NWP’s Andrea Tucker recently attended a conference hosted by The Electronic Payment Association. She talks to MHN about payment processing trends in the multifamily sector, new electronic payment laws on the horizon and the biggest challenges facing property management teams. For more on payment processing, join MHN and NWP on Tuesday, May 17 at 2:00 pm EST for a free webinar: “Capturing Revenue Growth: Cash Flow Strategies that Work.”
MHN: You attended The Electronic Payment Association (NACHA) conference. What was the mood there in response to the economy and the recovery?
Tucker: The mood was one of opportunity … how to take advantage of what’s going on with new regulations recently implemented—or those coming—and provide reasonable and new ways to help foster change and growth.
MHN: What are the big trends being discussed by association members right now?
Tucker: New electronic payment laws, healthcare payment regulations and The Dodd Frank Act (Including Title X—The Durbin Amendment). Also, mobile payment platforms and needs for regulation (virtual wallet). And corporate business to business (B2B) payments.
MHN: In terms of electronic payments, what are the biggest challenges or obstacles faced by the multifamily sector right now?
Tucker: Buy-in at the property level to really accept the philosophy and push electronic payments processing whether it is online, via phone or by scanning checks/money orders. Many at the property level don’t want to give up their bank trips or are uncomfortable learning new ways to handle the money. Also, the cost of interchange fees for credit/debit transactions to residents and/or the properties is a big challenge for both the properties and the residents.
MHN: What pitfalls do owners/operators need to avoid when first implementing an electronic payments environment?
Tucker: Assuming that once it is implemented, they no longer need to focus on continued adoption and management of the program is the biggest downfall. For example, if a new property manager comes in and takes over—but is not educated about the importance of electronic payments and stops managing the program—it dies a swift death and, within months, is like it never even existed. We’ve also seen property managers who were very resistant to change and did not want to adopt the scanner processes because they preferred to do it manually and did not want to stop the bank trips, so they complained to the owners to remove it at their property, then moved to another property within the same portfolio where the electronic scanning program was working very well and killed that program as well as soon as they got there. It really takes discipline to ensure that at the property level this program is continued and that expectations are set and managed at the corporate level. When you’re dealing with technology, nothing is perfect, so there will always be a learning curve and a need for technology management for occasional issues. Those will never go away with payments, with property management systems, with Internet or computer systems, etc. Anything technology based will always be in a growth mode as it is ever changing and evolving.
MHN: What was your most interesting take away from the conference?
Tucker: That there is a lot of room for new payments products out there. It will be very interesting to watch how the Dodd-Frank Act and specifically how Title X (Durbin Amendment) gets regulated and rolled out. Depending on how the major credit-card issuers respond, the public (both merchants and consumers) will either further embrace or reject credit/debit as their payment option of choice. If they reject it, it opens up more opportunities for ACH payments (cheaper, regulated and standardized) to the developers out there. The main question on everyone’s mind is, will this occur within the banking industry, or will it occur within the corporate world with technology companies such as Apple, Google, Mobile phone providers, Facebook and other social networks?
MHN: Were there any surprises?
Tucker: Not really for anyone who has been following the current legislation changes and NACHA rules amendments.
MHN: Is there anything else you would want our audience to know about this topic?
Tucker: The payments industry is going to get a lot more interesting as more of the public is educated about how fees and fraud are handled. I expect we’ll see some major changes coming as the current processes/fees become more transparent through the legislative discussions.