For the past two years I have had the honor to chair the Electronic Funds Transfer Association during what has been a tumultuous period for the payments industry.
For over 35 years the EFTA has worked to promote the acceptance and safety of electronic payments. I joined a distinguished list of payments industry leaders that have chaired the organization, but I don't think many outside of the founders have experienced such an activist legislative and regulatory environment.
The EFTA is a unique organization made up of members from financial institutions, processors, networks, consumer protection, government agencies and a new wave of emerging payments entrants. With such a diverse membership it is often difficult to reach consensus on policy issues, leaving those positions to the trade associations and advocacy groups. Where EFTA shines is in educating legislators and regulators on electronic payments systems and the impact of proposed laws or regulations. EFTA has built strong relationships by being a trusted and objective source of payments system information.
Rarely is this work done alone. The EFTA has formed a coalition with the American Bankers Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, the ATM Industry Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores (now those are some really interesting bedfellows) to seek legislative relief from the antiquated surcharge fee signage notice requirement. We won 371-0 in the House on July 9, but we will have to stay focused to prevail in the Senate. The only beneficiary of this well intended but misguided regulation appears to be a small group of lawyers bringing costly lawsuits.
The Electronic Funds Transfer Association was instrumental in educating legislators and regulators about the potential impact of interchange legislation on electronic benefits transfers and gaining an exemption, saving access to hundreds of thousands of ATM's endangered by surcharge fee restrictions and providing information on the operational feasibility of overdraft notification.
I want to thank Kurt Helwig, our association's chief executive; Wayne Malone of Citigroup, our new chairman; and our members for their support. It's been an interesting two years and I look forward to continuing to serve on the executive committee.
James A. Hanisch is the executive vice president of CO-OP Financial Services in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.