Merchant Advisory Group (MAG) plays a vital role in the industry providing collaboration, education and networking opportunities for merchants and key stakeholders in the payments ecosystem as well as being a key advocate for merchants’ interests. Originally established in the United States in 2008, MAG expanded into APAC in 2022.
Paul Tunstall recently joined MAG as VP International to lead MAG’s international expansion across APAC and Europe. In this interview with Mangala Martinus, Managing Director at Payments Consulting Network and Merchant Advisory, he discusses his experience in the industry, the role of MAG, and why international expansion is seen as important step in MAG’s journey and mission.
MM: Please provide a brief background on your payments industry experience and what led you to joining MAG?
PT: As a seasoned sales leader, I have over 20 years of experience in banking and finance, including 15 years in payments. My journey began at Global Payments Inc in 2008, where I started as an individual contributor, selling to the SMB market in the UK. Following this, I moved onto a joint venture with Yorkshire Bank and Worldpay. However, my tenure was brief, lasting only 14 months before I transitioned to J.P. Morgan. Here, I took the reins of the EMEA merchant services sales division for enterprise clients, a role I successfully held for 11 years.
In 2022, I moved into consulting and became VP, Europe for global consultancy firm CMSPI. My experience included building and leading successful teams in international retail and e-commerce, with extensive exposure to UK, EMEA, and US markets. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with some of the largest global brands, providing me with invaluable insights into delivering scalable growth opportunities.
I was drawn to the Merchant Advisory Group (MAG) and the role of Vice President of International due to the organisation’s unwavering commitment to driving positive change and innovation in the payments industry while prioritising the best interests of merchants. It’s because of this combination of purpose and the opportunity to make a significant impact that attracted me to the MAG. The MAG’s mission to be the voice of the merchant in the payment ecosystem resonates deeply with my professional values. This role presents a unique opportunity to spearhead the expansion of MAG’s mission on a global scale, engaging local merchants and fostering collaboration within diverse payment ecosystems. The prospect of building a strategic vision for international expansion, creating self-sustaining programs, and sharing invaluable payment knowledge across the globe is not only a professionally fulfilling endeavour but also aligns perfectly with my passion for facilitating meaningful, positive transformation in the payments industry. It is this combination of purpose and the opportunity to make a significant impact that attracted me to the MAG.
MM: What is the mission and role of MAG?
PT: MAG has a clear and concise mission– to drive positive change and innovation in the payments industry, with a primary focus on serving the best interests of merchants through collaboration, education, and advocacy.
This involves actively representing the concerns, needs, and challenges faced by merchants in various aspects of payment processing. Whether it’s advocating for fair and cost-effective payment practices, ensuring transparency, or influencing regulatory changes, we stand as a staunch supporter of merchants in their dealings with payment stakeholders.
The organisation facilitates cooperation and partnership among its member merchants, as well as with payment networks, processors, technology providers, and other industry stakeholders. By fostering collaboration, we want to create an environment where diverse voices can come together to address common issues and drive meaningful change.
We recognise the importance of education in empowering merchants to navigate the complex world of payments. Through various educational initiatives, such as conferences, webinars, and informational resources, we provide merchants with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions, optimise their payment processes, and adapt to industry changes.
“The underlying principle of MAG’s mission is a merchant-centric approach. This means that every action, decision, and advocacy effort is guided by the goal of enhancing the merchant’s experience and improving operational efficiency. By putting the interests of merchants at the forefront, MAG helps create a more equitable and merchant-friendly payments environment.” – Paul Tunstall, VP International, Merchant Advisory Group
Another critical aspect of our mission is to foster innovation in the payments industry. This involves identifying opportunities for improvement and advancing new technologies and strategies that benefit both merchants and their customers. By staying at the forefront of payment innovations we’ve ensured that merchants can adapt to evolving consumer preferences and emerging payment technologies.
MAG actively engages with regulatory bodies and authorities to influence and shape policies that impact the payments industry. By providing a strong merchant voice in discussions with regulators, the organisation plays a vital role in advocating for policies that support a competitive and fair payments landscape.
In summary, the MAG plays a pivotal role in the payments industry by acting as a merchant-centric advocate, fostering collaboration, providing education, driving innovation, and influencing regulations. Its mission is to ensure that merchants have a strong voice, can adapt to changing market dynamics, and ultimately thrive in the evolving world of payments. Through these efforts, MAG contributes to the continued growth and prosperity of merchants and the broader payments ecosystem.
MM: What do you see as some of the key achievements of MAG across the last decade?
PT: Over the past decade, we’ve achieved several significant milestones, greatly influenced the payments industry and advocated for merchant interests. Below are some key achievements during this period:
- Played a pivotal role in advocating for and successfully achieving the removal of the requirement to collect signatures on transactions – this streamlined the payment process, making it more convenient for both merchants and customers.
- Advocated to help create a specification that allows for routing on a branded EMV chip, giving merchants more control and flexibility over payment processing and enhancing the overall payment experience.
- Influenced the inclusion of an opt-out option for merchants as part of the Mastercard Instalments program, allowing businesses to decide whether to participate based on their individual needs and strategies.
- Led efforts to grant merchants autonomy to manage their payment processes more effectively by having the choice to opt out of Google Autofill.
- Championed rules that empower merchants to defend against 1st party chargebacks with proof of past purchases, enhancing the protection of merchants from potentially unjust chargebacks.
- Contributed to the creation of several merchant-friendly payment flows within EMVco Specification and standards. This included a single contactless kernel, simplifying payment integration and enabling more seamless transactions.
- Amplified the Merchant’s Voice with regulators to influence the expansion of debit routing rules to include online transactions with the U.S. Federal Reserve to promote fair competition and allow merchants cost-effective routing options for online sales.
- The MAG’s efforts with the Federal Trade Commission led to a ruling requiring all networks to detokenise online debit transactions, increasing transparency and control for merchants.
- Working directly with U.S. Federal Reserve, the MAG substantiated the need for the creation of a competitive real-time payment network, advocating for a more accessible and competitive payment landscape.
These achievements showcase MAG’s dedication to empowering merchants in the evolving payments landscape. The organisation has not only influenced specification changes to enhance merchant flexibility but also played a vital role in representing merchant interests to relevant regulators, ultimately contributing to a more merchant-friendly and competitive payments ecosystem.
MM: Why has MAG decided to expand into Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe?
PT: The expansion into the APAC and European regions has been in planning for some time, but was delayed for two years due to COVID-19. However, our ambition to become a global association has not waivered. APAC and Europe have specific payment industry practices, complexities, challenges, and opportunities that differ from those in North America. Our expansion can help us learn and share best practices with merchants in these regions as well as focus on the following goals:
- To better serve our existing merchant members and partners with business interests in these regions, allowing us to effectively address their unique needs and challenges.
- To tap into new market growth opportunities and support merchant members in capitalising on some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
- To offer vital guidance and support to international merchants in addressing the complexities of global payments and compliance as payments and cross-border transactions gain prominence.
- To increase engagement with regulatory authorities and payment networks in these regions and ensure that they align with merchant interests.
- To facilitate networking and collaboration with regional industry stakeholders, payment processors, and technology providers.
All of which can help MAG build a stronger global community and foster cross-regional best practices.
MM: What will be your role in that international expansion and what do you see as the challenges?
PT: As the Vice President of International at MAG, my role in the organisation’s international expansion is critical to its success. It reflects a strategic and multifaceted approach to expanding MAG’s mission and presence into new regions.
My primary responsibility is to build a vision for the international program that aligns with MAG’s mission and to develop a comprehensive strategy for expanding MAG’s presence in the APAC and Europe regions. It will include leading efforts to engage local merchants within the payment ecosystem in APAC and Europe and building collaborative relationships with merchants, payment processors, technology providers, and regulatory bodies in these regions.
The potential challenges in this international expansion program could be brought about by cultural and regulatory differences, as expanding into international markets can often be complex and vary greatly from one region to another. Understanding market dynamics, consumer behaviours, and competition in APAC and Europe demands in-depth research and local insights. Engaging with local stakeholders, merchants, and regulators effectively might involve overcoming language barriers and ensuring cultural relevance in communication. Coordinating activities and knowledge sharing across different time zones and regions can be logistical problem so I plan to recruit within region.
Establishing MAG’s reputation in new regions may require time and effort to gain trust and credibility among local stakeholders especially if they are not familiar with MAG or its mission. Ensuring compliance with regional regulations and understanding the implications for merchants can be a challenge.
We need to ensure that MAG’s international expansion becomes self-sustaining, which will involve generating revenue from events, memberships and sponsorships. This means curating global payments expertise for MAG’s members providing them with the latest insights and trends. Developing the structure for international members and annual sponsors will include recruiting and retaining these members and sponsors through collaborative relationships. A key part of our success lies in developing local event strategies, shaping event agendas and ensuring their effectiveness. I’ll oversee the facilitation and implementation of the strategic international operating committees and advisory panels, chairing international advisory meetings and ensure that committee and task force meetings are functioning effectively.
MM: What support and opportunities for collaboration are you seeking from the payments industry to assist with MAG’s international expansion?
PT: To successfully expand into new regions, MAG aims to build strong partnerships and leverage local expertise in the APAC and European markets. We seek continued support and collaboration from the payments industry players who have expertise in the specific markets. These market insights would help us better understand the unique challenges, regulatory landscapes, and opportunities in these regions. Additionally, we plan to collaborate with local payment processors, financial institutions, and technology providers to navigate the local payment infrastructure, regulations, and establish a presence in these regions.
Joining forces with regional and global payment industry coalitions and associations can amplify MAG’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for merchant interests on an international scale. Establishing connections by networking with local merchants and industry professionals is crucial. So, we will expand our membership and sponsorship base in APAC and Europe, leveraging the expertise and insights of local businesses and technology providers.
Collaboration with industry experts and payment solution providers can assist MAG in creating region-specific educational resources and events that will help merchants in these regions better understand global payment trends and best practices. Partnering with technology companies, payment solution providers and fintech’s in these regions can drive innovation and adoption of new payment solutions, which can also facilitate the integration of global payment technologies into regional markets. Furthermore, collaboration with organisations that specialise in cross-border payment solutions can help merchants navigate the complexities of international payments.
Thought leadership and research will drive initiatives that can provide valuable data and insights into payment trends and consumer behaviour in APAC and Europe. This information will inform MAG’s strategies and advocacy efforts and allow us to adapt to regional nuances.
Mangala Martinus, Managing Director, Sydney, Payments Consulting Network and Merchant Advisory.
Mangala has over 30 years experience in the financial services and payments industries. He focuses on supporting clients with business strategy, payments optimisation, market expansion, and industry round tables. His clients include major financial institutions, retailers, e-commerce marketplaces, not-for-profits, ATM deployers, card schemes, and payment processors.
Paul Tunstall, VP International, London, Merchant Advisory Group.
Paul has led successful sales teams in retail and e-commerce across 19 European countries with strong exposure to the UK, EMEA and US markets. He has held P&L responsibility for the European sales function of multi-million-dollar revenues and consistently exceeded targets. He now leads Merchant Advisory Group’s international expansion into APAC and Europe.
Paul Tunstall will be moderating the panel discussion on The Need for Collaboration in Payments and chairing the opening and closing sessions of Day 2 at the MAG APAC23 Summit in Singapore from 1-2 November 2023.
Mangala Martinus will be moderating the panel discussion on Exploring Careers in Payments at the MAG APAC23 Summit in Singapore from 1-2 November 2023.
During this in-person event you will gain insight from payments industry experts discussing key topics including fraud, payments processing, payments orchestration, authentication, careers in payments and more.
Merchant attendance is complimentary, but registration is required. Merchants will have the opportunity to build relationships with their peers and other payments industry stakeholders to learn about payments solutions prevalent in the APAC region.
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