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9 Posts authored by: jmather

BoC StadiumBefore we officially announced the Vantiv purchase of Worldpay and intent to rebrand, back in the third quarter of last year, we got the privilege to begin working with Banc of California to be the sole payments provider for the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) at the new Banc of California stadium in downtown Los Angeles at the former location of the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The intent for the stadium is to be the first cash-less stadium in the United States.

 

For those that don't follow Major League Soccer (MLS) or soccer in general, a little background may be in order. The "beautiful game" as it is called, has been on a tremendous growth path in the United States. Attendance in MLS has grown from 1.8 million in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2017. This is higher than both NBA and NHL average game attendance and given the rise and popularity, star-studded teams have begun to pop up and LAFC is no exception.

 

From the start, the intent appears to be to create a Los Angeles community inclusive soccer club, improving local infrastructure, pushing forward sustainability and providing the community with jobs, event space and year-round dining options. The stadium has a seating capacity of 22,000 and has 130,000 square feet of public open space. Did we mention the intention to be the first cash-less stadium in the United States?

 

WorldPay Process

On a large transactional venue like this, there are many pieces that have to come together to get the payment processing operational before first kick-off. At Worldpay, we have many teams and processes that work together to make all systems go. When complex solutions enter our landscape, our business development teams, along with our solution teams, work hand-in-hand with our partners, LAFC, and the vendors to ensure a smooth payment processing experience.

 

We got the privilege to work with these fine vendors, facilitating payments:

 

  • SeatGeek - SeatGeek integrated to us for both card not present and card present transactions on our Express platform utilizing triPOS cloud for the card present piece (To the right you can see one of our triPOS terminals in the LAFC ticket office. If you purchase tickets for LAFC, you are working with Worldpay.
  • SkiData - SkiData integrated to our Express platform and provided mobile capabilities to LAFC and its vendors.
  • Appetize - Appetize provides the vending POS services for LAFC and the stadium.
  • Fanatics - Fanatics provides the merchandising POS services for LAFC and the stadium
  • Venuetize - Venuetize provides the mobile application experience and touched many parts of our Express platform, along with many of the vendors listed here.
  • EverPark - EverPark provides parking services for the stadium.

 

With the appropriate solution identified and road-mapped into the system for the vendor, the next step, if it is necessary (sometimes vendors are already integrated to the specified solution), is to begin the integration process.

 

The integration process involves working with our developer integrations team. This team of platforms experts is highly technical on both the hardware and software side. The developer integrations team works intimately with the vendor to ensure their integration is completed, certified and ready to process. Once the certification is complete, the vendor works with us to ensure operational readiness before our first install team walks our partners through go-live, providing valuable services, tools, and resources to streamline this critical step in the process.

 

 

The stadium go-live

The teamwork involved for a large event like this is enormous. Worldpay only plays one role, albeit a critical role, and that critical role gave rise to an amazing event and a beautiful stadium.

 

 

We got to witness a lot of exciting events at the stadium, including a few celebrity spottings. Here is Will Ferrell, pulling his Tesla into the stadium parking:

 

To top it all off, LAFC got the win in the closing minutes of the game. The fans were ecstatic, and so was team Worldpay.

 

 

Conclusion

These are dream projects and LAFC is helping make dreams a reality for so many organizations and individuals. Right out of the gate, LAFC has one of the most supported clubs in North America. We look forward to continued partnership with LAFC and BoC and thank everyone that was involved At Worldpay, we take modern money to a new level.

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 bitt.com. 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 ul.com 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, prosper.com. 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.

 

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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

jmather

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.

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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:

 

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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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At Vantiv, we have the opportunity to be introduced to exciting events, devices, and technologies in fintech quite often. One of the devices worth exploring and writing about is the new Verifone Carbon which we are excited to present here today. This device is truly transforming the point of sale into the point of relationship.

 

Take a peek at how beautiful this device is here:

 

 

Notice the mobility of the device facilitated by two screens? One screen is the terminal side, the other is the "POS" side. You can use it on a countertop or literally pick it up, walk around, and take a payment wherever you want.

 

The standard credit card terminal has always been notoriously difficult to innovate on. But since the terminal side has its own certified payments application, the Carbon Commerce Platform eases this process for developers.  With the payment piece abstracted away from the developer, it’s easy to develop innovative and relevant applications on the terminal side without the need for recertification. This platform allows development using standard web based tools: HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and a series of non-payment interaction triggers. These triggers enable the commerce application to take actions as the payment flow occurs.

 

With this level of simplicity, we’re talking about enhancements like easy loyalty, innovative concierge programs and instant customer feedback. Add in the mobility aspect of Carbon, and the possibilities really come to life.

 

Another great thing Verifone has done with this device is to create a simulator for the commerce application side as well. This allows you to fire up the Carbon SDK in Android studio, write your application, communicate with third party services, interact with your Android tablet application and perhaps just change the world.

 

Here are some screenshots of the terminal simulator out of Android Studio:

 

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The tablet side of Carbon allows all Android fans and developers to unite. You have the full power of Android studio and JDK at your fingertips. The Verifone SDK is integrated directly with Android studio and gives you an amazing set of tools to build interoperations between the tablet/POS with the terminal commerce side.

 

The tablet side of the Carbon has access to the described triggers as well, again allowing it to interact with the payment flow and the developer’s commerce application. In case you missed it, the innovation potential is high here.

Here is the media announcement, Android fans unite!

 

To get more information about developing on the Carbon, or if you want to explore the documentation and download the sdk visit our Money 2020 Hackathon site here.

 

Stay tuned for a short tutorial on how the Carbon SDK is used soon.

As you may know, the Money 20/20 Hackathon is now the premier event for the best hackers representing financial services and commerce technology. In case you haven't heard, Vantiv has established itself firmly into the eye of the Money 20/20 Hackathon ecosystem. We are bringing along some of the most fun, innovative and challenging hardware sets to this years event. In order to equate the output we are asking you hackers to combine your PASSION with COMMERCE to change and solve one of the worlds largest challenges. Here is a sampling of the hardware pieces we have brought along to aid you in your quest. These devices are:

 

Let's take a look at a couple of these and see if we can't drum up some of the creative juices of your internal hacker.

 

  • Nao Robot
    • What can you do with a little 58cm tall, endearing humanoid? The thing I want to stress here is how life-like this robot is. It can bring out the empathetic aspect of robotics, that is, if robot empathy is a real thing; we are trending towards the singularity, are we not?  If you haven't read our overview on the robot you should, and remember that for the hackathon, you don't even need the robot to start coding a solution to change the world, you can do it right from the Choregraphe simulator. Just take a peak at the NAO documentation and I'm sure your interest will be piqued. The video below can help to get some ideas about the capability of this robot and how human like it is. Perhaps you could create a robot therapist that learns, make its patients happy, introspects on their emotional needs, all for a small recurring fee?

       

  • Cubelets
    • IoT hype got you down? Plugin with these easily programmable devices and create the next connected simulation universe. These Cubelets are programmable robot blocks and the amazing part about these is that you don't need to know about actuators, logic boards and photosensors to make a functional machine. All of these Cubelets connect with a magnetic base, and by connecting them you can create a larger robot or machine.

       

      Lets chat a little about what Cubelets exist and what you could do with them. A good starting Cubelet is the battery Cubelete, it provides power for your robot and even has a switch to turn the power on/off. Black Cubelets are known as sense Cubelets and they take input from things like light, distance and temperature. They then turn this "sense" into a number. The transparent Cubelets are called act Cubelets and they function as outputs. They can do things like light up, spin around or make audible cues. The colored Cubelets are like tiny I/O devices (or little brains) which can take in data and modify the output.

       

      The act Cubelets can use the number generated (as mentioned above) from the sense Cubelet to create or take an "action". These numbers are being sent through the "system" all the time and are what makes the larger robot/machine behave the way it does. As the numbers come in, the colored "think" Cubelets will modify the numbers from the other cubes giving a large variety of programmable actions you can take. You can explore some of the individualized functions of these Cubelets by browsing them here. Don't worry you won't need to purchase these, that is where we come in.

       

      What can you come up with to make Cubelets + Passion + Commerce = Your 20/20 Solution? The possibilities are endless. If you haven't read our Cubelets deep dive, please check it out here. Below is a little video for some Cubelets knowledge and inspiration:

 

Come take on our challenge statement as you battle it out for your $125k share of the pie. Dive into the vast set of hardware and software available to translate your passion for commerce into reality.

jmather

Explorations in Ethereum

Posted by jmather Aug 4, 2016

When I first heard about Bitcoin it must have been in 2009 or 2010, It seemed a regulatory nightmare with huge disruptive potential that most regulatory bodies would never let come to fruition. Somehow though, there was something about it that was intriguing and it just kept taking hold. All said, Bitcoin had and has its issues. One big one is the sophistication required to created decentralized applications using Bitcoin. Along came Ethereum, where in theory, you can achieve decentralized applications by joe brogrammers like me . In Ethereum the hard cryptographic security is taken care of by the protocol itself, freeing you up to focus on what you want your application to do, not with how to manipulate the protocol.

 

To get an overview of the differentiating factors of Bitcoin and Ethereum, you can watch this video starting at the 6 minute 50 second mark and to quote Joseph:

 

https://youtu.be/0ilYnuP1qd4?t=6m50s

 

"The essential differentiating element between Bitcoin and Ethereum is what you can do on it and that’s enabled by the virtual machine and the programming language. In Bitcoin there’s a very simple virtual machine at each node and a very simple programming language. You can only write a very limited class of programs. On Ethereum there is a general purpose computer or virtual machine at each node and a very rich programming language so you can write whatever you can dream up, essentially."

 

So, this got me wondering, how difficult is it to do a hello world in Ethereum. Well, it turns out, if you follow the tutorials in Ethereum, they have an example of this known as the "greeter" app. If you have ever tried this you will realize that it is actually a bit more difficult than it might seem. I'm hoping this tutorial might be a bit easier. So, get ready and fire up your console as here are the "YMMV" Instructions on how to make the greeeter/hello world app function and process transactions in Ethereum. If you don't want to do this and just want to learn a little bit more about ethereum, skip below and read the excellent beginners guide to ethereum.

 

Step 1: Install geth (go based ethereum command line interface)

Step 2: Launch geth in developer mode (this will keep us from downloading the entire blockchain and allow us to more easily mine our own ether.

  • geth --dev console
  • Make not of the ipc folder (it is in a non-standard location when using developer mode), you will need this in Step 6

Step 3: If you haven't already create your own test account now (inside the geth console)

  • Personal.newAccount()

Step 4: Check your account balance (if you have not mined any eth before it should be 0)

  • eth.getBalance(eth.accounts[0])

Step 5: Start the miner and let it run

  • miner.start()
  • This will output a lot of logging so in the next step we will remedy by attaching to the console via the ipc mentioned in Step 2

Step 6: Attach to the console

  • geth attach ipc:/var/your/path/to/etherecum_dev_mode/geth.ipc

Step 7: Ensure that your account balance has increased via the mining that is running in Step 4

Step 8: Go to the online solidity compiler (this is the compiler that will compile your dapp, don't worry about installing your own, trust me, for now just use the online one)

  • https://ethereum.github.io/browser-solidity
  • Now copy and paste your code into the left hand pane of the compiler (this code can be found in the greeter link mentioned above) and it should compile your code with output into the right hand pane:

Step 9: On the right hand pane of the compiler, copy the Web deploy portion of the code (preferably to a text editor) and then modify the portion of the code to have your own message here:

/* var of type string here */

Step 10: Go back into your attached geth console and unlock your account you created

  • personal.unlockAccount(web3.eth.accounts[0]);
  • Ensure you have your password for your account when you run the above as you will be prompted for it

Step 11: Copy the code from step 10 into your attached geth console

Step 12: You should now have received a "Contract mined!..." message with the contract address

Step 13: Now within a short period of time (about 1 minute) you should be able to run:

  • eth.getCode(gretter.address);
  • This should return anything other than "0x", indicating your greeter/hello world contract is live!

Step 14: Now you should be able to run the greeter:

  • greeter.greet();

Step 15: This should return your greeting string that you modified in Step 9

  • This means that you can now theoretically offer this greeter dapp to anyone else for execution by having them create a contract with your ABI (Application Binary Interface) and the address of your greeter with code like below:
  • var g2 = eth.contract([{"constant":false,"inputs":[],"name":"kill","outputs":[],"type":"function"},{"constant":true,"inputs":[],"name":"greet","outputs":[{"name":"","type":"string"}],"type":"function"},{"inputs":[{"name":"_greeting","type":"string"}],"type":"constructor"}]

... ).at('theGreeterAddress');

 

Step 16: Now we have completed the greeter tutorial in a hopefully more friendly walkthrough than the one on the Ethereum website itself! The final step is to cleanup our greeter since we will no longer be using it. If we con't do this, it will leave the abandoned contracts on the blockchain, and in the future, it is noted that we may have to pay rent to use the blockchain. This of course is on the dev network, but it is still good practice:

  • greeter.kill.sendTransaction({from: eth.accounts[0]})
  • This should output something like: "0xf8341d41b7aa69bfbb31ff851b2e39897c4b054bccd9b5c54c19917d3988f561"

 

If you made it through that, congratulations and let me know your feedback!

 

jmather

The Payments Transition

Posted by jmather Jun 13, 2016

There are two things a technology company must do to succeed: build a product or service that is 10 times better than its competitors, and take that product/service to market. A little over a month ago I transitioned from a lead at a startup to a technology evangelist at Vantiv. I had been thinking about a shift like this for a while. When the stars aligned and the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to help “bridge the gap” between technology development and the humans that actually use these products. Choosing to join an enterprise company was something I had been pondering since reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. The book made me realize I had been neglecting the potential growth opportunities made possible by pushing technical communication boundaries inside a larger organization.

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Transitioning into this new role has been an exciting challenge. The question arises: how do I help achieve the above goal, and what tools do I have available to help bring this to life? We could start by reading and living Vantiv’s five core values:

 

  1. We are passionate about what we do
  2. We work together to tackle the toughest problems with a winning attitude
  3. We continuously improve ourselves and our work
  4. We have strong character and do the right thing
  5. We value people and have fun

 

These core values are great, and as good old Ben Horowitz said, if you fail to do the first two things (mentioned above) your company's culture (and values) won’t matter one bit.

So why do we bother with the other three things at all?

 

  1. These are rules to live by as we try to achieve the primary objectives
  2. The above values help us uphold our culture as we continue to grow and lead the industry
  3. It makes our workplace a space we want to be, work, and thrive within

 

I think the third point above is important to ponder because workplace is tightly correlated to your “lifeplace”. At the end of the day, are we making a difference in our workplace? After spending my initial time getting to know as many aspects of our organization as possible, I will say our culture and values are thriving here. There are many challenges in transitioning into the payments industry. Making this change has been big and comes with particular challenges, but our culture is primed to succeed and is led by our values. I’m excited to move onward and upwards.