Jim Harris – May 31, 2019 – I’ve always loved new opportunities, and I’ve jumped at the chance to work with the right people in the right settings and know that my work will have an impact.
A few months ago, one of my closest friends and most impressive colleagues in the payments industry, Kevin Jones, called to see if I’d be interested in his next venture, a private equity-backed startup based not in the payments mecca where I Iived—Dallas-Fort Worth—but in the emerging hub for all things fintech, Nashville.
I knew immediately at a professional level there are few opportunities equal to working with Kevin Jones and the leadership teams he builds. So without any hesitation, I agreed to become one of the first three employees of what has become Celero Commerce, a company that integrates payments and other financial technologies with business software to give small and mid-sized businesses a competitive edge.
Our first acquisition was a payments platform, UMS Banking, a company with a history of innovation in credit card processing and elite customer service. When Kevin told me about the acquisition—even before I knew I’d have a major role in the new addition to the Celero family—we could both barely contain our excitement. In our earliest days together in the payments industry as we worked to build the bank channel at industry leader Chase Paymentech, Kevin and I both developed a soft spot for community banks. In an industry that’s seen incredible consolidation and change over the last generation, with a focus on getting bigger and bigger, the small to mid-sized community banks stand for excellence in service, really getting to know their customers, and becoming trusted partners in the local community. They are active participants in their local communities, supporting local events, and looking to provide products and services in many areas that the big banks simply refuse to service.
What we saw in UMS was a service proposition that aligned perfectly to that of community banks. UMS has always emphasized people and relationships over products and technology, and that’s not an easy thing to do in our industry. It’s actually quite easy, with the continuous advancements in technology, to get lazy and try to let your offerings do your job for you. We saw in UMS a company that aligned to our own vision of how people should be treated, whether they are bank partners or their merchants. With UMS now powered by Celero, our banking partners can offer their clients top notch service with the latest technology.
We also saw a company with the capability to be a boutique customizing the partnerships based on the goals of the Bank. UMS invented the concept of outsourced liability, and while that’s important to a lot of community banks, we have multiple revenue models based on what levels of work our partners prefer to do with regard to the merchant services program. It’s a compelling proposition for a community bank, one that’ll never go near setting up its own merchant platform, to take on all liability but be flexible to their needs in the partnership. After all, some like to have more control than others, and we respect anyone who is thinking through how to best service and expand relationships with their commercial clients.
The third aspect of UMS that we really liked was that the company’s service model and flexibility seemed ripe for integration with the Celero family’s other offerings. With the advent of Celero, we are truly transcending the traditional payments company. That’s why we called it Celero Commerce versus Celero Payments. We are integrating tools and technologies like business intelligence and software to help merchants manage their businesses financially and operationally. Our second acquisition, RazorSync, is exemplary of this integration mindset. In due time, we’ll be rolling out RazorSync, amazing business management software for field services businesses to the UMS bank family. All community banks have HVAC, electrical, cleaning, and other field service businesses comprising sizeable chunks of their business deposit portfolios, and we are excited about putting this great tool in the hands of community bankers to integrate along with merchant services for these types of companies.
I’m thrilled to be a part of the new UMS. We’re pushing ourselves to new heights of excellence in customer service for merchants. First, merchants get a human on the phone within 15 seconds of calling us. More than 90 percent of issues reported on these calls are solved during that first outreach. We have great people here who are conscientious, committed, and passionate about seeing our community bank partners and their merchants grow and prosper. We’re taking those people and equipping them with ways to collaborate and bring new ideas to bear for the benefit of our company, its partners, and its customers.
As I write this from my office in Glendale, California, I see a company that’s been historically remarkable really coming into its own in this new era for the payments industry. We are poised for a big future by investing in our people and our technology, and we will continue to set the industry standard for our human touch on bank partnerships and merchant services. We will remain a uniquely positioned boutique in the industry, dedicated to our community bank partners, defining our success by their success. As a boutique payments company within the integrated Celero family, we can stay creative and optimize each relationship going forward.
I’m excited for what the future holds for our team at UMS.