Jason Oxman | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
The Voice of Payments
By Karen Rosen
Jason Oxman has been an agent for change throughout his career at the intersection of technology and policy. He was an attorney with the Federal Communications Commission at the advent of broadband and later a vice president with the Consumer Electronics Association during the nation’s transition to digital TV.
Now Oxman is CEO of the Electronics Transaction Association, the Washington, D.C.-based global trade association representing more than 500 financial and technology companies in the electronic payments industry. He celebrated his two-year anniversary in May.
“I saw in ETA a unique opportunity for a 25-year-old trade association that really viewed itself as a start-up,” Oxman says. “What I mean by that is the payments industry has been around for decades and is best-known for facilitating consumer use and merchant acceptance of plastic credit cards with magnetic stripes on the back.”
While that technology continues to work very well, he says, starting a couple of years ago the prospect of utilizing mobile devices, “promised to be the single most significant innovation in payments since the magnetic stripe was invented more than 40 years ago.”
The only change Oxman avoids is in the form of paper money and coins.
“I don’t carry any cash with me, so I’m all electronic all the time,” he says.
Oxman carries seven cards in a card case and has an Isis Wallet on his phone. An app pays the parking meter, he uses Uber on the road and he even pays his kids’ allowances electronically.
With a Starbucks card loaded on his watch “you don’t even have to take your card out of your pocket there,” Oxman says. “We are definitely moving to a cashless society and that’s beneficial for everybody.”
Last year ETA member companies processed $5 trillion in payments in the United States alone.
“It’s important for ETA to be out talking about how our industry is working to benefit merchants and to benefit consumers,” Oxman says, “because I think our industry plays a very important, but often behind-the-scenes, role in making commerce happen in the United States. Every dollar of that $5 trillion represents a consumer shopping at their local merchant and buying a good or service from them.
“So it’s really not an exaggeration to say that commerce would come to a screeching halt in this country without the payments industry.”
Atlanta plays a “large and significant” role, Oxman says, in keeping those wheels turning, with companies such as First Data, Global Payments and WorldPay locating their global or U.S. headquarters in the city.
“Atlanta is without question the largest payments hub in the country,” he says. “It’s just so exciting to see the innovation taking place in Atlanta and in the payments industry and across the country.”
Oxman, who has spent 10 days in Atlanta over the last two years, says 28 ETA member companies are headquartered in Georgia. That accounts for more than 5 percent of its membership and ranks behind only California, New York, and Texas. Oxman adds that many of ETA’s member companies have facilities in Georgia even if they are not corporate headquarters.
“I’m most excited about the truly dynamic industry that ETA represents,” he says. Among its members are all of the mobile network operators such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile; large technology companies like Google, Microsoft, PayPal and Intel and the largest processors and financial institutions in the country.
“It’s a really great and unique cross section,” Oxman says.
His background as a federal regulator and a lawyer has been an asset in the heavily-regulated industry.
Growing up in Maine, Oxman graduated cum laude from Amherst College. During college, he was news anchor for a CNN radio affiliate and also did some reporting for Maine Public Broadcasting.
“I’d always been fascinated by the overlap between media and policy,” Oxman says.
He went on to Boston University, earning a master’s degree in communication and a law degree. Oxman began his legal career as a law clerk for the Maine Supreme Court, then in 1997 he was hired by the Federal Communications Commission.
“It was at a time of unbelievable innovation in the communications industry,” Oxman says.
The commercial use restriction had just been lifted on the Internet, with Congress passing new legislation opening the local phone market to competition.
Oxman worked in the FCC’s internal think tank as counsel for broadband policy.
“Prior to this era, communications was really all about broadcast TV,” he says. “The internet and advent of broadband really changed the landscape, and that was a terrific introduction for me in the role that regulation can play in the deployment of new technology.”
After a couple of years with the FCC, Oxman joined a Silicon Valley-based technology company to help with the nation-wide deployment of new broadband services.
That led Oxman to his first job with a trade association. He became general counsel for a group representing competitive technology companies.
“That’s where I really saw an opportunity for an industry group to speak with one voice on behalf of companies that have common goals,” Oxman says. ‘For me that’s the fascinating thing about a trade association: It really does bring together companies that compete fiercely against each other in the market, but have a common interest in growing their industry overall.”
In 2006, he joined the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,000 of the world’s biggest tech companies. It is perhaps best known as the producer of the huge gadget show in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Oxman started as vice president of communications and worked his way up to Senior VP overseeing departments including membership, communications and market research.
He was excited by the opportunity to work on the migration from analog to digital TV, with government and private industry working in partnership to ensure that consumers weren’t disrupted.
“It was kind of like Y2K,” Oxman says. “Everyone was concerned that something was going to go terribly wrong, but then everything worked just fine.”
After six years with the organization, he took the top job at ETA.
“What I saw given my background in technology and policy was a huge opportunity to help the payments industry reach its goal of expanding into new technology,” he says, “and engaging new constituencies in the payments eco-system.”
While the chip, also known as EMV, will be required in plastic credit cards by late 2015, consumers are moving voluntarily to mobile payments.
Oxman says Isis, owned by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, is turning on 20,000 mobile wallets a day. The Google Wallet stores card credentials in the cloud.
“It sounds strange to say this in conjunction with paying for something, but it’s very cool to tap your phone to pay and to get your reward points automatically logged in and get offers automatically put in your wallet,” Oxman says. “It makes the future of payments very exciting.”
However, mobile payments currently make up a very small percentage of overall transaction volume.
“Consumers in the U.S. carry 1 billion credit and debit cards in their wallets, so clearly it’s their preferred method of payment,” Oxman says. “And we all know why: It’s safe, it’s reliable, it’s rewarding, it’s convenient. The same thing with mobile devices.”
With more mobile devices than people in the U.S., Oxman sees preferences inevitably shifting.
“When you combine consumers’ love affair with electronic payments with their love affair with their mobile devices, you really have a great recipe for success,” he says. “If you think about migrating the payment experience to the phone, that’s great for everybody in our industry. It’s one of the reasons our industry has such a good story to tell about embracing innovation because it’s good for everybody in the value chain.”
Because ETA is one of the leading sources of credible information for government officials making legislative and regulatory decisions impacting the industry, Oxman has tripled the government affairs staff from one person to three.
“We’re growing the association as we add new members,” says Oxman. “We’re adding new resources and capabilities and will continue to expand our staff over the course of this year. We will be at 10 when we’re at full strength.”
He also meets personally with members of Congress, staffers, heads of regulatory agencies and law enforcement.
“It’s an important part of the job, and frankly it’s good for our industry to have the trade associations being the interface,” Oxman says. “Our member companies want to spend their time running their businesses and serving their customers and not talking to members of Congress about pending legislation. That’s what they have us for and that’s what we’re here to do.”
ETA launched the industry’s first PAC, the ETA Political Action Committee, and a grass roots initiative called the ETA Voice of Payments.
The association recently published merchant guidelines to assist members in ensuring that fraudulent merchants don’t end up on their networks.
Oxman says members are constantly asking ETA about networking opportunities, and the association is trying to incorporate that request into its calendar of events.
ETA runs the largest payments industry show of the year, Transact, which had close to 4,000 participants when it was held in Las Vegas in April. Next year’s show will be in San Francisco. The Strategic Leadership Forum, designed for C-level executives, usually draws about 400 participants.
“They’re looking for business opportunities to get into all these new markets, and they rely on ETA to help them,” Oxman says.
To that end, ETA also offers educational programs, including webinars and ETA University.
The association runs the industry’s only certification program for payments, which has been completed by about 1,000 industry professionals and is “a great competitive differentiator for companies,” Oxman says.
Oxman is often invited to speak at conventions, such as the Card Not Present Expo and to the International Retail Users Group. He has been interviewed on major media platforms and maintains an active Twitter account.
“One of the most important things that I do is make sure that all industry segments understand the value that payments bring,” he says, “and the exciting and dynamic opportunities they have from our industry in expanding the way in which they serve their customers.”
Oxman, his wife Annemarie and two sons, live in Arlington, Va. They enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing in West Virginia.
Oxman admits that he does carry a little cash when he travels to pay for tips. “There’s really no good way to tip the bellman or housekeeper at the hotel,” he says.
At least for now.
“Starbucks just updated their mobile app, so you can tip when you pay,” Oxman says. He notes that PayPal facilitates peer to peer payments and Google just launched the ability to pay by sending a Gmail message.
“What you don’t have the ability to do yet,” Oxman says, “but I think companies are working on, is ‘How do you pay a stranger, somebody whose email you don’t know, or somebody whose app you don’t have the contact information for?’”
And what about the Tooth Fairy?
“The Tooth Fairy has not yet migrated to the world of electronic payments,” Oxman says, warming to the topic, “although based on the inflation value of a tooth, which is certainly a lot higher than the quarter I remember it being when I was a kid, it would be a good business for her to get into.
“I can imagine that for cash flow management purposes, it’d be a lot easier to fly around on her wings if she only had to carry one mobile device or one card rather than all the change she has to carry.”
And the ETA is always happy to welcome new members.
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