When The Green Sheet contacted Amedeo "Dino" Sgueglia about profiling IRN Payment Systems, a company he founded in 1987 that now supports over 25,000 mostly niche market and transportation businesses, he opted instead to talk about My Clear Reports, a new enterprise he launched in April 2012.
A serial entrepreneur, Sgueglia had also formed Merchant Rewards Network to integrate merchant services and prepaid offerings before developing My Clear Reports. His new venture is an online virtual business center that delivers payment solutions, services and tools designed to help ISOs and merchants organize and expand their businesses.
"We concentrated on building a really sophisticated analytics and reporting tool, but in building it we wanted to build something that would attract merchants to come back to, that could actually benefit and grow their business," Sgueglia said. Equally important to Sgueglia was the idea of creating additional revenue streams for ISOs in an era of margin compression. "Knowing the issues and concerns that ISOs, banks and acquirers have been facing for some time now is the loss in gross margin," he said. "That's been the significant impact on our industry."
According to Sgueglia, further compounding the problem for ISOs is the fact that statistics suggest a majority of merchants continue to be sold card acceptance based on rate alone. Through MCR, he hopes to change the ISO-merchant relationship dynamic to one that is driven by a core of value-added online business tools that can help merchants of all sizes compete cost-effectively.
MCR formed a number of strategic partnerships while in development, and it continues to do so. "All the different value-added companies that are out there - gift and loyalty, check gateway services, sales tax services - we've integrated them," Sgueglia said. "It's fully integrated in one place to one solution. "What we do is we get their best pricing, their best products. We integrate it directly into MCR, so that merchants can opt into it directly. And we monetize everything through a dashboard for our clients, so our clients see a check every month for all these different products and services that help grow a merchant's business."
This integration also enables ISOs to offer a broader merchant solution, Sgueglia noted, adding that another advantage is that merchants can control the products and services they use when they most need them, which is critical in managing the daily ebb and flow of operating a business. Although ISOs have access to analytics tools, MCR reportedly takes some of the guesswork out of trying to determine what's best for merchants. The value-added revenue streams MCR can generate could add up for ISOs as well. For example, on a merchant portfolio of 5,000 accounts, if 10 percent of those merchants were to opt into MCR's paid offerings, the ISO could see a monetization value annually of about $650,000 in additional revenue, Sgueglia said.
Once merchants register online using their merchant identification numbers, they are directed to the MCR web portal. There, they can view detailed reports, analytics and account summaries. Merchants can also request funding, pay bills online, become Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) certified, view sales trends and projections, and access products and services available through MCR.
MCR reported that its online marketplace includes such items as SalesGuard, a cash advance program that functions like a line of credit merchants can use to cover emergencies or expand businesses. The MCR MerchantCard MasterCard Prepaid Business Card can be used for purchases and to access cash. It sends automatic email and text alerts whenever purchases are made, allowing merchants to manage and restrict employee spending. Daily settlements can be deposited onto the card as well.
Another value-added service MCR mentioned is its automated online PCI-compliance program, which guides merchants step-by-step through the self-assessment questionnaire and provides custom certifications. Online Internal Revenue Service 1099-K reporting and sales tax filing are other options that can help streamline operations. "In fact, our MasterCard product actually has merchants able to file their sales tax directly online through My Clear Reports," Sgueglia said.
He also said MCR's online bill pay system enables merchants to select funding source, make payments, view payment history and add payees. Merchants can also track and manage their merchant accounts with tools for viewing daily transaction histories, account summaries, adding new accounts, adding new store locations and ordering supplies.
Merchants can download reports, documents and monthly statements directly from the MCR website. "We have a whole document center for merchants to be able to download documents from invoices to confidential agreements, all the different types of documents necessary to support and grow their business, from W-9s to W-2 forms," Sgueglia said.
Under the documents and forms section, merchants can also file expense and sales projection reports, produce profit and loss statements, create contracts and schedule weekly planner activities.
MCR's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system contains sections for dashboards, accounts, customers and campaigns. The CRM offers tools for communicating with customers, including templates for generating seasonal campaigns. "They can actually track their own customers, and send out e-mail and text message campaigns," Sgueglia said. "They can also create custom sales campaigns, a newsletter or just a thank you."
MCR's business center includes business templates and forms, as well as tips and reports on social media marketing, local advertising and recommended blog sites for merchant users. It also features a directory of local vendors that offer discounts and bonuses to participating MCR merchants. MCR merchants may also offer their own products and services through the network for a nominal fee, MCR said.
MCR continually integrates new products and services into its offerings; merchants currently have 24/7 access to the following:
In late 2012, MCR plans to release a free mobile application that will enable merchants to access all the features of MCR from mobile phones. Other integrations in the foreseeable future include shipping and other business-related services and products to enhance merchant performance.
Sgueglia said initial response to MCR from the merchant and ISO communities has been positive. "We're going through ISOs, banks and processors, but merchants are actually calling us that want to be integrated," he said. "We're letting the processors know that they've reached out to us, they want this service and we can integrate it with their whole portfolio."
ISOs that contract with MCR must initially provide a data file for integration, which can be updated monthly when new merchants are added to their portfolios. "It tracks everything on a dashboard," Sgueglia noted. "We built the dashboard so they even have down lines for monetization purposes. Our client controls everything." ISOs can also determine what merchants view on screen and have the screen available to customer service representatives when interacting with merchants, Sgueglia added.
MCR is also proud that it offers corporate branding through its white-label program, which is available to ISOs, banks, acquirers and payment processors for marketing to merchants in their portfolios. The platform's flexible infrastructure permits merchant service providers to add or drop modules in order to create a custom merchant offering, the company noted. MCR also welcomes new vendor and service partners interested in integrating their products and services with the company's web platform.
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