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Payments Consulting

Portfolio Rationalization

Once upon a time, a merchant was a merchant was a merchant. The putative strategy in merchant acquiring was simple: board as many accounts as possible – big merchants, small merchants, low risk merchants, high risk merchants, and even new LLCs – basically any merchant with a checking account and an “open for business” sign. The rationale for this was straightforward: payments processing – transaction processing – produced real, actualizable revenue that made merchant acquiring a lucrative endeavor. Read more...

Payments M&A: The Narrowing Delta Between ISO & Merchant Portfolio Valuations

Throughout the years, an interesting phenomenon related to payments processing portfolio valuations has arisen: the fair market value of a merchant acquiring portfolio has, more often than not, been equal to or greater than the fair market value of the payments processing company, or enterprise itself.  A review of Preston Todd Advisors’ proprietary database reveals that across the spectrum of ISOs with roughly 2,500 to 15,000 MIDs, approximately eight out of ten portfolios displayed this characteristic from 2008 through 2015.
The notion that a merchant portfolio asset can be worth more than the entirety of the company that built it is arguably counterintuitive – it doesn’t seem like that should be the case. After all, it’s human nature to intuit things this way: that a part of something cannot have a greater value than the whole. But when you take a closer look at the cost structure of a traditional ISO, the explanation as to why this phenomenon has historically proven true comes to light. Read more...

Payments M&A: Acquiring the Right Financial Technology

Full version of article originally published in The Green Sheet, 8.9.2016 Edition. Written by Adam T. Hark The future of payments processing is certain. Unless your notion of viability contemplates the continuity of a provincial, mom-and-pop, payments processing company, you are now an official member of the “new order” of merchant acquiring: providing merchants with end-to-end business management solutions or point of sale that also happens to integrate payments. As such, you’re now faced with the challenge of identifying which payments or financial technologies to “hitch your wagon” to. Allow me to share some insight into the rationale that drives this strategic decision and better positions your company for a prosperous future. Read more...

MRI for Your Business? – What a Sell-side Process Can Tell You About Your Company

Original Article Posted to LinkedIn, Authored 7.28.2016 by Adam T. Hark, Managing Director, Preston Todd Advisors Committing yourself, your company, and your employees to a sell-side process can be stressful, distracting, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing if the desired outcome is not achieved – that your company is sold on agreeable business terms. Most owner/operators with quality properties – companies with healthy balance sheets, good EBITDA margins, consistent YOY, double digit top line growth, and interesting, proprietary products and services, especially by way of technologies, find themselves in the advantageous position of not ever having to actually transact, even if that’s their intended objective. These owner/operators always have the option not to sell and pull their property off the market. Thus, for many sellers of quality businesses, the outcome of a formal sell-side process isn’t always an actual sale. Read more...

Payment Consultant’s Guide to a Successful Acquisition Strategy

Full version of article originally published in The Green Sheet, 6.27.2016 Edition. Written by Adam T. Hark My firm receives over a dozen inquiries every month from parties interested in acquiring merchant processing portfolios. I’m amazed by this level of interest. Why? The merchant acquiring industry is evolving at a blistering rate, pivoting away from the traditional model where the core product and service offering is just payments processing, and hurtling towards a model where comprehensive, end-to-end business management solutions, usually offered as SaaS platforms, rule the day. Let me be blunt: the traditional merchant acquiring model has crossed the event-horizon and is well on its way towards non-viability. As such, when parties approach me about acquiring a card processing portfolio, the first question I always ask them is “why?” I ask this because there is nothing more important in designing a successful portfolio acquisition strategy than clearly understanding the client’s objective with the acquisition, and given that the acquiring industry is undergoing convulsionary change, it stands to reason that past drivers for merchant portfolio acquisitions aren’t necessarily what’s guiding the market activity today. So what’s driving the interest in portfolio acquisitions right now? What strategies are being employed? Let’s take a look at three of the most common scenarios in today’s marketplace. Read more...

How Integrated POS and Infrastructure Technologies Lift Merchant Acquirer Valuations: Connecting the Dots

Full version of article originally published in The Green Sheet, 6.27.2016 Edition. Written by Adam T. Hark Theory has met reality in the merchant acquiring world. It’s no longer just an idea that there’s a ubiquitous convergence of technology and payments processing underway — it’s a fact. Before a merchant acquirer surrenders to this reality, however, and starts investigating which technologies may be worthwhile embracing, whether through acquisition, partnership, or development, it surely makes sense that an acquirer’s first inquiry should be, “what do these new technologies actually do for my platform?” The answer to this question, together with understanding the added value contribution, will pull back the curtain on how these technologies work to lift merchant acquirer valuations. Read more...

I don’t think so => “VARs and traditional integrated payments software model heading for the graveyard”

Authored 6.6.2016 by Adam T. Hark, Managing Director, Preston Todd Advisors “Will PayFacs Kill the VAR Model”, by PMNTS makes an interesting argument, but I don’t buy it. The PayFacs model has been around for a long time. Though not always marketed as “PayFacs”, the master merchant account configuration with subordinate processing accounts isn’t new to the acquiring industry. Here are my top 5 reasons why this article’s prediction won’t come true…at least not any time soon. Read more...