Payment consultancy and technology provider SCIL-EMV Academy hasn't had its second birthday, but it is already striving for U.S. payments industry leadership. And SCIL-EMV Academy Chief Technology Officer Mansour Aaron Karimzadeh believes his company is well positioned in the U.S. payments industry, which is rushing to adopt a technology it does not yet fully understand.
Card companies are urging U.S. issuers, acquirers, processors and merchants to adopt the Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) smart card technology by the end of 2015. This massive U.S. move to the global standard for chip card interoperability will put chip card payments protocols in the United States on par with protocols elsewhere in the world.
EMV, often called smart-card technology (or chip and PIN in regions where a chip card is used in conjunction with a cardholder PIN) uses a computer chip on credit and debit cards to enable payments.
Cards employing EMV technology are considered to be more secure in card-present settings than the mag stripe cards generally used in the United States today.
Card companies are encouraging EMV adoption by setting benchmarks for issuers, acquirers, processors and merchants for EMV compliance - including the fraud liability shift card companies are imposing on merchants in October 2015 when retailers must be ready to accept EMV chip-enabled payments or face potential liability for card fraud carried out on terminals that do not accept EMV transactions.
The SCIL-EMV Academy believes it has an important role to play helping with U.S. training in the EMV standard and technology. It also feels it can provide experienced EMV consulting for EMV implementation and offer EMV products and services through international partnerships with companies already manufacturing for and serving the EMV industry globally.
Karimzadeh has been involved with EMV rollouts since he was asked to review the original European EMV specifications in 1996. He believes his experience can help customers avoid pitfalls in EMV implementation.
"We know people don't really know what EMV is," Karimzadeh said. "People will need to understand what it will do and what they will have to do to implement it. The ISO and acquirer need to only know the externals of how EMV works. The issuer needs to know everything about EMV. The issuer has to do most of the thinking about implementation."
The EMV Academy launched in August 2011 shortly after Visa Inc. issued its road map to U.S. EMV implementation. Karimzadeh and SCIL-EMV Academy Executive Director Stewart Chalmers worked on EMV rollouts in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America before deciding the time was right to start an EMV training center in the United States.
Chalmers worked on EMV sales and marketing in Europe before founding the academy. Karimzadeh was the Managing Director of Smart Commerce International Ltd. when he was asked to join the aspiring academy as a consultant to work on curriculum, consulting programs, workshops and software development.
"We started out as a strategic joint venture," Chalmers said. "The idea always was that as the U.S. EMV grew and moved speedily ahead, that we would merge, and we did merge SCIL and the EMV Academy at the end of 2012."
Karimzadeh and his SCIL team now specialize in EMV smart card system implementation training for financial institutions; payment systems design, analysis and recommendations; and project management.
The academy also provides complete training workshops for EMV technology and project implementation.
The Academy delivers public and private courses and customized workshops, consultancy services, tools and utilities, EMV software, and a variety of partner products.
"This shows there are a lot of different audiences with different problems to solve," Chalmers said. "We started with the idea we would offer a big, broad two- to three-day workshop that would cover everything in EMV from A to Z. We found out as we went along that everybody doesn't need to know everything about EMV.
"There are about 30 to 40 components to the EMV system. Some companies need a high-level understanding, and other companies need to focus on just a few areas. Fifty to 60 percent of the workshops we do are designed to address a specific problem set for the customer."
The company offers a one-day course for resellers, ISOs and merchants. It also does three- to five-day workshops that go deeply into the fundamentals of EMV and non-EMV projects, including the development and implementation of strategic project road maps.
The Academy stated is has an approximately even mix of acquirers and issuers among its customers and corporate clients. Among its clients are U.S. Bank, FIS Inc., Ingenico S.A., American Express Corp., Chase Manhattan Bank, Discover Financial Services, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa.
In addition to its main offices in California and New York the SCIL-EMV Academy has staff and associates in London; Toronto; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and San Jose, Calif.
A full list of online workshops and workshops offered throughout the United States is available at http://scilemvacademy.com/emv-training/workshop-schedule/. Customized workshops can be arranged either at the training academy or on-site in the workplace.
Chalmers said much of the academy's expertise and knowledge is generated in the field when working with acquirers, issuers, merchants and payment technology vendors around the world.
He added that this knowledge can save businesses time and money, as the academy helps issuers, acquirers, merchants and others make informed decisions about new technologies and processes in the world of payments.
Chalmers and Karimzadeh believe a primary advantage they bring to the U.S. market is their EMV implementation experience. Workshops are interactive.
"The idea is to put on workshops that let people know what EMV is and how to implement it," Karimzadeh said. "People can ask questions, and we can offer solutions. It is a two-way street. We learn from them as they learn from us."
The changes required for many legacy systems to adapt to EMV are expensive and time consuming. The SCIL-EMV Academy offers EMV solutions for all areas of the payments industry from issuer to merchant.
Karimzadeh believes EMV road maps virtually ensure EMV will be the platform for all future payment transactions be they mobile, online or at the retail POS.
"Any new channels we believe will all be built on top of the EMV platform," Karimzadeh said. However, he is not confident the benchmarks in the card company road maps are doable. "It will be a challenge to meet all the [benchmark] dates," he said. "The later dates we can hit, maybe - but the earlier dates, I doubt it."
In addition to assisting credit, debit and EMV smart card system implementations, the SCIL-EMV Academy offers mobile payment solutions and expert consultation on smart card-based health-care and transportation solutions.
Eugene Wong, a consultant with information technology consultancy DSC-IT, has been recommending the Academy's training to his colleagues ever since he completed a course titled EMV - Making a Business Case for the USA.
"I believe this course is great for people with limited EMV knowledge and those that wanted to create a company business case to move (or not) forward with the U.S. EMV project," he said. "The class size was small, which gave us the best opportunity for interactive discussions.
"Many topics came up with this interactive format. During lunches, the instructors and students sat on the same table for more EMV and non-EMV conversations."
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