Executive Seat: CommerceGate's Bjorn Skarlen
The energetic Bjorn Skarlen has just finished off XBIZ EU in London, and is ready to get back to work. After all, new technologies, deals and partnerships are creating exciting times over at the Barcelona based company.
XBIZ World sat down with CommerceGate’s CEO in late September and asked him a number of questions.
XBIZ: How did you get into the online credit card processing business?
SKARLEN: As an industry veteran I have used the services of high risk payment processing companies, and I saw that there was a lack of quality customer support and customization for processing services that would fit each unique merchant’s needs. I knew that there was a lot that could be done to make this type of business much more client-centric with a dedication to service, making it easier to use and more adaptable to the specific needs of each company. CommerceGate was created with this exact purpose in mind, and I think we have succeeded so far.
XBIZ: What defines CommerceGate and makes it stand out from the rest?
SKARLEN: Most importantly, at CommerceGate we develop close relationships with each of our clients. We want to do more than offer just a payment processing solution; we work with our clients to actively improve their conversions by taking full advantage of our sophisticated tools. Our tech and sales staff take an active role in helping grow the merchants’ consumer base at home and abroad.
In addition to that, and along the same line, we offer an unparalleled level of flexibility to suit our clients. We offer both U.S.- and E.U.-based IPSP, Direct Merchant Accounts and Payment Gateways as well as additional services such as stand-alone fraud scrubbing. We also help with translation services, company formations and a host of other things that makes the life of the online merchant easier.
XBIZ: How many transactions does CommerceGate facilitate each month?
SKARLEN: We process more than 500,000 successful transactions per month through the E.U. and U.S. platform and this number is growing all the time.
XBIZ: How important is it to customize programs for client needs? And can you give some real and interesting examples of such customization?
SKARLEN: It’s very important. You have to keep the end user in mind at all times. Let’s say you have a website that targets the US market initially, but then want to break into Europe or another part of the world. In the U.S., you may be successful employing the usual credit cards, U.S. currency and English as the only language. But internationally, you need to take into account the different languages, the different alternative forms of payment, currencies and the differences in culture when it comes to willingness to use credit cards online.
We offer all the tools a merchant needs to be successful globally, and we are there every step of the way to help them employ these tools for success. The Internet is not about mass communication, it is about one-on-one communication on a massive scale. Our processing solutions reflect that.
XBIZ: Is CommerceGate’s new Interactive Voice Response system gaining traction with clients and their customers?
SKARLEN: We’ve had great response so far. End users find it easy and intuitive and merchants are able to provide a payment option that is cost effective, secure and very easy to deploy. For businesses that want to accept payments over the phone, this is the way forward. It is completely PCI compliant, easy to tailor to the merchant’s needs, and eliminates the need for staff to man the phones.
XBIZ: CommerceGate recently announced a string of new partnerships, including one with dating site Cupid. Do you see a lucrative future in servicing dating site accounts?
SKARLEN: Most definitely, Online Dating is a growth industry with tremendous potential. Meanwhile, it also falls within the high-risk area of payment processing. With our years of experience and bespoke solutions to handle these types of transactions, we feel we can offer online dating sites exactly the kind of safe, discrete and easy to use payment processing their end users want.
XBIZ: What sector of the online adult business is driving the market these days?
SKARLEN: There are several trends offering both new challenges and opportunities. Online Adult has always been a rapidly evolving and changing industry, perhaps now more than ever.
I see several important trends. The explosion of availability of free content, the consolidation of the industry where we see big players buying up or crowding out smaller ones, the growth in mobile platforms and mobile content as well as the deepening Internet penetration worldwide. A Merchant that stays on top of these trends and adapts to the ever-changing circumstances has the potential to make a lot of money, with the right payment processor, of course!
XBIZ: Where is most of your business coming from, Europe or U.S., or is it about the same?
SKARLEN: We are looking at approximately 70 percent of the end consumers coming from the U.S. and 25 percent from the E.U. with the remaining 5 percent from the rest of the world. Our client base is roughly half from the US and half from the EU.
XBIZ: Are there any countries/regions that you don’t currently service but would like to in the near future?
SKARLEN: We see huge growth in all the BRIC countries and I believe within the next few years we will be represented in all of them as the need for safe payment methods is growing. I’m not sure in what order, but both Brazil and Russia are countries our clients will be demanding service from in the very near future.
XBIZ: How does Commerce Gate, with an evolving slate of banking and privacy regulations, stay in compliance?
SKARLEN: We work hard to stay on top of all developments in online processing and follow the regulations set out by the banks and credit card companies. We make sure we get re-certified as a level one PCI compliant processor every year, which ensures that we stay up to date on security and always act in accordance with protocol. We also maintain a network of banking relationships, both in North America and in Europe, to ensure that we are always able to guarantee uninterrupted, fully compliant processing for our clients worldwide. Sometimes regulators are not up to date with what is going on in our specific industries such as Adult and other high risk services. We work closely with our banking connections in order to stay on top of our clients’ business needs and to ensure their continued success.
XBIZ: What are CommerceGate future features to be rolled out and what is in the crystal ball?
SKARLEN: Among other things, we are rolling out our new proprietary affiliate program that we have customized and made user friendly. It is based on the MPA3 affiliate tool. We have been working hard to make it adapt to our system and be the best fit for our clients. I feel we will bring some new features to the table and make our clients, and now affiliates, more money.
In our dedication to having a state of the art platform for processing, we have developed both our U.S.- and Europeanbased processing to be synchronized and utilize the same pillars of back end, statistics, back office and fraud management. It will be easier for anyone to adapt to the local market with localized engineering as well, even if you are based on both sides of the pond.
We see that the card associations are becoming more concerned about processing beyond the acquiring banks. This means we have to adapt to the new rules and guide our clients to follow their instructions and rules. We believe this is better for the consumer, which in the end is better for the merchant, which of course is better for us – The customer is the boss!