Julie Fergerson, CEO and Co-founder of Merchant Risk Council (MRC), spoke with Pascal Burg (Director, Paris). In the interview, Julie outlines the current payments and fraud landscapes, the role of MRC and how the organization has faced the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. How do you see the payments and fraud landscape evolving in the next few years?
When the pandemic started, the eCommerce industry experienced a massive uptick in purchasing volume that was equivalent to trends we see during peak season, between Black Friday and Christmas. Online merchants thrived. Now, the industry is focused on retaining that trend with businesses doing what they can, such as continuing with curbside pick-ups to maintain high online shopping traffic. You would assume the heavy increase in eCommerce activity would create a simultaneous rise in fraud, but it did not. Fraud rates remained relatively the same and were even down in some cases because of the influx of new, legitimate consumers. Now that the pandemic is slowing down and people are returning to in-person shopping, the ratio of good consumers to fraudsters is likely to change, causing an increase in fraud rates again. Additionally, we are at the start of what many believe is an economic downturn, which historically causes fraud rates to surge. Everyone in the industry is keeping a close eye on fraud and preparing their new strategies to combat it.
2. How is the MRC assisting merchants in managing payments and fraud?
We are always driven towards educating merchants and ensuring industry professionals are fully informed on the latest payments and fraud trends, challenges, regulations, industry standards, etc. The MRC developed a number of educational tools to ensure we can deliver on those education goals. We built an online learning platform, RAPID Edu, with comprehensive courses on the fundamentals of payments, fraud, and chargebacks. These classes are NASBA accredited and provide Continuing Professional Education [CPE] credits for those who complete them. We also allow our member organizations to create courses for the platform and showcase their expertise and thought leadership. Additionally, the MRC Communities enable members to come together to discuss a variety of payments and fraud topics and raise any questions they have with fellow members across the globe. Communities are a great way to share insights and learn. They have been increasingly popular with members as a way to connect with each other on a regular basis, especially since we’ve all been living and working online since the onset of COVID-19.That being said, we hosted several virtual conferences in the past year. We recently held a very successful day-long Summit on the PSD2 SCA regulation helping many members gain a better understanding of how it impacts the consumer experience and providing best practices for its implementation. We have other virtual Summits planned on Friendly Fraud/First Party Misuse and Data Sciences, among others. We are excited to announce we are getting back to in-person conferences and events. From August 30 to September 1, we’re hosting MRC Vegas 2021. As ever, we are bringing together payments and fraud prevention professionals from all over the world to discuss current challenges, trends, and gain insights together. MRC Vegas is known for igniting impactful relationships in the industry and helping attendees strategize ways to develop a successful economy in the eCommerce world.
3. How has the Covid19 impacted MRC events and members participation?
It created an entire new wave of engagement for us. MRC is founded on collaboration, growth, and sharing resources. We offer an array of year-round benefits to ensure there are countless opportunities to connect with each other. Prior to the pandemic, a lot of our members mostly interacted with us at our in-person events, which limited their engagement with everything our membership has to offer. When the world went into lockdown, we experienced a massive increase in participation in all our programs. Now, members are constantly engaged with each other. We have regular calls for the various MRC Communities and Affinity Groups, we’re always updating our Resource Center with relevant content, including presentations, articles, press releases, etc., from our member organizations. The MRC Mentor Program allows veteran industry professionals to partner with newcomers to encourage educational and career development through knowledge-sharing. Our Webinar Wednesdays are an easy way to remain current on hot topics in payments and fraud prevention, and those are just some of the ways our members engage with each other.
4. What are your hobbies? How do you spend your spare time?
I have two major passions, and that is the outdoors and scouts! Whether my family and I are camping, kayaking, swimming, hiking, visiting a national park, you name it – I am often found outdoors, just enjoying my family and all the amazing things this world has to offer. I’m also heavily involved in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. My two children are both pursuing their Eagle Scout rank. I’m a Scout Master for a Boy Scout venture troop, an Assistant Scoutmaster for a Girl Scout troop, and I am so honoured to be a part of the founding team that created one of the first BSA [Boy Scouts of America] troops for girls, so I am on quite a thrilling and adventurous ride. If that wasn’t enough, I am also the Girl Scout leader for an amazing group of girls. Since first grade, I've been a scout and do my best to live by the scout law, oath and motto and am so blessed to have a job that helps make the world a better place.
5. What are your long-term personal goals?
I live my life by a “thirds philosophy,” where a third of things you do, you do because they’re the things you have to do, another third is doing things that are incredibly fun for you as an individual, and the last third is spent giving back. Personally, my goal is to ensure my two teenage children become contributing, happy members of society and that I spend as much time with my family as I can. It was important to me prior to the pandemic, but I value it even more now. Professionally, I am at the point in my life where I’m dedicated to giving back to the industry. I have found my niche in the payments and fraud prevention industry and have been a part of that world for so long now that it’s only natural I came back to the MRC as CEO last year – with a strong desire to create a voice for merchants in eCommerce. Throughout my career, I have come to learn that the merchant's voice has often been a missing part of industry conversations regarding regulations, software changes, etc., despite the fact they’re invaluable in the success of payments and fraud prevention. Their voice not only matters but is key. That is one of our missions at the MRC right now – to be the voice of the merchants and ensure their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions are heard. As an association, we are heavily involved in Advocacy work and a lot of what we are doing right now focuses on that, but education and collaboration is always at the heart of everything we do.
The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of Edgar, Dunn & Company. The information and views expressed in this publication belong solely to the author(s).