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Do your customers appreciate all that development effort?


cup_of_coffee.JPGI consider myself to be a tech-savvy consumer. When I want to grab a coffee from my favorite chain on the way to work, I pull up the merchant provided app as I start the car. I see my recent orders, and in most cases just re-submit my last purchase. I can get up-to-the-minute information about the stores around me, in case my normal stop is running low on my favorite brand. I place the order, and authenticate payment with a thumbprint as I shift into reverse gear, and set out on the short drive to the coffee shop. When I get there, I check my phone to verify that the order is ready, walk in to the store, greet the clerk, and leave with my cup of brew in a few seconds. The process I just described takes a small army of systems marching in lockstep to pull off. It no doubt took an enormous amount of design, development work, QA & testing. Consider some of the issues that developers had to grapple with:


The mobile application needed to communicate with the store’s inventory management system, with a CRM system (to access my profile, preferences and buying history), with Apple Pay or Android Pay to access my payment credentials, and with a payment processor to authorize & process payment. The point-of-sale (POS) system in the coffee shop needed to be able to accept my on-line/eCommerce order and pass it to the barista's queue as it would a regular in-store purchase. The POS needed access to my stored (tokenized) payment credentials, in case I wanted to add some banana bread at the last minute while picking up the coffee.


As if this all wasn’t enough, the systems behind the transaction needed my customer details to print out a personalized label that could be used to identify me when I came in to claim my coffee. Trials are already underway with smarter payment systems that pull up a customer’s photo as they walk into the store so that a savvy barista can greet their customer by name and perhaps even wish them a Happy Birthday.


Whether too much personalization starts to feel creepy is up for debate, but months of development work and cross-functional teaming no doubt went into this delicate ballet.  Do I appreciate the effort? I haven’t really thought much about it to be honest. I just want my coffee to be ready when I walk in the door. If this shop can't do that, odds are I’ll just find a competitor who can.


The lessons for developers & merchants:

Customers may not be familiar with (or care) about things like Tokenization, BLE or Beacons, but they certainly care about convenience, security and good service. Consumers want the buying experience to be simple and seamless. Providing this type of consistent, convenient buying experience requires a high degree of integration between traditionally discrete, channel-specific technologies that merchants have been using for years. The omnicommerce “first movers”, backed by talented IT shops and developers, have set the bar high indeed. Customers might not care about omnichannel, but they certainly know convenience when they see it and are voting with their (increasingly digital) wallets.


Developers have a crucial role to play in engineering customer experiences that are as satisfying as the coffee itself!


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To learn more about integrating In-App and web-based buying experiences with your POS, check out our Mobile & Digital Wallet Developer Resources on Vantiv O.N.E.

A Fascinating undercurrent of business funding is currently shifting to a new model. This model is sometimes called a token sale or as some call a pun on the IPO process, the ICO or Initial Coin Offering. This term ICO has become a bad word in some circles, with others preferring ITO or token sale to remove the term from the possible correlation with the regulators. Don't worry if you haven't heard of this, but you probably will in the coming years, and hopefully below will shed a bit of light.


How and Why

This finance process is accomplished by raising money by issuing a cryptocurrency token via an initial cryptocurrency offering crowd sale. Generally, the guidelines of the sale are put in place by the capital raising group, although there have been a recent flurry of suggestions and new off-shoots to help guide both the token creator and the purchaser.


These companies and their tokens are blazing ahead with incredible traction leaving regulators wondering what to do. There are already hundreds if not thousands of tokens issued and while there are some big hits, there are also many failures. Fred Ehrsam of Coinbase wrote "Some token models don't make sense. For every 1 huge hit there will be 3 minor success and 100 failures, so we shouldn't be surprised when some fail. However, the fundamentals of the token model are valuable and powerful. They allow communities to govern themselves, their economics, and rally a community in powerful ways that will allow open systems to flourish in a way that was previously impossible." A common correlative example is that this now allows the ability to fund a large distributed project, something like Linux, which before there was no direct mechanism to do such a thing.


Another good point to keep in mind if you are skeptical about this is that the history of venture capital faced very similar issues. At one time, stocks were considered a new asset class just as cryptocurrencies are today and the very idea of venture capital required re-engineering of the financial regulatory infrastructure.


The tokens are coming (what to do about it)

On the Distributed panel, a lot of focus was placed on what to do if you were interested in offering, funding or purchasing token offering. The first thing is to make sure you understand the risks, this is high-risk, bleeding edge technology. Now that we have that out of the way, read about the different types of tokens that are being offered (realize this is a fast moving space, and even that article is a bit dated).


Once there is a basic understanding the things to look for include:

  • Team Quality, this is the most important piece, they should have a business team
  • A distinguished product
  • A legible and clear whitepaper that directly calls out the case for the token
  • Should take an international perspective
  • Should have a good advisory board with leading experts in the space


Things that to watch out for:

  • If this is a new network token, why?
  • Does it seem speculative and only for profit?
  • Does it have a ceiling in place for the raise
  • If it is complex, it is a red flag


If you are looking to create an offering there were some good points brought up as well:

  • Ensure that you have a good product that fits the model
  • Enable information access about the offering
  • Build a large community for the product and the offering


Clearly, there are many taking a deep hard look at what is going on here, venture capitalists among those. The blockchain space is clearly bleeding-edge. It seems as if the technology is something similar to the early days of the internet and it is difficult to develop a filter for what is fiction at this point. The use cases are numerous and at times obvious, yet it is unclear how and when we will see adoption. That said, it is exciting that we can fund blockchain projects in a way we never could before and hopefully open up new possibilities that we have never seen before.


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Read Part 1 Here: Blockchain Part 1: Cross-Border Payments and Remittances

Read Part 2 Here: Blockchain Explained: Debt Markets and P2P Lending (Part 2)

In February I got to attend the distributed markets hackathon and after spending 24 hours hacking our way through The Coffee Chain we won some bitcoin and got third place! If you want to learn more about our experience read Tony's post here. Due to our efforts, we continued on to the conference and were graced to learn about blockchain use cases from many panelists across different tracks. I want to discuss three of the tracks I attended and I'm going to break this up into three parts. The first being Cross-Border Payments and Remittances, the second, Debt Markets and P2P Lending and the third Token Sales and ICO Funding models. If you need a primer in blockchains, see this article from Brian Forde.


Cross-Border Payments and Remittances


One of these tracks was cross-border payments and remittances. One of the first things we realize in this space and existing systems is that costs are high. See this guardian article that describes the huge profits extracted on oversea money transfers. At times that can rise into the double digits. When a worker in one country wants to send money to his family in the Bahamas, a double-digit fee can take a significant bite out his pay. The other issue is that the transfer can be inefficient. It can take days or weeks to settle and requires the use of many intermediaries to arrive at settlement.


This brings us to bitcoin and the blockchain and it can potentially offer nearly a trillion dollars in savings on these types of transactions. It allows, for a much smaller set of fees and near instant settlement. The issue arises really on the edges of this system where the end users have to convert and deal with their individual fiat currencies. In some realms, it is relatively easy to convert and transfer bitcoin to a fiat currency, in others it is prohibited by central banks. This is where one of the company and individuals directly focused, Gabriel Abed of They took the Barbados dollar and made it digital, the Barbados Digital Dollar. They are doing a lot of the hard legwork with central banks, foreign banks and trying to build true trust amongst the public. There are a lot of questions that remain, but many positives that can be achieved.


So, what are the barriers to adoption at present to moving cross-border and remittance transactions into this new digital blockchain realm? As mentioned building trust is probably the first component. There is a cultural stigma to the digitization of cash that is real and present and this must be addressed to gain end-user mass adoption. For now, depending on the friction involved in the transaction, many users will opt for the digitized version if it is easy to use.


This brings us to another high priority issue which is ease of use, dealing with private keys, PHPthe highest priority is ease of use.  Crypto-Markets can be complex and understanding cryptographic keys, PGP and more, can all be a bit much for an end user to handle. This is something many gladly pay to have abstracted away in the existing system and don't even know it. This is where something like netki can aid with the abstraction,  working to break down the ease of use case.


Another barrier is the lack of standards in the blockchain space. This is where enterprises like can play a role. Having been involved in payments for many years, recently doing functional testing of EMV cards, standards increase trust, especially amongst B2B intermediaries. UL actively sees a role for standards and will aid in pushing this forward.


Traditionally counterparty and systemic risk have been a large issue in this marketplace. When viewed from a crypto-market lens, the glasses can get quite rosy. That is not to say that counterparty and systemic risk do not exist, they do, perhaps, in this case, it could be the underlying trust in the network itself, as opposed to a counterparty risk.


In the future, remittance and global money transfer may become as cheap and fast as sending an SMS message to your friend in another part of the world. There may come a point where there is a proliferation of cross-border payments as they become near-free and the ease of use cases are adopted.


Next - Blockchain Part 2: Debt Markets and P2P Lending


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P2P Lending in the technological sense is a relatively new phenomenon. In the early part of the millennium, a few P2P marketplaces began to spring up in the U.S. offering (at times) high-risk, high-reward loans. One example of this started around 2005, They had to overcome a number of hurdles and even faced a class action lawsuit in 2008. There were others like TrustBuddy that went out of business completely due to misconduct. As of June 2012, Lending Club is the world's largest P2P lending marketplace.


These P2P marketplaces have some interesting characteristics, these include:

  • Sometimes for profit
  • No necessary prior relationship between marketplace lenders and borrowers
  • Transactions take place online
  • Loans can be unsecured or secured and are not normally protected by government insurance
  • Potential for faster finance times
  • Ability to circumnavigate some regulations like CRA
  • Loans are securities that can be transferred to others for debt collection or profit


P2P Lending is more active abroad.

In non-U.S. based circles the activity in P2P lending has been considerably more active. China is estimated to have the largest and most active market with more than 4,000 providers. This has led some of the largest in the space to take a harder look at blockchain technologies.


Large P2P Marketplaces are evaluating BlockChain

During the discussion at Distributed, the panelists were asked if blockchain would even be a good fit in this space. It was generally accepted that from a contractual perspective it was. It appears some large P2P marketplaces are taking notice. China-based Dianrong has begun to integrate an application they are calling D-Chain for greater transparency and security on both the borrowing and lending side. We can see from their D-Chain image below how P2P based activities integrate to the blockchain.



P2P Lending is a new market and is high-risk. Working with bleeding edge technology in a high-risk space may not make sense.  Speed to finance appears to be a great issue to tackle in blockchain P2P finance at first glance, but this really may be a better issue for blockchain to solve on a more traditional instrument, like residential loans that generally take 3-9 months to complete the transaction.


The convergence of P2P and blockchain at first glance seem like a natural fit, under the covers, there may still remain a number of challenges that will need to be addressed.


Next - Blockchain Part 3: Token Sales and ICO Funding Models

Get Part 1 Here: Blockchain Part 1: Cross-Border Payments and Remittances


Vantiv Visits Voatz and Toast

Posted by jmather May 11, 2017

At the beginning of April, our team took to the road to visit our colleagues and partners in Massachusetts. We flew into Boston and high-tailed to Lowell office.



Here we got to learn the many intricacies of card not present, and how a well-oiled machine works under the covers.

Developer Integrations on the left, E-commerce on the right, notice our toes dip into the blue on Vantiv blue on both sides:




We also got to spend some time in Boston down on Milk Street. Here we got to visit with Nimit Sawhney, the Co-Founder of Voatz (of Techstars Boston fame, and previous multi-time hackathon winner) and Bjorn Ahbel one of our amazing Vantiv partners from Toast. The Voatz platform is pretty amazing, built on a distributed ledger, it is steadily changing the way the world votes, from political elections to shareholder voting and more. Below you can see Nimit demonstrating the Voatz platform to us.




Bjron and Toast are doing some amazing work, building a true restaurant ecosystem that is unique to the space, leveraging our Payment Facilitator line of business.


We, of course, got out to see Boston a little bit as well, unfortunately, the weather wasn't all the cooperative, we made a jaunt to Faneuil Hall but we were nearly stopped by the wind and rain:




We also spent the evening in Boston's north end where we go to visit the cash-only establishment of Mike's Pastry (come on Mike, you know you could make more money by letting Vantiv serve you!). Below you can see me looking very sad that I don't have a pastry of my own:




It is truly special to get to spend time with such innovative and thought provoking team members and individuals. At Vantiv we love to help drive and support innovation both in business and the world of payments. If you ever want to help us innovate with your business, please get in touch.


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I’m moderating a Communication Workshop for a Vantiv ISV partner next month, so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the most effective place to start a discussion on communication best practices. I mean, if the workshop leader communicates poorly, that’s not exactly confidence-inspiring for everyone else the room.


I’ve learned that the foundation for effective communication – with co-workers, customers, and even family – begins with the Communication Rule: If you have an issue with someone or someone’s behavior and you seek change or resolution, talk directly to that person.


Following the Communication Rule provides an opportunity to demonstrate the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. If someone has a problem with you, would you want them to talk with you directly about it? Or would you want them to talk with others, or say nothing at all?


The adage “Bad News Never Ages Well” is accurate. The longer you let a bad situation go, the worse it gets. Following the Communication Rule enables problems and misunderstandings to be resolved quickly, which in turn creates a more positive and more productive work environment.


In many cases, the person with the undesirable behavior will not know their behavior caused you grief. As a result, the individual will sincerely want to fix the issue. In addition, speaking directly to the person builds respect between the two parties.


The following four scenarios related to the Communication Rule show a clear difference in outcomes. Will is a field technician and Sarah is an account executive for Underwood POS. When Sarah calls one of her customers, Taki’s Restaurant, the owner says that he was dissatisfied with Will’s performance yesterday afternoon. The owner said Will was less friendly than normal and rushed through the job of servicing one of their POS systems. He didn’t refill and reattach the receipt printer before he left, and a new staff member had to figure out how to make it work on her own. Sarah apologizes to the owner and thanks him for letting her know about his dissatisfaction. Right after she hangs up the phone, Will enters the office and sits down at his desk across the room from Sarah.


  • Scenario #1: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will because she is afraid of potential confrontations. She crosses her fingers and hopes this won’t be a recurring behavior. When Will leaves the office 45 minutes later for a maintenance call with Serafini’s Restaurant, Sarah’s biggest customer, she gets a pit in her stomach.


  • Scenario #2: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will because she is angry at him. Instead, she walks to the break room where Kristin, a fellow account executive, is pouring herself a cup of coffee. Sarah tells Kristin about the conversation she just had with Taki’s and how angry she is at Will. Kristin only adds to Sarah’s anger when she says, “Yeah, we’re at the mercy of the techs. Nothing we can do but watch the customers that we bring in leave. I wish those guys cared as much as we do.”


  • Scenario #3: Sarah doesn’t say anything to Will and instead walks over to the desk of Stu, a field technician who joined the company a few months ago. Sarah vents to Stu about the conversation she just had with Taki’s and how frustrated she is with Will. Stu is uncomfortable hearing negative feedback about his mentor, and he isn’t sure how to respond. After Sarah finishes venting and leaves the room, Will stops by Stu’s desk to ask how he’s doing. Stu relays to Will a version of Sarah’s story about Taki’s. Will replies, “Really? She didn’t say anything to me.” Walking back to his desk, Will wonders to himself what else Sarah and the other sales reps are saying behind his back.


  • Scenario #4: Sarah walks over to Will’s desk and asks him if he has a minute. He says yes, so they walk to a conference room where Sarah closes the door. She tells Will about the conversation she just had with Taki’s. Will apologizes profusely. “I’m sorry – I rushed in-and-out of there because right when I pulled into their parking lot I got a call from the Assistant Principal that my son got into more trouble at school and they wanted to meet with me right away. I knew Taki’s wanted their POS system serviced before their dinner rush yesterday, so I told the Assistant Principal I would be there within a half hour. I should have just asked Taki’s if I could come back later to do the job the right way. Would you be OK if I went to Taki’s now before my 10 o’clock service call at Serafini’s? I want to apologize to them directly and then run through my servicing checklist like I should have yesterday to make sure everything is running correctly.” Sarah agrees to that action plan. Will finishes the conversation by saying, “Thank you for letting me know I screwed up. I hope I didn’t harm your relationship with them. I know how hard you worked to bring them in. I promise you I’m going to do better going forward – this won’t happen again.”


As those scenarios illustrate, the Communication Rule is fair treatment of your co-workers. They could be doing something wrong inadvertently or doing something below standard that affects their career, your customers, and your company. So direct communication is the best option, but why don’t we follow it every time? Common reasons include:


  • These types of conversations make you uncomfortable.
  • The person is your friend, and you don’t want to harm the relationship.
  • You feel you shouldn’t judge others. “Who am I to correct them? I make mistakes, too.”
  • You worry if you criticize them they will quit.
  • You feel you don’t have time to get into a conversation.
  • You assume they already know they need to perform better.
  • You rationalize that what they did isn’t a real problem. “Am I too sensitive? Was this really below standard?”
  • Resignation. “Even if I say something, nothing will change.”


Whatever your excuse for breaking the Communication Rule, you have to overcome that mental obstacle. Not addressing below-standard behavior directly and immediately with the person leads to co-workers talking behind each other’s backs, which in turn creates a toxic work environment. If below-standard performance is not addressed, you are essentially condoning the bad performance and allowing it to continue. This bad behavior/performance could spread to others, effectively lowering the standard for everyone.


Take a small step right now with the Communication Rule. I’m sure you have a positive opinion about one of your co-workers, so share that with them today. Deliver them a specific compliment about an action they took recently. Develop a habit of talking directly with others about their performance, and you’ll establish the foundation for an effective organization.



For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.


Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

Every month, Vantiv and team up to deliver the latest news in developer spaces. Here’s the overview of the Developer Tracker published in April 2017.


Tech-driven commerce might conjure up images of eCommerce giants and large national retailers that offer advanced capabilities like curbside pickup, real-time inventory and mobile point of sale (POS) systems. But what about grocery stores? Considering that consumers visit grocery stores an average of 1.6 times per week, they are a prime place to enhance shopping experiences and leverage some of the benefits that advanced commerce technology can provide.

Amazon and Kroger are making headlines with advancements aimed at speeding up the grocery purchase process. But for smaller grocery stores and specialty food and beverage chains, keeping pace with the resources and technology offered by large chains can be difficult.


There are solutions that can help these smaller businesses stay on the cutting edge and compete with the big players in the grocery game. April’s Developer TrackerTM features an interview with Burt Aycock, director of design for ECR Software, a company that develops solutions for smaller grocery and specialty food and beverage merchants. In the interview, Aycock explains how these smaller businesses can use technology to give consumers a taste of the convenience offered by larger chains.


According to a recent report, nearly 50 percent of grocery store shoppers both in the U.S. and around the world make decisions about where to shop based on convenience. And some of the biggest players are using self-service technology to make trips to the store faster, more convenient and safer than ever. Aycock says that smaller chains and stores can invest in technology like self-checkout terminals to satisfy consumers looking for more convenience. He goes on to say that online sales systems can give smaller chains a big boost when it comes to competing with larger national names.


Aycock’s team at ECR recently released an online shopping module, designed to allow smaller stores the ability to accept online orders that can be picked up in-store by consumers, similar to services being offered by large national chains. “That’s really just another POS lane when it comes down to it,” Aycock says of online sales capabilities, noting that much of the same software and code that powers in-store sales can be used for online channels. “It’s really just about bringing that same sales technology from in-store to the cloud and putting a user-friendly interface on it so that consumers can make their purchases online in a simple fashion.”


While consumers may want more convenience and control over their visits to grocery and specialty food stores, they don’t want speed to come at the price of security. “People have a lot of fear and uncertainty about security, so we always look to develop solutions that are obviously stringent and tough but also easy for retailers and consumers to understand and follow through on,” he explains.


But that doesn’t mean security should remove simplicity from transactions, either. It’s a hard balance to strike, Aycock says, but consumers expect digital convenience and safety to go hand in hand.


In order to offer safe transactions without wasting customers’ time, Aycock says that merchants should look for solutions that combine speed with security. That includes biometric and tokenization features that can be embedded directly into a store’s payments system, such as the OneTouch solution, a biometric fingerprint scanner that tokenizes data while cashiers ring up items.


Read the full interview in April’s edition of’s Developer Tracker, powered by Vantiv. It also covers other developer-focused news and updates including:


  • A cashless Coachella, with help from Square

Organizers of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival announced that all vendors will accept Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay via Square. Coachella also has a digital partnership with American Express this year where the festival’s app will allow Amex members to link their cards for a chance to win rewards during the festival. Other music festivals have used RFID (radio frequency identification) for payments, where users link their payment cards to wristbands. Lollapalooza, for example, has been using RFID technology since 2014.


  • TransferWise turns to chatbots

TransferWise customers will now be able to perform banking and financial transactions via their Facebook accounts. The London-based company announced that it developed a chatbot to help users communicate and complete transactions with businesses. The chatbot is designed to send money to and from the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Domestic money transfers are already possible on Facebook Messenger, but TransferWise claims that its service will be the first to enable money transfers globally.


  • Deutsche Bank offers HCE payments to German customers

Customers of Deutsche Bank in Germany can now make host card emulation–based mobile payments, according to NFC World. Bank executives said in a statement that customers can download the Deutsche Bank mobile app onto their Android smartphones and then use their Mastercard credit or debit cards to make cashless payments worldwide at Mastercard acceptance points. Deutsche Bank has approximately 300,000 customers who have both a Mastercard product and an Android smartphone.


Download the report.