INTERVIEW: Verifone’s VP of Marketing, Tom Conlon

The payments industry in 2012 witnessed some significant developments in a number of sectors as firms competed to offer a truly multi-platform service. It seems the industry is moving in the direction of multi-platform product integration parallel to advances in mobile technology. Tom Conlon – Verifone’s VP of Marketing and Development – speaks exclusively to PaymentEye about the firm’s year, its plans for the future as well as the hottest payment trends in 2013.

How would you sum up 2012 for Verifone?
2012 has been an incredible year for Verifone. We successfully completed a number of acquisitions such as Gemalot, Hypercom, GlobalBay and Point (including Commidea in the UK). We will now begin to see the results and synergies of these past acquisitions which are already being felt in some regions in the EU market. As a result, Verifone will be the ‘go to’ company for payments.

How is Verifone different from its competitors?
There are numerous reasons. For example, we are always looking for ways to expand our great portfolio of products. The additional acquisition of Hypercom and Gemalto shows this. Point’s acquisition has led to bridging in the UK with managed services enabling us to support different customers from banking, retail and consumer sectors. As a result, Verifone has an established portfolio and strong presence in traditional channels combined with a footprint in new products and services. With experience and proven expertise across all continents, the combination is linking all the payment needs together, thus presenting a huge advantage for retailers as well as banks and acquirers. By not favouring one type of retailer or acquirer, Verifone supports all the players in the market and encompasses all the needs of their entire audience.

What would you say is the hottest trend in payments right now?
Despite some scepticism, we are starting to turn the corner on NFC and we may see some critical mass reached in a few markets such as the UK and France. There are other channels such as QR, but NFC has features which can be better utilised to fit into payment schemes. For the retailer, using one comprehensive solution with multi-platform ability will be an increasingly popular trend. For the merchant, it’s all about maximising production sales and there’s promising technology on the horizon. With so many exciting prospects – such as mobile wallets, ecommerce, NFC – Verifone aims to be like a good referee at a football match with positive involvement.

Integrating payment solutions across different platforms is gaining prominence. What will determine the ability of retailers to adjust their infrastructures to accommodate change?
I recently attended a seminar on businesses that need to be able to adapt to the new frontier of payments technology. For many medium-sized businesses, the focus is on core business with payment functions being outsourced in order to accommodate change. It can be difficult for SME’s who do not have money to spend and evaluate what to outsource. This is where Verifone steps in and offers a palette of payment solutions with a minimum of investment so these businesses achieve this integration whilst remaining current. 

For example, the travel and entertainment industry is interesting to us. Integrating payments for the travel industry makes sense, where customers pay partly online and often complete transactions via point of sale. Along with business’ PCI compliance, the merchant does not want to invest in multiple payment solutions and deal with various security issues. Verifone will support all of these solutions as well as customer needs. By melding and giving support to different segments, it’s about effectively bridging the unsecure to the secure world.

There are differing views on whether this will be the year of the mobile wallet, what is yours?
The importance of the mobile phone cannot be underestimated. Mobile payments offer convenience especially in some areas such as transport which is where the value of mobile wallets will be particularly visible.
The biggest challenge which needs to be overcome in order for the mobile wallet to take off is consumer trust. Electronic payments took off because banks were behind them to guarantee security. The market is becoming fiercely competitive and we may start to see major players take over. The challenge for the mobile wallet is for MNO’s to offer the same level of confidence amongst consumers. Major card schemes have the acceptance infrastructure and security to put service into user phones.
If you go back and look at the acceptance of payment technology in the past it is evident that the same level of acceptance in the brick and mortar world cannot be said for the online and digital world. As a result we may witness a breakthrough in terms of usage this year but overall acceptance will take more time.

After the withdrawal of SAIL what direction is Verifone heading in?
What we were looking at in the US was a service to be able to get micro merchants on board and couple this onto smart devices. We asked ourselves; is there a margin in our business model to acquire merchants in such a way?
Verifone has not withdrawn from SAIL but has chosen to shift its efforts from trying to get micro-merchants on board towards providing solutions to already established acquirers who want to expand their portfolio. EMV is very important to our offer of service. We are putting a lot of effort into this which you will see in later in the spring/summer.

What is your strategic focus going forward?
We like to think cards are accepted everywhere yet in reality usage is geographically scattered. Verifone will expand its service offering as card usage is still quite uneven across European countries. Whilst the UK and Scandinavia are already well covered, we see progress in Verifone capturing market share in countries such as Spain, Italy and France. 

Verifone will also maintain the top-quality and comprehensive choice of its terminal portfolio. Furthermore, we will be working on more services for micro-merchants and developing multi-media capabilities to tie the physical and virtual worlds. For example, working with our GlobalBay acquisition on tablet-based customer and inventory management tools is on the agenda. GlobalBay is also good at “Clienteleing”, something VeriFone will be using more and more in the future.
As a result, we will focus on broadening the expertise and strengths of each acquired company across the entire product portfolio. We aim to be in a position to make sure merchants are able to accept payments all the time. This could mean a greater focus on bespoke products to ensure merchants are able to electronically accept payments. We see success when we disappear in the background, which means that we have achieved our aim of seamlessly integrating all the channels. 

About Tom Conlon – Verifone Vice President of Marketing and Development EMEA 
Tom Conlon is hugely experienced in the payments industry with a background in high security payment technology. Having spent twenty years at Point, which grew from a garage start-up to successful merchant acquirer support infrastructure, Tom was appointed CTO. He joined VeriFone’s EMEA team as Vice President of Marketing and Development in 2012.

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