May 6, 2014

Executive Insight: Merchant-Focused Innovation

Executive Insight: Merchant-Focused Innovation

We’re proud of what we’ve done over the past 20 years, and most of all, we’re proud to still call ourselves merchant advocates. While most other payments companies have sold out and taken buyout offers that left their customer loyalty questionable at best, Shift4 retains our independence and we continue to pioneer technologies that do what’s best for our merchant customers.We’ve had a lot of firsts, and that’s because we’ve always put merchants first. Shift4 was the first company to offer a single payment solution that worked with every merchant type and the first to offer enterprise-wide batch auditing. Before this, merchants had to reconcile individual reports for each terminal in their enterprise. For a resort hotel with restaurants, retail stores, a call center, and a full hotel and spa, this could mean hundreds of reports processed through a half dozen different accounts.

For one large Las Vegas Strip property, Shift4 turned those six nightly settlements into one and cut their month-end reconciliation from two weeks of work down to two hours.

We were also the first to employ tokenization to secure payment data, simplifying PCI compliance efforts and drastically reducing merchants’ breach profiles in the process. We realized how important tokenization was in terms of security, so instead of keeping it to ourselves, we released it freely to the market. No patents, no licensing fees. We basically said, “This is a game changer and it’s going to put us all a step ahead of the bad guys, so use it.”

The sad part is that many of our competitors still don’t have tokenization solutions as strong as the one we gave them nine years ago. We handed them the keys to a Cadillac, and nine years later they’re still riding around in a go-kart (albeit one with a Cadillac logo duct-taped to the front).

We were the first to release a point-to-point encryption (P2PE) solution that didn’t tie merchants to a particular bank or processor, providing Shift4’s customers with the latest technology and best security without compromising the freedom they’ve come to expect.

Although we didn’t adopt the P2PE name until a few years ago, we’ve been using encryption to secure card data and keep it out of the merchant environment since we introduced 4Go® in 2007. We’ve continued to refine it since then, but the idea of encrypting data before it entered the POS and keeping it from ever entering the merchant’s network in provocative form has been in place for most of the last decade. It’s amusing for me to hear many in our industry calling P2PE a “new” technology seven years after we implemented it, but hey – maybe they’re just catching up.

We were also the first member organization to join PCI – paying our dues before they even had a bank account set up to receive the funds – and one of the first to call them out when they started being more of a pain to merchants than a benefit. Today, many of our technologies are aimed at helping merchants simplify their PCI requirements by limiting what remains in scope for annual PCI assessments.

We were likewise the first to tokenize third-party reservation data, the first to offer a secure method to share card data without ever exposing that data within the merchant environment, and the first to develop a secure mobile solution with offline capabilities.

Being first to market with new technologies and setting the bar that the industry continues to aim for comes with great responsibility. One that Shift4 has proudly accepted and been honored to uphold throughout our 20-year history. We’re not afraid of hard work, especially if it makes life easier for our merchants. We’re not afraid to introduce technologies that are so innovative that a decade later our competitors will barely be coming to terms with how powerful and necessary they are. We’re not afraid to challenge our industry to do better and to call out entities that are playing unethically.

Merchants need an advocate that can look ahead and address problems before they arise – and that’s the driving force behind our continuous innovation. We’re first with the solutions merchants need because we put merchants first.