Minding the Digital Business

Peter Zuong (M.B.A. ’09, left) works with companies focusing on regulatory issues and online payments.

Cashing in on a Growing Market

The reliability of secure Web-based networks has also fueled the growth of new financial products, designed to make transactions easier and more efficient. At eCommlink, Chief Information Officer Peter Zuong (M.B.A. ’09) oversees a system for processing prepaid debit cards such as gift cards from retail outfits or cards with a certain dollar value that individuals have at their disposal. It’s the 21stcentury version of a money order that can be spent down as purchases are made.

Founded in the mid-1990s to handle credit card transactions, eCommlink moved into the pre-paid card market in 2003. The company processes the transactions, handles card activation, and ensures that sufficient funds are deposited to the account to cover a purchase. It uses proprietary software that interacts with systems run by banks and other financial institutions. These cards have become increasingly popular over the past decade, especially among consumers who have a poor financial history and don’t qualify for a credit card.

Zuong came to eCommlink in 2010 after working for State Farm Insurance, where he was responsible for information security standards and guidelines. Many of those same issues are in play at his new position, as eCommlink complies with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, a rigorous set of protocols to ensure that financial data gets encrypted and that transactions are secure.

“This ensures that all of our security is in place,” says Zuong. “The data have to be correct. The store has to know there’s $12 left on the card.”

Improvements in technology and changing consumer demands are challenges for the prepaid card industry. As the cards become more popular, there are more requests to develop products that allow U.S. residents to purchase prepaid cards to send to relatives abroad—a process that could become easier and less costly than wiring money through a bank service.

There’s also the promise of banking on the go. Zuong is currently working with computer engineers on a phone application that will allow purchases and other financial transactions normally associated with prepaid cards to be handled by mobile devices.

“We’re moving toward using the smart phone as the credit card,” says Zuong. “There needs to be integration on the front end with mobile providers. And on the back end, we have to make sure our technology is compatible so the transactions are processed.”

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