Fintan Byrne, Transaction Network Services: "Empowered Consumers Drive Payments Evolution"

Wednesday 14 May 2014 09:29 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Interview

The offline and online worlds are merging and payments originally designed for online use are now starting to emerge in-store

Fintan Byrne joined TNS in 2006 to lead the UK and Ireland sales team for the Payments Division. Fintan has risen rapidly through the ranks holding the position of Senior Vice President and General Manager of the EMEA Payments Division for a few years before being appointed Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Payment Gateway Solutions business in January 2014.

Prior to joining TNS, Fintan was Vice President of Global Product Marketing at NCR Ltd, a technology and support services provider operating in more than 100 countries, which he held for five years. Fintan has gained extensive market insight and knowledge throughout his career and has also spent three years with financial services website as Head of Business Development and 13 years with Bank of Ireland in Dublin, in IT Development and as a Business Relationship Manager. Fintan has an MBA from University College, Dublin, and a degree in Computer Science from the city’s Trinity College.

TNS provides secure, mission-critical communications platforms which enable customers to confidently exchange information and handle billions of transactions worldwide each year. Built upon our fully resilient, PCI DSS certified backbone, TNS operates some of the largest real-time, community based networks in the payments, telecommunications and financial services industries.

Please tell us a little bit about TNS and the services it offers.

Fintan Byrne: TNS is one of the industry’s leading global providers of data communications and interoperability solutions. We are a trusted partner to thousands of financial organisations, telecommunications providers and retailers around the world. We provide secure, mission-critical connectivity, gateway and managed payments services which enable merchants to process card present, card-not-present and mobile transactions with all major banks, acquirers and processors.

We handle more than 15 billion card payment transactions globally each year via a range of solutions which are built on our fully resilient, PCI DSS certified backbone network. We place an emphasis on innovation and include new technologies such as encryption and tokenisation solutions within our portfolio, and we can accommodate new forms of payment, such as digital wallets.

What is TNS’ strategy to establish a solid presence worldwide?

Fintan Byrne: Since we were founded more than two decades ago we have deployed an active growth strategy utilising both organic growth and expansion via acquisition. As a result, we have created a very strong global footprint which means we can extend our services to more than 60 countries around the world, covering Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific region. We have also established relationships with many global partners, including well known major card schemes, acquirers, processors, merchants and alternative payment providers.

Our strategy now is to develop each of these regions and to continually strengthen and expand our global network of bank connections, local payment types and value added services. We monitor the industry closely to ensure we can adapt to meet evolving needs and consumer behaviour and one example of this is the digital convergence plan we are undertaking for the TNSPay gateway solution, which handles transactions both in-store and online. As a result, TNSPay has become better placed to help merchants extend their operations internationally by offering a resilient and secure high availability platform.

With TNS being a trusted payment gateway services provider to the payments industry for more than 20 years, how would you characterise the current state-of-affairs of the payments industry and what challenges and opportunities do you see in the coming years?

The payments industry has traditionally been characterised by a growing shift from cash to card and this will continue, however, in recent times this has evolved into a shift from cash to digital use of cards, with the introduction of digital wallets and other alternative payment methods. We will always have cards or similar tokens, but the application of these is being shaped by new technologies and changing consumer behaviours, and the pace of change is quickening.

Alternative payments are expected to grow significantly over the next few years in markets where card usage is high, however, we also expect alternative payments to strengthen their presence in markets where cards are less common, such as in Africa, South America and India.

A host of new entrants are entering the market for digital wallets and as these players grow and jostle for position a range of mergers and acquisitions will take place as the market consolidates and settles down. Some vendors could suffer from this competition and payment service providers will need to review the market carefully to ensure that those they adopt or partner with are going to remain.

After this activity, it will not be long before we stop referring to alternative payment methods as alternative as they will quickly become part of the norm. as shoppers become more agile. Showrooming by consumers where they visit stores to view merchandise but make their purchase online is becoming more popular and should be seen as an opportunity for traditional bricks and mortar merchants. Other new shopping habits, such as click and collect, will become more prevalent as well.

The ongoing challenge for the payments industry and retailers in particular is the need to keep up with developments, embrace the new technologies and make wise investment choices. The ability to make and accept payments needs to be extended to all retailer touch points, including mobile applications and social media, and just as important is the need to ensure retailers can track, update and respond to payments across all channels.

As more digital channels open up and converge with established channels, security and compliance will be paramount. It could be that the role and scope of the PCI Security Council expands to accommodate this and this will have additional implications for the payments industry as well as retailers themselves.

Recent trends indicate power and influence is shifting towards consumers, creating a growing need for companies to come up with new solutions to keep up with changing consumer behaviour. What is TNS doing to help merchants and retailers meet changing customer requirements?

With the rise in cloud computing, cardholder data can now be stored securely outside of the merchant environment. Making recurring payments easier and more readily available allows retailers to improve the service they deliver to customers and TNS’ tokenisation technology offers a secure and simple way of doing this.

TNS’ tokenisation solution is ideally suited for merchants that take recurring payments or need to store cardholder data for chargeback, reversal and marketing analytics, among other things. The solution utilises a robust PCI DSS certified platform which is suitable for card present and card-not-present payments. It replaces cardholder data in the merchant environment with a token that can be regularly submitted to TNS when payments are due. TNS stores the cardholder information on behalf of the merchant within its secure, PCI-compliant environment.

Consumers, armed with their smartphones, are going to be more demanding in their expectations, and more sophisticated and complex in the way they browse and purchase. Merchants are looking to offer payments anywhere and at anytime and so we have developed a simple, secure API that can take advantage of the latest web technologies to support this. As a result, TNSPay makes their payments smooth and efficient across existing and future digital channels.

Do you think that Bitcoin is the currency of the future?

Fintan Byrne: This is hard to say. There’s no doubt that people who have invested in this have made money, but its future as a major electronic currency is questionable. As it stands currently, it is unregulated and the value fluctuates, which has led some people to suggest it could be open to abuse. However, we expect some merchants are accepting Bitcoin already and others will follow suit under the reasoning that as another payment type it may attract new customers and anything that retains or increases revenue is good.

We will be looking to governments to review this, provide regulations and put safeguards in place. If this happens there is a strong possibility it will become a standard form of payment, but without it, we are still unsure. What Bitcoin does demonstrate is that technology can rapidly change the way we think about many fundamental aspects of payments, so we expect other innovative payment and currency solutions to emerge over the next few years.

In 2013, TNS partnered with Trustwave to provide an encryption service designed to shield payment card information. How do you handle your clients’ security requirements?

Fintan Byrne: TNS has dedicated security and risk teams that oversee all aspects of our business and ensure our PCI compliance is maintained. The TNSPay gateway deploys intrusion detection technologies and behavioural monitoring applications which operate 24x7x365. All of our systems have strict physical and logical access controls, file integrity monitoring with approved change control procedures and are subject to regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests. Cardholder data where stored is protected with industry standard encryption. In general, our approach is to simplify security and compliance for our merchant customers by removing cardholder data from their environments while providing streamlined and robust APIs for them to interact with our services.

Can you mention any high profile attacks where wireless networks were used to compromise security and gain information, such as credit card details?

Fintan Byrne: The most notable case was back in 2005 and 2006 in the US when hackers stole 45 million customer records from the parent company of TK Maxx after breaking into the company’s wireless local area network. The Wall Street Journal reported that the hackers cracked the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption protocol that was used to transmit data between price-checking devices, cash registers and computers at a single store, allowing them to then collect information submitted by employees logging onto the company’s central international database. They were able to acquire usernames, passwords and credit card numbers for 18 months before the breach was noticed. Since then many experts have criticised the strength of WEP encryption and it is not something TNS has ever used.

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Keywords: TNS, payment methods, PCI compliance, PCI DSS certificate, security, alternative payments, card payment transactions, tokenization
Countries: World