News Feature | August 7, 2014

Helgeson Forecasts The Future Of Payments At RetailNOW

Jim Roddy

By Jim Roddy, Vantiv

Helgeson Future Of Payments At RetailNOW

With apologies to E.F. Hutton, when Henry Helgeson talks about payments, people listen. The CEO of Merchant Warehouse, who is regularly quoted in Forbes and other national media outlets, drew a large crowd to his Aug. 5 RetailNOW presentation titled “The Future Of Payments.”

While Helgeson talked about a wide range of payment-related topics affecting the channel, I listened — and took notes. Here are some highlights:

  • “EMV is now on our doorstep,” Helgeson said. “Like it or not, we are going there. But EMV is not as complicated as everyone says it is.”
  • “We want to do it in the United States in part so we are on the same system as the rest of the world and don’t have any confusion when people visit. This is a big opportunity for us to lock down on security in the U.S. Fortunately, the rest of the world has given us a model to follow.”
  • “The bad news with EMV is we only have 15 months to do it,” Helgeson said, referring to the October 2015 EMV certification deadline. “This is especially challenging for the SMB market. You should anticipate a backlog for certifications. If you try to do it in Q2 2015, your customers may get pushed into 2016. When Taco Bell puts in an order the same time as your three-location merchant, who do you think they’ll take care of first?”
  • “If your processor doesn’t have answers on EMV, push them for a schedule and a roadmap.”
  • Discussing mobile payments, Helgeson said, “As much grief as the PCI Council gets, at least there’s one body setting guidelines. In mobile payments there isn’t one.”
  • “There is no value putting a credit card number on a phone anymore. To me it’s a parlor trick.”
  • “Don’t write off NFC (near field communication). Those in payments know it’s a viable technology that can work. If it wasn’t, Google wouldn’t be investing in it.”
  • “Our customers care about revenue, not data. They don’t have two terabytes of data. If we can make this simple for them, we will succeed at mobile payments.”
  • “We are starting to realize there’s not just one answer for mobile marketing. Each app has a big user base, and we have to give the merchant access to many platforms. We have to be smart with our time. We can’t integrate 200 players.”
  • Helgeson offered his general thought process for analyzing the viability of these apps. “Unless there’s incentive for the merchant and the user, cross it off your list. That will take your list down to about 100. Lots of these companies are naïve about our channel. These are very immature products we are working through right now.”
  • “Google and PayPal have hundreds of thousands of users, but they can’t get to the merchants. That puts this room in an incredibly powerful position. The economics of this works strongly in favor of the people in this room. But we have to get in front of this.”

RetailNOW 2014, hosted by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), was conducted Aug. 3-6 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, FL. For more information on the event, go to