By hiring Mitchell Cobrin as its president and chief executive in March, HomeATM ePayment Solutions was signaling a significant shift in its business model.
Though the Chicago company is not abandoning its current business — selling card readers that plug into computers and let people make online PIN debit purchases — it is now developing an "anywhere commerce" model for on-the-go merchants such as flea market vendors who want to plug it into a mobile device to accept payments in the field.
The device can work with mobile phones, laptop computers or even Apple Inc.'s iPad.
Cobrin said HomeATM is looking for more ways to use its technology. For example, a major retailer (which he would not name) considers the reader with a tablet computer a "line-busting" tool to speed customers through checkout.
With line-busting, an employee on the floor uses a handheld, wireless device to process transactions instead of requiring customers to wait in line at checkout. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. uses such a system during peak hours at some of its busy restaurant locations.
Paul Turgeon, the president of Payments and Processing Consultants Inc., said HomeATM's device is well suited for line-busting and for mobile merchants in general. "There are lots of those kind of merchants who are spending a lot of money equipping themselves to take credit cards," he said.
Cobrin said HomeATM is also in talks with a tablet maker that would integrate the payments software into the handheld computer. "PC manufacturers are starting to look at supplementary revenue streams, and payments is a natural avenue," said Cobrin, who declined to name the manufacturer.
The HomeATM device also supports signature-debit and credit card transactions, though Cobrin said that PIN debit could become a more attractive option for mobile merchants if the financial reform bill passes and the Federal Reserve Board is authorized to set "reasonable and proportional" debit interchange rates.
HomeATM would distribute the devices via third-parties, such as independent sales organizations.
Merchants could use the device with an existing processor relationship or with HomeATM's processing options that include eFunds Corp., a subsidiary of Fidelity National Information Services Inc.
Cobrin was HomeATM's chief operating officer for four years before taking the top job. He replaced Kenneth Mages, who had been CEO for seven years.