraid to reach out to your customers and to the market to share ideas and gain other people’s input. This is a complicated ecosystem that we operate in and to develop and bring products out to the market in a silo is a risky venture.


Ken Paull, CEO of ROAM

Ken has over 20 years in senior management roles in the electronic payments industry including senior vice president at RBS Lynk (now WorldPay), vice president at Triton Systems and general manager at VeriFone. He was responsible for building and rapidly growing what is now WorldPay’s national account payments division while also directing the turnaround of what had been a declining ATM processing business. While at Triton, the company surpassed NCR as the second largest domestic ATM supplier and also became the global leader in retail ATM deployments. At VeriFone, Ken built their major account, retail division which has become one of the largest segments of their business. Most recently, Ken has held positions of board director at Access to Money, director at Market Platform Dynamics and president of Pax. A native of the Boston area, Ken holds a B.S. in Marketing and Communications from Babson College, as well as an MBA in Telecommunications Management from Golden Gate University.

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