Entrepreneurship Podcast post

E-Commerce Enablement with Greg Cohen

George Grombacher June 15, 2022

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E-Commerce Enablement with Greg Cohen

LifeBlood: We talked about e-commerce enablement, creating a great customer journey and making payments invisible, how the payment industry has grown and what the future holds, and what makes for a successful team with Greg Cohen, CEO of Fortis.  

Listen to learn why it’s sometimes better to be a fast follower than an early adopter!

You can learn more about Greg at FortisPay.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Greg Cohen

Episode Transcript

Unknown Speaker 0:00
Come on

Unknown Speaker 0:11
I’m left with this is George G. And the time is right, welcome. Today’s guest is Dr. Barfoot. Greg Cohen, Greg, are you ready to do this? Let’s do it.

Unknown Speaker 0:19
Let’s go, it’s nice to meet you too. Greg is the CEO of fortis, their leader in commerce, payment technology, they’re helping to fortify your business through unique commerce experiences. Greg, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do. Sure. Nice to meet everyone. My name is Greg Cohen, I am the CEO of fortis, I have been in the payments industry for over 25 years. And as the business has evolved,

Unknown Speaker 0:49
very, very briefly, we’ve gone from a very horizontal business where, you know, the same solution worked for every single business, you know, pretty much in America or in the world. And as the business as you know, kind of the technology has morphed, everything’s become very verticalized. Right? You’ve got very specific software for a very specific restaurant, or a shoe store, or what have you. And because of that software has played a much more important role in the way that people conduct commerce, whether it’s online and mobile, you know, in your store, or in your facility. And one of the things that made commerce powerful in the fact that how it’s evolved, as well as the Payment Capabilities behind that have morphed as well. Not only does it have to work in every single medium, but how do you engage with a customer during the shopping experience to make it more and more powerful. And what we at Fortis do is really, literally embed commerce solutions into these journeys, that software providers often push down into their business applications. So that if you think about the experience you have when you go into Uber, and I think that’s the greatest way to talk about embedded commerce, is you go and you you know, you get your car, you go for your ride, you get out, you leave, and like it all just happened, you didn’t think about pain, you thought about the experience you are having, in many cases, you think about shopping, nobody actually wants to pay, right, what they want to do is be able to shop and get stuff nobody actually wants to pay. So if you can bend that to where your customers are, and whether that’s a, you know, a business, whether that’s a patient, or whether that’s a consumer, depending on what type of business it is, you know, that is really what what I talk about embedded commerce that we enable, we partner with software providers up and down different different verticals and ecosystems, to create these journeys, so that they create better, you know, kind of call it customer customer experiences. And then we push that down to their business clients. And so, you know, today we processed heading north of $20 billion of payment transaction volume. And that’s credit cards. That’s Ach, that’s, you know, new alternative payments that are coming down the pipe, you’ve heard about things like buy now pay later, we’re even at a project to look to over the next few few months to, you know, light up the ability to accept crypto capabilities, but it’s creating these journeys for each type of business that really sets us apart. Our job is to make software providers better by providing better commerce experiences for the end user customers.

Unknown Speaker 3:39
I love it. Fascinating. Sky’s the limit. Have you ever run into a journey? That was that was just a bridge too far? You know, I would say that we are really good in the markets that we have. We’ve tried to narrow down our focus until four or five key verticals where we do really well. I think what you know, give it back again, if you try to do all things for all people, you’re going to fail in some of them. So if you can try to narrow that down and play in the verticals where your company is really good at we do really well in specialty retail, we do really well in kind of the b2b ecosystem where we’re partnering with accounting software packages, and then you know how that integrates. Not only with that, when when they sell online, or when they’re doing invoicing and things of that sort. We do really well in healthcare, where you’re thinking about patient engagement, and you’re thinking about medical billing efficiencies, as much as you’re thinking about, you know, other areas like that, you know, we do really well in lodging and wineries and breweries where we created this dynamic where we, you know, where we help manage, not just the actual transaction on the front end, but you know, when there’s a dispute, how that is automatically adjudicated throughout the process. And so, as we think about where we do really well, it’s

Unknown Speaker 5:00
North American gets those types of experiences and reconsolidate complex problems when someone’s not just using one system, they may be using three or four. And they need to put those together so that now when their customer is online, or on their mobile app, or getting an invoice, it kind of all comes back together for that amazing experience. And that’s where we’ve really focused in on a lot of success.

Unknown Speaker 5:27
Well, that certainly does make sense as, as more of these new technologies have come online, it gives great opportunities and exciting new ways to take payment, but also potentially just layers on more and more complexity in different software and systems that don’t necessarily talk to each other. And it’s your desire goal, what you do is to come in, figure out, here’s what I want to do, and then to make it as simple as possible. That’s right. It’s me, it’s to make it it’s to make it invisible. You know, we have this thing that we said, how do you make payments invisible, right, you embedded in the journey. And so then at the end, you know, the the checkout is, and there’s new technology to help, right, there’s a, you know, the thing about Apple, I can just click to pay at the end of my journey opposed to fill out an entire form. Or there’s ways that we keep the token on, you know, the the credentials on file, so that the next time you show up, we recognize you when it can just happen. And all of that, you know, it may seem like it, you know, it may seem like there’s a lot of work to do there. But it makes it so much better for the business. Because they don’t have to deal with abandonment, we’ve all tried to sit in shopping carts, and then we start at checkout, and we punch it in this and we fat finger that and it’s like, okay, I give up, I quit, right. And so if you can avoid that, you can increase sales as a business, you actually make for better customer experience. And in many cases, especially when you’re talking about invoicing, like in healthcare, or b2b in areas like that, you actually can speed up your receivables collection piece of it as well. And so, you know, efficiencies, a in the, in the, in this in the, in the shopping experience, in the buying experience, and in the collecting experience just makes for a much better kind of customer experience all.

Unknown Speaker 7:14
Yeah, that certainly makes sense. Who, who? Who is the regulating body for your industry? Yeah, I mean, we deal with a lot of different regulators, right. So, you know, kind of, if you think about the referee, so to speak, when you’re talking about credit cards, it’s usually be served MasterCard, or American Express or Discover what have you. We also do a lot of ACH transactions. So now you’ve got Nachi, which is a Banking Association that manages that. But if you think about all the data and pieces of those things we have, right. We have security audits by our sponsor banks that we have to deal with, we’ve got other regulatory bodies that we’ve got to deal with, if you think about it, even the FTC and the CFPB kind of oversee what we do, if you think about many of our businesses are doing, you know, are sending out bills and invoices and things of that sort. So you talk about consumer protection. If you think about, you know, just kind of managing transactions along the ecosystem, we have the FTC involved in there. And certain payment tenders you know, bring up new people if you think about the buy now pay later world that we live in today, a lot of people have had a lot of you know, conversation about that that segment and the fact that you know, people are now taking on incremental amounts of debt that maybe they didn’t know they were taking on. And so even though we don’t balance sheet and we’re not a buy now pay later company, we enable it. And so you have to think about those things within our ecosystem. So lots of incremental regulation and people overlooking our shoulders to make sure that we do it, right. Because look, at the end of the day, we keep a lot of very sensitive information in our it behind our walls, and and it’s our job to, you know, be able to protect that and make sure that people trust us to do that every day. Yeah, for sure. We’re talking about obviously, our money. So it’s one of the most important things in the world that that’s protected. And as a consumer, I want to just click this button and I want to have it show up at my house immediately. So I want that to be as streamlined as possible. So you want to keep everybody happy and everything goes great until I get irritated with something and you need to make that end of it I suppose smooth as well. So I mean, there’s there’s obviously a lot if so, if if somebody if if I walked into Fortis and saw behind the curtain and everything, what do you think I’d be most surprised by? What do you think I you know, I would tell you, you’d both be surprised at the amount of

Unknown Speaker 9:47
the team. You know, we can talk about the customers all day long, but like it really is the attitude of the team. You know, we we call ourselves guides because our job is to guide our

Unknown Speaker 10:00
partners, which in many cases are the software providers that businesses are partnering with to provide their solution in a given vertical. And we take those partners on a guided journey, because everyone’s experiences a little bit different. And that people wake up and like, get excited about that every day. And even when we have problems, no companies perfect, that the way everyone works together to go get those individual things solved,

Unknown Speaker 10:24
is kind of, to me the fun part about waking up every day with the team. It is a culmination of almost 200 people spread out around the country now

Unknown Speaker 10:37
making it happen every day. And to me, I think that’s the fun part. And when I look at our roadmap of where we’re going, and the new things that we’re going to be able to bring out to our partner, our software partners, and our business is with that team being able to execute on it to me, that’s what makes it fun and get up every day. Awesome. Yeah, I appreciate that. I imagine that people need to everybody on your team needs to be have a really positive attitude to be solution driven. And let’s let’s figure out how to do this. Even if it’s really, really hard, we’re still committed to being able to do that. Because I’m sure that that’s really what what what your partners are demanding or wanting rather. So you’re processing $20 billion,

Unknown Speaker 11:20
kind of give or take, how many different partners are you working with? You mentioned the software partners? Yeah, we’ve got about we’ve got a little, we’ve got 120 Different software providers broken into those different segments. And if you think about like most people go, and they, you know, if you think about a business, right, they figure out what’s the business management solution that’s gonna help me run this business. And then within that business management system, I need a way to conduct commerce. Right. And it may be in quite frankly, in many companies, it’s multiple business management systems, right? I use something in my call center, something on my website, something for my accounting department, and how do I bring all that together so that commerce works. And so, you know, we’ve got about 120 different partners and growing every day, we’ve got a laundry list, I think we’ve got about 25 new ones, in implementation at any given time,

Unknown Speaker 12:12
that really are trusting us to help make their, their their journeys better. And beneath that, obviously, is are the businesses that are our customers of that software provider that then become customers of ours, where we try to, you know, manage through all that. And so, you know, that’s some of the complexity we deal with because no two partners are the same. And there’s no doubt.

Unknown Speaker 12:38
So as you look into the future, and you’re reading the tea leaves and the writing on the wall, and and everything else, and cryptocurrency and the all the different coins, are you excited about the future? Are you nervous about it? Are you excitedly nervous about it? Here the way I think about you know, especially as it relates to crypto, look, I think I’m, I’m excited about it, because I think what all payment methods do, whether it’s credit cards, whether it’s crypto, whether it’s online bank, there’s a lot of different payment methods. And even if I think about Venmo, and other things like that, it expands the pie. And at the end of the day, our our, our competitors are cash and cheque. And so as long as the pie increases, right, from a digital standpoint, like any of those methods I just talked about, I think that that just creates a bigger pot, because our job is to enable commerce, I don’t really care what the tender type is now, do I need to make sure that we’re doing it in a protective way? Am I going to take crypto risk? Maybe maybe not. That’s a business decision that you know, even even even small businesses can make. And I’m actually gonna take the risk, or they just want to accept the tender and turn it back into US dollars. You know, those are different business decisions. But being able to open up payment math methods, is fundamental to helping the whole pie grow. So I get excited about that, quite frankly. And I’m really glad that the government has decided not saying no to crypto, they’ve said, Let’s go create some rules and a framework that we can all live in. And then we can make sure we have it and it being done right. I think about by now pay later the same way where you got all these providers doing things in all these different ways. Same as crypto, if you start to create some real rules, so that you can have clean adjudication. So when there’s disputes that consumers are not put in harm’s way, and are doing things with their eyes wide open, I think that opens up a good framework to build a good solid, you know, payments infrastructure. That makes a lot of sense. And that’s par for the course the government always acts very wisely and prudently and makes the great decisions all the time. So I’ll check.

Unknown Speaker 14:56
So your competitors are cash and cheque and it made me wonder

Unknown Speaker 15:00
Are there still a lot of people that that are unbanked and probably a lot of people who are still using cash and cheque? cash and checks? How many people are we talking about? Do you know is that noble? Well, there’s, I mean, everybody uses them to some extent, right. And I think that’s, that’s kind of where we’re going. But it’s, you know, it’s shrinking. If you think about lots of different markets that we’re in, right, the Czech business is still a big business, especially when you think about the b2b market. When you think about like all the invoices, do you the healthcare invoice, you know, think about you’re just at home, right? When you get an invoice in the mail for your healthcare bill.

Unknown Speaker 15:38
You know, there’s a lot of, there’s still a lot of paper in the system, I think you will see over time, you know, new things coming to market to break it out of the system, I think you see things like Apple Pay, and you know, things even things like tipping now that you see a lot of people doing via PayPal, or Venmo, or oversell and things like that, that are really working on getting some of those areas of cash like that last mile out of the system. And quite frankly, the invoices, you know, the invoices are painful for businesses. Think about how long it takes to send it out, wait till the cheque comes back in the door, if I can put someone on an automatic draft, or if I can use a prepaid card or things like that standpoint, like businesses would prefer in many cases not to have to sit and wait.

Unknown Speaker 16:27
It just takes a long time to collect your money, that creates other challenges in your business. Some of it goes on collectible

Unknown Speaker 16:34
to drive those pieces out. But it still is a big piece. And I think in order to you know, kind of except, you know, in different different verticals, we’ll look at it differently, but I think it’s gonna it’s going to be around forever. One of the things about especially in the US is that the market is so fragmented, we have so many different solutions, so many different banks, so many different providers, that the long term, this is not a zero sum game. And so the long tail stays for a really, really, really long time.

Unknown Speaker 17:05
Interesting. So companies like Stripe, Zell Pay Pal, how, how do you interact with them? Are they competitors? Are those partners? I would say yes. Across the board. Correct. The term I would use is competition. You know, in many cases, some of the people that you mentioned in some areas of their business, their competitors of ours, and in other areas, they’re partners of ours. And so if I look back in my early days in the payments industry, you know, you we had very defined lines, you know, the swim lanes were defined like, you know, the card, the Visa, MasterCard did X and a bank did why sales group did Z and technology sat here. And instead of like, you know, these defined swim lanes, we all now have one big kiddie pool we’re all playing. And so I think in this day and age, you kind of have to sit here and say, I’m okay, in some segments competing with my partner. And so let’s lay all the chips on the table. Here’s where we’re going to partner. And here’s where we’re going to compete and do those types of things. Everybody play nice.

Unknown Speaker 18:13
Play nice where you can,

Unknown Speaker 18:16
Greg, that people are ready for your difference making tip. What do you have for them? My difference making tip is, you know, is this

Unknown Speaker 18:25
I would say and this is for for businesses in general, is that the market is changing quickly. Be prepared to future proof your ecosystem. But I would also say with that, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, meaning sometimes being a fast follower is a better position to be in in the early adopter. And so, you know, think about future proofing your ecosystem, but don’t go all in on something brand new.

Unknown Speaker 18:56
Well, I think that that is great stuff that definitely gets come up

Unknown Speaker 18:59
as follower versus early adopter. I love that. Excellent. Well, Greg, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you and Fortis? And how can people engage with you? That’s great. Yeah, it’s early, it’s Fortis pay.com. So easy fo RT is Pa y.com. Come to our website. You can, you can explore our solutions there. You can understand the verticals that we play in, get to know a few of the bigger software providers that we partner with the ecosystems that we learned and look forward to engaging with you on whatever your journey is, and our guides are there to help you love it. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, sure, Gregor appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Fortis pay.com, that’s forti S P a ye.com. And check on everything that they are working on and find out if there’s an opportunity to partner and work together. Thanks, Greg. Thanks a lot, George. Take care and

Unknown Speaker 20:00
Until next time fighting the good fight we’re all in this together

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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