After two decades on the job, Elliott McEntee will step down as president and CEO of NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association at the end of the year. Taking his place will be former U.S. Bank payments veteran Janet Estep, who left the Minneapolis-based bank in May.
As the head of the Herndon, Va.-based electronic payments organization -- which oversees the Automated Clearing House Network, one of the largest electronic payments networks in the world -- McEntee steered the organization through significant changes to the payments landscape, not the least of which was electronic check conversion.
"[Electronic check conversion] is significant for the industry," he says, noting that the pace of change has accelerated over the past decade due to improvements in technology and changing consumer demands. "Combined with remote capture capabilities, this has really changed the environment on how checks are processed."
Until McEntee retires at the end of the year, he and Estep will work together -- McEntee as CEO and Estep as president and chief operating officer. According to Estep, this transitional period is very important as a time for her to learn the ins and outs of NACHA. She joins the electronic payments organization after more than 10 years with U.S. Bank ($221 million in assets), most recently as EVP in charge of the bank's transaction services division.
While she acknowledges that she had no previous direct involvement with NACHA during her career, "I had responsibility for parts of U.S. Bank's payments business, such as merchant acquiring, ATM and debit processing on behalf of financial institution customers," Estep explains. "So I was involved with ACH in an indirect way."
An Outside Perspective
Though Estep does not believe the payments organization purposely sought an "outsider," she notes that she joins NACHA with a clean slate. From Day One on the job, Estep "spent a lot of time listening," she says.
"I allow myself to ask detailed questions so I can understand different viewpoints," Estep explains. "I also try to ask the questions that some who are more involved in NACHA might not be so anxious to ask. So this gives the organization a chance to step back and look at what it's doing." In addition to bringing objectivity to the position, Estep points out that she also has a wealth of experience in the payments area beyond just ACH as well as a solid grounding in technology, having spent 15 years with Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. "It is an exciting time for the ACH world because of convergence," Estep comments. "This is opening doors to using the ACH in different ways. And this is evident in the new rules and services being offered over the last few years."
Estep adds that her one overriding goal will be to continue to help NACHA enable the effective use of the ACH network on behalf of financial institutions and their customers. "We want to provide more valuable ways to use the ACH network," she relates. "Using this as a guiding light, everything else falls into place."
A Strategic Accomplishment
Reflecting on his time with NACHA, McEntee notes that one of the biggest changes in the payments space over the past decade is how the industry views the ACH network. "At one time, ACH was considered the back office and a way to save cost," he explains. "Now it's a very strategic payment network that's important to the future. I'm proud to see that shift in the thought process over the last seven or eight years."
According to McEntee, he came to the conclusion about a year ago that the time was right for him to retire. "I thought it was time to retire after 20 years in this position," he says. "It was time for a new chapter in my life."
McEntee notes, however, that he plans on having an active retirement. "One of the ideas I have is helping with fraud prevention and risk mitigation," he relates. "I'm also trying to figure out a way to use my knowledge of the payments business and financial services to help low-income families and individuals. I see the way they get ripped off by con artists. Unfortunately, they use the payments system to do this."