South African payments firms merge

Source: Stanchion Payments Solutions

The South African payments technology landscape sees a major consolidation with the merger of two niche specialists that perfectly complement each other.

One is a leader in online payments systems consulting, implementation and on-going management, the other is an integration and custom software specialist skilled in building electronic funds transfer systems for retailers and financial service providers. The new company, called Stanchion Payments Solutions, will be headquartered in Cape Town with the primary development team and support office in Johannesburg.

Stanchion Payments Solutions addresses the retail and financial services sectors, building payments systems to connect retailers to their banks. Clients include a wide range of Blue Chip and emerging banks and retailers in Africa.

"As a united company we can now do incredible things for our customers in Southern Africa. They want to know they are getting global best practice in security and governance. They want to know that no matter what conditions may be on the shop floor, their transactions are being processed flawlessly. They also want to know that they can experiment with new and more convenient ways for their customers to pay, and that our experts are on hand to plan the implementation, to optimise their systems, and to keep them running 24x7," says Graham Williams, CEO of Stanchion Payments Systems.

Payments systems are intricate - conceptually simple, but complex in practice. It is a highly regulated environment, with strict control by both international and local authorities. The threat of attacks by cyber-criminals is high, and the consequences of system flaws may be severe. For a large retailer doing 100,000 sales a minute across the country, even a small problem lasting minutes could mean significant losses.

The technology is also very sophisticated - there are the external banking systems to interface with, as well as internal transaction processing and integrity monitoring. Traffic is running across multi-protocol networks with distributed systems architectures, and with 15, 20 or even 30 links in the chain between someone swiping a card and an amount of money being reflected in a bank account - and at every stage everything must be encrypted and protected from interception.

"This technology is not for the faint hearted or the 'suck it and see' artist," says Williams. "For a major retailer, even a couple of minutes of down-time could cost millions in angry queues of shoppers with significant brand damage... not to mention the abandoned shopping carts. Stanchion already had a pedigree and a sterling reputation for no-nonsense reliability - but we had a gap in our service offering. We did not have a software development team to do customised solutions. In any but the simplest EFT processing system, there is a need for custom software, where BGA excelled. Even if a shrink-wrap solution will fit initially, businesses inevitably evolve in a way that off-the-shelf producers can never anticipate. However, BGA was not able to play in the consulting and management space. For us to join forces makes total sense for our respective customers."

This merger is a great fit: Stanchion has massive experience in design strategy, system implementation and long-term support, including helpdesks with water-tight processes. Baker Gysi and Associates has a team of excellent developers with a very rare set of technical skills.

"We are now a one stop shop - we can gather requirements, design the system, project manage putting the infrastructure into place and then manage it. We will troubleshoot problems, and perform stress testing to ensure that when things get busy no cracks appear," says Shaun Baker, a founder of BGA and Stanchion's Chief Technology Officer. "Later, as our customers grow, we can add new EFT switches, or add a capability to an existing switch."

In an industry that regularly sees disruptive change from multiple quarters, including industry regulators and emerging standards, Stanchion Payment Systems is perfectly placed to provide continuity across the full spectrum of the payments sphere.

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