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My first-hand experience of Pivotal Payments’ evolution from ISO to full Canadian processor

July 7 2017 | By Benjamin Bergeron-Osajie

Of all the experiences I’ve had over my 11 years working at Pivotal Payments, one the most extraordinary was witnessing the transition from a traditional ISO into a full processor. This had a tremendous impact in shaping our Canadian ISO partner program.

I’m often asked what sets our vision and strategy apart from other processors in Canada. My response? Our Canadian Partnership program was built by an ISO for an ISO. This single sentence has so much meaning behind it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate the underlying implications.

We’ve been where ISOs have been and seen what they’ve seen. We have walked their path, experienced their joys and pains, and been in the same light or darkness. This wasn’t an overnight process. We didn’t just flip a switch to become a full processor. It was methodical, challenging, consumed many hours of development, both for infrastructure and business process re-engineering. We developed our own front-end platform. Became an Interac Association Direct Connector. Signed a sponsorship agreement with Wells Fargo. Grew and enhanced our Underwriting and Risk Management teams. Designed, developed and built our own payment applications per customer and ISO requirements. Built a next-day funding cycle that required an unmatched level of complexity with a uniquely designed process for reconciliation of funding files and prefunding of daily settlements. During this entire time, we never lost sight of the ISO perspective. (Still to this day!)

We soon came to realize that there was no true ISO program offered in Canada – in the real sense of the term. We believe partners should be provided with selling tools, support, training and products that empower them, not control them. They should be enabled to Independently Sell merchant services using the competences and skillset of their Organization. Since no such program existed, it was clear to us that Canadian processors had forgotten the fundamental meaning of an I-S-O. Instead, the only program offered by all other acquires was, in reality, a bonified “agent program”.

There was no truly dedicated relationship manager who knew you and fully understood your business. No intuitive partner sales portal with your portfolio data and merchant information at your fingertips. No pricing control. No retention and loyalty support. No comprehensive boarding and underwriting guidelines. And no detailed transparency in commission reporting. Luckily for Pivotal’s Canadian ISO partners, we have embedded all of these into our program and delivered them since day 1 of being a full processor.

When we were a growing ISO, we rapidly registered our brand so that we could represent ourselves as Pivotal Payments. But we soon concluded that our brand was never front and center of the merchant-facing experience. Merchants would be contacted by our sales reps, but the application would be 90% branded by the processor and 10% by Pivotal. They would sign up with us but their merchant statements would be 100% branded by the processor. They would log into their online merchant reporting portal but our brand was nowhere to be seen. They would call into customer service to ask questions about their billing and a customer service rep would answer by the name of the processor. Hence, when we created our program for registered partners, we made sure all of these were covered: branded applications, branded statements, branded online reporting, white label customer service and communications, and even a white label descriptor for the merchant’s deposits on their bank statements. All of this to ensure our registered partners can put their brand in the center of all merchant facing solutions.

This venture has left me with a strong impression that if a business can evolve upstream in their industry, especially in the B2B space, the likelihood of its services being well crafted with their clients in mind is much greater. The experience of that organization has a direct impact on its ability to effectively be empathetic to its customers’ concerns, needs and goals. I strongly believe this concept is proven through our ISO to processor evolution and the Canadian ISO program built out of it.

Benjamin Bergeron-Osajie, Vice-President, Canadian Sales

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