Moderated by Rick Badie

Today, an advocate for the payment processing industry writes about our standing in a growing financial sector that employs thousands of Georgians. A companion essay outlines the alliance between the UK and the U.S. in the fight to thwart national and regional cyberthreats. The third column deals with water quality regulations of the Chattahoochee River at Peachtree Creek.

Growth in payment processing

By Jason Oxman

Not long ago, checkout line clerks asked “cash, check or charge” more often than “paper or plastic.” But with double-digit declines in cash and check usage at the register, electronic payments have become the ubiquitous way to pay. And because more than 70 percent of the $5 trillion in annual U.S. payments transactions flow through Georgia businesses, that’s great news for the state’s position among the nation’s financial technology hubs.

Merchants in the U.S. rely on electronic payments as the fast, reliable and safe way for customers to pay. And U.S. consumers carry 1.2 billion debit, credit and prepaid cards in their wallets because they rely on electronic payments for the safety and security of their transactions. With new innovations in payments coming to market, it’s important to recognize the role that Georgia companies play – and to ask what can be done to grow the payments industry here.

With financial technology company revenue of more than $34 billion, Georgia ranks only behind New York and California in the exciting and dynamic world of payments technology. More than 85 billion payments transactions pass through the systems of Georgia companies each year.

Our industry is in the midst of the most significant upgrade in payments technology since the magnetic stripe credit card was introduced more than 40 years ago. We are deploying new chip-enabled credit and debit cards to prevent the creation of counterfeit cards, which represent more than two-thirds of retail payments fraud today. We are also deploying new tokenization technology, which replaces account numbers with cryptographically secured tokens that cannot be intercepted and used to commit fraud. And point-to-point encryption technologies, deployed at the merchant point of sale, ensure that payments data is protected against interception as it moves across computer systems.

These more secure technologies are further bolstered by new mobile payments solutions that permit use of biometrics and other security features. The future of payments is more secure and robust.

The new Congressional Payments Technology Caucus counts among its founding members Georgia U.S. representatives David Scott and Lynn Westmoreland. Senate Payments Innovation Caucus co-founder Johnny Isakson said that the “thousands of Georgians employed by this industry in my state will benefit from a caucus focusing on new technology development in an industry experiencing explosive growth.” That’s no exaggeration: payments companies directly employ more than 25,000 Georgians.

Georgia companies like First Data and TSYS enable “tokenization” of payments services like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, replacing traditional card account numbers with one-time-use tokens that cannot be stolen by cybercriminals. Fintech companies like InComm are providing unbanked and underbanked consumers in the U.S. (more than 35 million, according to the FDIC) with prepaid card products that empower savings and stability through innovative financial tools. Payments processors like WorldPay and Global Payments are enabling new point-of-sale technologies and working with developers to deploy technology solutions that drive merchant sales.

Home to some of the finest educational institutions in the nation and a slew of startup incubators, Georgia offers unparalleled opportunities for young technology professionals. Yet Georgia continues to lose too many promising students to Silicon Valley and other technology hubs. This trend has the potential to stifle the growth of Atlanta’s vibrant fintech sector.

Fortunately, the Electronic Transactions Association is partnering with the Technology Association of Georgia to bring the payments technology industry together in Atlanta so that we can find the best ways to develop and retain talent right here at home. Together, we are working to get the word out about the amazing opportunities available for the next generation of payments innovators.

Jason Oxman is the chief executive officer of the Electronic Transactions Association.

Strong allies against cyberattacks

By Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. The digital revolution has led to huge advances in freedom, knowledge, health, commerce and well-being. As both the UK and the U.S. continue their reliance on networked information systems, the security of those systems become increasingly important. The United States and UK are the biggest investors in each other’s economies and both countries promote an open, vibrant, safe and stable cyberspace. However, our governments are keenly aware that the global cyberthreat represents one of the most serious risks to national security, peace and prosperity facing society today.

I have witnessed the rapid growth of cybersecurity in my temporary home state of Georgia. The state is home to more than 150 information security companies, together with 17 Fortune 500 headquarters and a sizable payments community; all of whom have a keen focus on protecting themselves from the ever-present threat and increasing sophistication of cyber attacks. Recently, the U.S. Army’s cybersecurity center of excellence relocated to Fort Benning.

Recognizing Atlanta as a global cybersecurity hub, the UK Trade and Investment team recently hosted a group of chief information security officers from some of Georgia’s largest companies and city and state officials, together with visiting UK cybersecurity companies, for a candid roundtable discussion at the Georgia Tech Research Institute . The British Ambassador to the U.S., Sir Peter Westmacott, and newly appointed UK Cyber Security Envoy Andy Williams, were in attendance to explore collaboration and shared issues between Georgia and UK cyber companies and research institutions and to discuss UK cyber security initiatives.

Participation by the ambassador and the Cyber Security Envoy underscores the importance of a number of new joint cyber initiatives announced during the Prime Minister’s most recent visit with President Barack Obama. These include combined network defense exercises with an initial focus on the financial sector; a commitment to align transatlantic cyber best practices and standards; the establishment of a joint cyber cell with an operating presence in both countries and new academic initiatives and scholarships to increase collaboration on cyber research. Safeguarding our citizens and securing key national assets are shared goals and our intelligence and law enforcement agencies work closely together to understand and respond to cyberthreats.

Several common themes emerged from the roundtable discussion; the importance of focusing on protection versus prevention, the role of compliance and risk management and the need to address the behavioral as well as the technical nature of cybersecurity. Most importantly, the discussion highlighted the role of international collaboration between trusted allies in cyber research and innovation – a topic of conversation which we hope to continue with the Georgia cybersecurity community.

We feel the UK has much to add to the ongoing battle to stay one step ahead of the cyber criminals. With a strong heritage in information security, governance and signals intelligence, London’s role as a global finance centre, as well as its Nobel award-winning science and innovation, three of the world’s top 10 universities, and 13 government-funded cyber research centres of excellence mean the UK has the largest market for cyber security in Europe and is home to more than 2,000 companies. Eightypercent of U.S. cyber companies in Europe have their headquarters in the UK, and the UK tops the ease-of-doing-business rankings among the top 10 economies in Europe.

Through ongoing initiatives, we hope to reinforce the UK’s role as a key ally for Georgia in cybersecurity. We hope that this roundtable is the first in a series of events that will strengthen our partnerships and provide the catalyst for future collaboration with Georgia business, research and government institutions.

Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford is the Atlanta-based British Consul General.

 


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