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Q&A With Cliff Teston, Signature Card Services

Rhett Pardon

If you’re familiar with Signature Card Services, one of the adult industry’s leading provider of payment processing services, you’ll be acquainted with its personable staff that has solutions for every business.

And maybe you’re familiar with Cliff Teston, its CEO, who launched the processor with partners in 1997. XBIZ asked Teston to give a bit of insight on the company to see how it ticks.

I think it’s important for me to touch all areas of the company regularly, so I know what’s going on. —Cliff Teston, Signature Card’s CEO

XBIZ: How did you get into the online credit card processing business?

TESTON: Before my partners and I started Signature Card Services, we worked together for an ISO and quickly realized that by bringing together our strengths and our vision, we could offer merchants comprehensive solutions and tools that were not currently being offered. We decided to make it our goal to put ethics in front of everything we did, something that we felt was sometimes lacking in the marketplace. We’ve been on both sides of the table, as both an ISO and as a business needing robust processing solutions – so we understood the challenges that merchants faced. We knew the value we could bring to them and the impact we could make for their businesses and as a result, Signature Card Services was born in 1997.

My partners and I knew what merchants weren’t getting from the industry – for example, effective business intelligence and reporting tools that could be adapted to their needs. We also understood the non-face-to-face (card not present) market and the technology needed to support this industry properly.

Ultimately, we saw a void in the marketplace for a solid and reliable processing partner and knew we could fill it. We have been in business for over 16 years now and our commitment to providing merchants with the highest level of service and technology has never changed.

XBIZ: What defines Signature Card Services and make it stand out from the rest?

TESTON: There are really only a few big players in this market, and we are one of them. Signature Card Services powers many of the payment processing companies that are currently servicing merchants in our industry. Bringing over 16 years of experience, we understand the unique needs of the niche markets and the industry as a whole. We know how to cater to their needs and customize the right solutions to support their growth.

We like to say we are the smallest “large” ISO, meaning we can do anything that the largest ISOs can do – such as providing cutting edge technologies and advanced reporting capabilities and other functionality – but we are still small enough to quickly adapt and respond to needs of our merchants. We have an amazing team of people who are experts in what they do and work to accommodate the best solution for each individual merchant. In addition, our strong relationships with multiple banks and gateways, enables us to tailor solutions that work in favor of each merchant’s goals and support their longevity in the industry.

We are also very accessible to our customers; real people answer our phones, and our clients can always reach the person they need to support and answer any questions.

XBIZ: How many transactions does Signature Card facilitate each month?

TESTON: We facilitate almost 2 million transactions per month.

XBIZ: How important are customized programs to client needs, and can you give real life and interesting examples of such customization?

TESTON: We are able to customize high-tech issues, such as recoding how the customer wants the reporting prepared. For instance, we take settled transactional data from our processor, reformat the information and recode the data differently to better suit the client’s business. It’s important to note that the reformatting of the data is housed in a secure and safe environment.

As another example, we assist merchants with tracking chargebacks to the original sale. For some of our merchants, this is a very important tool that allows them to track the different stages of the transaction from start to finish. We also offer our clients an advanced business intelligence tool that translates their transaction data into important insight into their top customers’ attributes – including demographic, psychographic, economic and geographic information. This helps our clients better understand their own best customers, so they can launch highly-targeted marketing campaigns that are far more effective in growing a profitable business. We’re committed to bringing new technology and more value to our merchants.

We are laser focused on the needs of different merchant categories. In the adult industry, merchants need to know exactly where their traffic is coming from. It is also important for them to stay on top of changing violations. At stake are penalties – not just on the merchant side, but also potentially on the affiliate side as well. We have the skills and experience to support merchants who might be suspected of brand violations and give them the proper support to help them get through it.

XBIZ: What sectors of the online adult business are driving the market these days?

TESTON: The adult online dating, live cams sites and user/amateur content sites.

XBIZ: Where is most of your business coming from, Europe or US, or is it about the same?

TESTON: The majority of our business is coming from the US, although we do have some foreign customers.

XBIZ: How does Signature Card Services, with an evolving slate of banking and privacy regulations, stay in compliance?

TESTON: We have an entire department dedicated to compliance, with a talented and knowledgeable team that works constantly to stay ahead of the issue. The banks require us to be audited annually, and this information is passed on to clients. We pride ourselves on continually educating our clients on the latest regulations and provide them with the compliance tools they need.

Signature Card Services is committed to implementing new technologies to further support merchants on this issue, such as a new authentication process we are working on. We are actually an angel investor in an emerging technology that facilitates authentication of the end user. We put a lot of investment in this, because we’re confident that this will help further protect our clients. When this new technology is ready, we will be excited to share it with the marketplace. This authentication tool will help make a case for fraud and our goal is to help eliminate so-called “friendly” fraud (when someone makes a purchase online and then claims it wasn’t them or that they weren’t aware of the charges).

XBIZ: What is a typical day like for you?

TESTON: On a typical day, I usually start off the day with a cup of coffee with one of my senior staff members. There are about three or four people that it’s critical I touch base with every day. I make sure to check in with my partners and my staff so I know what’s going on. I like to take time to take a walk with employees, too, this gives us a chance to get out of the office and talk about any issues they’re facing. I love this tradition because we get so much done on these walks. Typical days involve conference calls, problem solving, etc. I have been known to even go out to the receptionist’s desk and answer phone calls! I think it’s important for me to touch all areas of the company regularly, so I know what’s going on.

XBIZ: When you are not thinking about business, what do you like to do?

TESTON: I love spending time with my dogs! I am constantly doing home remodeling, another passion of mine. I also love to travel.

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