Since Elavon opened its research-and-development lab in Atlanta two years ago, the innovation center has marked each of its successful product launches by framing an album cover from rock music history.
For its Fanfare loyalty-and-rewards program, the U.S. Bancorp payments-processing unit hung a record cover from 1980s arena-rock icons Journey. The rollout of a product for accepting EMV cards was commemorated with 1970s art-rock favorites Electric Light Orchestra. And its tablet-based point-of-sale terminal, designed in partnership with NCR, got the Southern boogie-rock treatment with an Allman Brothers record.
The R&D lab is called "the Grove," as in a fertile ground for innovation, and is designed to look and feel like a Silicon Valley startup, replete with a ping-pong table and restaurant booths. Other financial institutions are trying to create nontraditional units with cutting-edge cultures; Elavon officials say it works. Its mission is to use its freedom from many corporate constraints to quickly develop new products, said Wally Mlynarski, senior vice president of global product and innovation at Elavon.
The Grove's latest product is called Commerce SDK, which is designed to allow small and midsize merchants to accept payments through Apple Pay. Many smaller merchants are trying to add Apple Pay through their existing payments-software vendors and have found it rough sledding, Mlynarski said.
"A lot of merchants are struggling" with adding Apple Pay, Mlynarski said.
Commerce SDK will primarily be marketed to vendors like Oracle's Micros Systems, NCR and Talech, which would then use the product in their relationships with merchants, Mlynarski said.
Commerce SDK can also help merchants enable their point-of-sale terminals to accept cards with EMV-chip technology, said Brian Mahony, chief strategy officer at Elavon. Merchants and banks are trying to upgrade to EMV by October, when the legal liability rules for counterfeit cards become more onerous.
"A lot of [merchants] will want to look at the equipment they have and determine if this is a time to make a change or upgrade," Mahony said.
Future products under development at the Grove include something to smooth the flow of payments in the complex health-care industry, Mahony said.
"Health care as a whole is huge, but also complicated," Mahony said.
For those who are more interested in what rock band will be selected for Commerce SDK, they will need to wait, as the product is still in the test phase. There is plenty of room, however, for Commerce SDK to have its place in Grove history enshrined, just down the hall from the ping-pong table.