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24/10/2012. Interview with the CEO of SolidTrustPay payment processor

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Hi everybody! There’s going to be two updates on MNO today for the simple reason I wanted this first one to stand alone and to have reader’s full and undivided attention. The news will be along as usual tonight, don’t worry about that, but before that I have what I hope you’ll agree is a real treat. It’s not often I get to say this but today it’s a genuine pleasure to introduce someone who I know you’ll be very interested in hearing from – Stella Hiemstra, founder and CEO of SolidTrustPay since its inception back in 2006. SolidTrustPay as you will already no doubt be aware of is one of the leading online payment solution providers on the internet today. With the expansion of STP’s debit card services it’s not just online transactions either, they can also be used for cash withdrawals or over-the-counter purchases in shops, restaurants, paying the household utility bills, or pretty much anywhere in the world that accepts cashless transactions.

So today I’m thrilled to be bringing you this, the third interview that Stella has agreed to take for MNO. Maybe “interview” isn’t exactly the right word here, as it is of course more of a “question and answer” session, with questions being submitted for Stella by the MNO readers. I just want to say a big big thank you to everyone who sent in some questions, and I do hope you are satisfied with the answers. By the way apologies to anyone who doesn’t see their exact question here, but I have to say an awful lot of them were repeated by several readers. Therefore I needed to edit them but I do believe every topic that was raised has been included and dealt with by Stella. When you’re finished reading this by the way, you may enjoy delving into the archives and reading Stella’s previous two interviews on MNO. Well, one was an interview, the other was another “Q&A” session with readers like we have today. They were first published here and here. Some of the information might be dated by now, but I still think it’s interesting to read them because it shows how far SolidTrustPay have evolved in what is actually quite a short period of time when you come to think of it.

Also I know it’s been a long time coming, so thanks a lot for your patience everyone. You do have to appreciate the sheer volume of work that STP have to get through on a weekly basis. Running your own business, (how much of it is online is irrelevant) is a lot more labour intensive than a lot of people realize, and I can testify to that from experience. The fact is even I work a minimum 29 day month, usually more, and all I run is MNO. So for an organization the size of SolidTrustPay to have become the number one service provider in a highly competitive business is more than impressive. But basically I hope you understand why it’s been just slightly later than what we hoped for but also agree that it’s been well worth the wait!

SolidTrustPay are arguably the number one payment processor now as regards the websites most often discussed on my blog, but they’ve also been my favorite for quite a long time now too. I mean I’ll be the first to tell you there’s been a few bumps over the years as is only to be expected, but I have to say in all sincerity that SolidTrustPay is to this day the ONLY online payment handler that has NEVER once let me down. When you’re dealing with that many clients then a few hiccups are inevitable, however the real measure of the service they provide is how they deal with these issues once they arise. Anybody reading this who’s had to dubious pleasure of dealing with let’s say that group of individuals collectively referred to as LibertyReserve’s “customer service” team are going to know exactly what I’m talking about here. The standards that STP have set in this industry, the quality of service they provide, and the ethics and transparency with which they conduct that business are so far ahead of their competitors it’s almost as if we were talking about two completely different industries.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. My opinions on STP are well documented elsewhere on this blog so I think it’s time to let Stella do the rest of the talking now. Let me just say thanks again to the MNO readers who submitted the following questions. A blog is absolutely nothing without its readers and your contributions to this article were both welcome and invaluable, as they always are.

1. Hi Stella, and thanks again for making time to answer a couple of questions for the MNO readers in what is now your third interview here. Before we get to the questions from MNO readers I have a couple of quick ones myself just to recap on a few things for the benefit of anyone new to working online:

a) So can you start by introducing yourself and giving us a brief history of SolidTrustPay?

My name is Stella Hiemstra and I am the CEO of SolidTrust Pay. STPay began in the spring of 2006 as a payment processor geared to the MLM, network marketing and affiliate business industries. It now serves clients in every country where allowed and is firmly placed as one of the top 5 e-wallets in the world today.

b) What exactly is STP and what is your own role in the day to day running of the company?

STPay is an e-wallet (think PayPal/Moneybookers); I’m the CEO as well as actively involved in regular customer and merchant support daily.

2. Can you also tell us more about your staff and locations?

We have a very large staff operating at three locations (two in Canada and one in the UK) divided into various departments. None of our services are outsourced; everything is handled directly at our offices. This creates, we find, faster access to services and correct answers when members contact us for support. SolidTrust has its own in-house call centre which includes regular phone support as well as LiveChat and ticket support.

3. Also for the benefit of those coming to you for the first time can you give a step-by-step guide to opening a SolidTrustPay account, funding it, using it for financial transactions, and withdrawing any payments received?

We have more options than anyone else!! I refer your readers to our Step by Step Starting Guide, which is available here:
http://solidtrustpay.com/beginners.html

4. What kind of different accounts are available to customers with different requirements and what kind of fees apply to each?

We offer Personal Accounts as well as three different types of Business Accounts. I refer your readers to our various account type pages, which are available here:
http://solidtrustpay.com/shoppers.html
http://solidtrustpay.com/sellers.html

5. Do you have some kind of customer referral system in place?

Yes, we have always had a 2-tier affiliate program. Anyone that you give your affiliate link to that creates an account, you receive 1% of their transaction fees generated for life PLUS 1% of their referral transaction fees for life. It can really add up over time and there is no limit on your earnings.

6. One of the biggest news stories recently was the closure of Zeek Rewards, and a couple of readers had specific questions relating to that. First of all can you give some background information on what exactly is going on here, at least how you understand the situation anyway and how it relates to STP and its members?

Zeekrewards, as everyone now knows, was shutdown by the United States SEC. SolidTrust received a subpoena from the SEC to suspend the Zeek STPay account and send all funds to the US Treasury Bank which we did in early September, 2012. STPay was one of many different entities that processed payments on behalf of Zeekrewards, all of whom were served with the same subpoena and requirements.

7. Furthermore:

a) How will this affect your future relationship with US based clients? Do you see this having an adverse affect, possibly even having to stop handling accounts owned by US residents?

No, this will have no adverse affect on our US based clients, either presently or in the future. The only members that will be impacted are those that attempted to retrieve their funds sent to Zeek by doing chargebacks with their credit card companies. Every member who attempted such behaviour has had their account suspended, their names and all contact info sent to the SEC (as per the subpoena requiring us to submit such info for any individual attempting tampering of the Zeek account, which is what a chargeback is).

b) If the federal reserve can instruct you to freeze the account and turn over any funds to them (despite you being in Canada) should regular US clients be concerned?

I am not sure what concerns those would be. As long as US citizens were reporting any income on their annual tax returns, there should be no concern at all. Any citizens at a loss, and who had STPay business accounts, would be able to claim any losses against their taxes, which could even be to their benefit.

c) If a member was using his STP account for Zeek Rewards, will his information also now be handed over to the federal reserve?

As mentioned above, only those members who attempted chargebacks have had their full contact information forwarded to the authorities.

8. In the fallout from the Zeek Rewards incident many readers reported receiving (unsolicited) links to online articles spreading rumors and misinformation about how this was going to affect STP. I believe you are aware of the specific website I am referring to here as it was mentioned on the STP blog, so would you like to address any concerns readers who might have been worried about these allegations might have?

The bigger and more successful a company becomes, the more ‘hate’ is put out there by competitors and fraudulent members. We are very much aware of that specific website. The creator of the site has had a vendetta against SolidTrust going back at least 5 years, has many false names that he has used in various forums (all banned), is Canadian and we have traced his IP, phone number and address to Montreal. I’ll also comment that his postings are slanderously full of wrong and misinformation. We would assume that anyone with any common sense and experience with SolidTrust would completely disregard such information.

9. Also, can you explain the situation regarding the US licensing system and the delays you had recently in processing payments to US based account holders? Is it true you need 50 individual licenses to operate in all 50 states? How far along are you in the process?

All payment processors, regardless of jurisdiction, if they offer services to US clients are required to firstly, be registered with finCEN (the US financial services regulatory body) and to either acquire their own licensing in the states that require it (not all do) or be aligned with an entity such as a bank or other institution, that serves as their sponsor. We are sponsored by a US bank presently. Our SolidTrust Payroll debit card allows all members in any state to receive their funds and members in all states can receive payments from merchants. Presently, we are still waiting for North Dakota, Virginia and Arkansas to accept our bank sponsorship. In the meantime, those states are a bit restricted but only in their ability to deposit funds into their account.

10. The mass payment system and instant payouts to customers was a welcome development, but why did it take you this long to introduce it? Do you think it may have hindered you in the past and allowed other processors that offer an inferior service to get ahead of you?

SolidTrust has always had a mass payment system as a free option for merchants. Our Instant Payment API has been available for over a year and a half so I wouldn’t say it was ‘so long to introduce it’. We did want to ensure that it was secure before release but it definitely has been very popular and well used since its introduction. STPay has always had a full featured Subscription module for merchants. All of these options are provided at no cost and are easily accessible in the MERCHANT ZONE area.

11. What happened the old STP debit card. I’m aware that the cards themselves were provided by a third party (Globe Wallet) so the problem was never really at your end, but can you explain why this happened?

Definitely the overnight disappearance of the Globe Wallet card had nothing to do with us and came as a total surprise! The provider underwent a VISA audit and failed, resulting in them and all their clients being without that card product literally overnight. We refunded all members that had funds on their cards even though we never got a penny back from the provider. We even refunded members that purchased the card 30 days or under before it was shut down.

12. I’ve heard of Visa canceling their agreements with a number of other card providers who also had some loose associations with online HYIP websites (or rather the auxiliary businesses that go with it. Payment handlers, exchangers, and the like). Maybe you’re not the right person to ask but in your opinion is this just a coincidence or a deliberate move by Visa to target such businesses?

I’m not aware of any such situations so cannot comment on that. I know that with the Globe Wallet provider, it was strictly the result of them not passing their compliance audit.

13. On the subject of debit and credit cards, I see that you have now enabled withdrawals directly to the customers own card. Please tell us a bit more about how that came about and how it works.

This is an option we introduced well over a year and a half ago now. Originally, it was available to any VISA and/or MasterCard that a member had verified. We disallowed the option for MasterCards due to much member abuse of attempting to withdraw to MasterCard 3rd party debit cards which MasterCard very clearly does not allow (even though our website strictly advises that that is against policy and not to be attempted). Since we have no way of knowing which cards are credit cards and which ones debit, our only choice was to allow to VISA branded cards only. But back to the option…it is a totally cool option where we can send funds from your STPay account to any VISA card you own (NOT debit cards; regular credit cards only). Once we have our own INTL debit card we will most likely no longer offer this option as it is a 3rd party contract and occasionally transfers get delayed or refused. Members somehow think this is our fault and get really annoyed when in fact, the funds are lost somewhere with their card provider. Once we have our own INTL card (scheduled to launch in November), there can be no lost transfers or delayed payments, so that will be much preferred!

14. STP has now reintroduced a payment card for US customers, is that correct? Are you planning to do the same for non-US members as well? If so then what is the expected timeframe?

Yes, we have introduced an excellent payroll card for US customers back in June, 2012. We presently have a new and fantastic INTL card program that we will be launching in November. We will also be launching a US based STPay branded Discover card in a few weeks as well. Our goal is to offer our members many STPay card options with the best features possible.

15. Moving on to smaller merchants/entrepreneurs using SolidTrustPay, I imagine the new Micro Payments System must be a very welcome sight, especially with so much of the world in recession. Can you tell us what that’s all about and how it benefits independent business people who may not be dealing with much money to begin with?

I think our Micro Payments Merchant account is innovative and fantastic and unlike any other micro payments offering!! Not only do merchants get much reduced transfer fees on items under $10, but if they pay back to members and affiliates amounts under $10, the member gets the reduced fee as well! We are the only processor that makes the great rate flow both ways. Micro Payment fees are only $0.05 + 5% per transfer. Example: a $5 transfer to a merchant’s business account would usually cost $0.43 but for a micro merchant would only be $0.30 – this is a tremendous savings of almost 50% !

16. A couple of readers have commented on how long it can take STP to verify members accounts – not necessarily a bad thing by the way! – but as SolidTrustPay has long had a reputation as being the least tolerant payment system when it comes to criminal and fraudulent activity, can you explain the following to people more accustomed to dealing less scrupulous providers:

a) Is it possible to use STP in any capacity without getting verified?

Absolutely and always has been. It continues to amaze us that members think they have to send in tons of documents to get verified. Verification is only required when a member wishes to transact at a higher level, or withdraw to a bank account.

b) Why do I need to get verified at all?

We must comply with government agencies to ensure we are not providing services to known terrorists, criminals or politically exposed persons. Heres’ a bit of trivia for you! SolidTrust was the FIRST online payment processor to require documentation to verify an account (way back in 2006). A few years later, all processors were using document verification. I remember some (now long gone out of business) that plagiarized our ACH and EFT bank authorization forms to use with their members.

c) What if I live in a country where documents are not routinely issued in Latin script? For example two countries where I used to live (Israel and Russia) all bills and bank statements are either in Hebrew or Cyrillic script, and a lot of people throughout Arabic and many Asian countries will be in the same situation. So what can they do?

We have the ability to verify the validity of passports, drivers licenses and country ID cards (just like those scanners at airports). English on those types of documents do not matter, as the codes on the IDs are electronically matched, watermarks, lines, etc all matched as well. We do ask for address documentation to either contain enough English that we can make out address numbers and phone numbers. If documents are submitted with no English we will most likely ask for officially translated or notarized copies.

d) Some readers have said they’ve been asked for notarized versions of their bank statements. Why is this necessary?

If we have any suspicions about the legitimacy of any member or document, we will ask for notarized, legal copies to be sent in the mail.

17. This might be a sensitive question but in fairness it relates to a very sensitive issue. After I submit identity documents, bank statements, utility bills, etc, what do you do with them? I mean I know they’re real, but how do you? If identity is so important then how do you check the documents I sent you are a) genuine, and b) they might be “genuine” but not stolen from someone else?

This is a great question and of course, you’re not the only person to wonder about it. If we told you all the ways we check for validity we’d be giving away our secrets, but suffice it to say we have amazing tools to help us with this important task. Approximately 8% of all documents submitted are either stolen, altered or fake in some way and those are the ones our staff are trained to catch. No documents are stored online once reviewed; they are maintained at our main office in electronic form, but not anywhere online.

18. Can you give a brief explanation of the wider security features of STP? Like I said MNO readers are generally more interested in HYIPs anyway which is a business teeming with cyber crooks. So what have STP done to protect members accounts and personal details?

SolidTrust has integrated many security features to ensure only the legitimate account holder has access to their account. This includes the following:
 – IP match against the last successful login IP
 – IP match against the signup country
 – Browser match against the signup browser
 – Use of secondary password required for all transactions
 – Hardcoding of all personal information that cannot be changed once entered
 – TrustCard VIP status (optional) provides stronger security and account editing
 – Encrypting of all card and banking information and passwords

19. If I join an online HYIP using STP and the admin’s account is blocked due to it being maybe stolen or a “black market” account, their account remains blocked, I know this, but my question is will members of that HYIP be eligible for refunds? Where does the money in that STP account end up?

As long as there are funds still residing in the suspended account, STPay refunds back to the participants. This may not occur for many months, as we need to retain funds against any legal requests, etc. We only suspend an account if the website goes offline permanently and/or our investigations department uncovers fraudulent behavior on the part of the admin.

20. I think it’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of MNO readers will only be interested in SolidTrustPay in relation to their dealings with online HYIP sites, but in the interests of fairness there’s a bit more to STP than just that, isn’t there? For the benefit of those who don’t usually look past the online HYIP aspect please tell us what else you are involved with. What else can we do with our STP accounts?

The HYIP market accounts for a very VERY small percentage of STPay’s business. So there is significantly more to STPay than just that. The vast majority of business models that use STPay are MLM, network marketing, home biz opps and affiliate based companies. We have many businesses that use us strictly for direct credit card processing; their clients do not even have SolidTrust Pay accounts.

21. What’s your attitude towards the online HYIP industry in general? Considering that over the years HYIP owners and the people who use SolidTrustPay primarily for playing HYIPs have made up a decent number of your clients, do you have any definitive policy towards this type of activity? Is there any kind of chargeback/refund/recovery system that people can call on in the event of what they considered “an investment” not working out as well as they hoped?

Again, the assumption that HYIPs have made up a decent sized number of our clients is completely wrong. HYIP players are a very small part of our client base. We have an extremely low tolerance for the HYIP industry as so many inexperienced people get badly scammed. Presently, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Romania are completely blocked from STPay due to a recent rash of scam sites popping up from these areas and attempting to simply swindle people out of their money. Decent programs with real offerings, fully verified principles, proper corporation documents and business registration licenses are welcome; everyone else will get shut down.

22. Tell us about the STP support network? What’s the best way of contacting you if I have any questions that I can’t find dealt with on your website? During what time will I find Live Chat support online, and if they’re not working at the moment then what can I do?

We offer phone support Monday to Friday from 8:30am – 5:30pm EST. Our Help Centre contains a very extensive knowledge base where members can search for any question they may have and find the answer. Members can also submit support tickets at the Help Centre. LiveChat is available only when there are no support tickets in the queue (which is rare). We would like LiveChat to be available with more frequency and are actively working towards that. We receive over 2000 support tickets daily and they are a priority over LiveChat.

23. While on the subject of customer support, a number of questions submitted by readers are on this subject, including the following:

a) It has been very difficult to get through to phone support… some folks try throughout the day and never get through. This area could definitely use improvement. Any comments?

For sure this was an issue in the summer during the Zeekrewards situation, but is no longer the case. We do apologize for the customer support backlog that occurred, but as mentioned, there are no longer any delays. What drives us crazy us when someone has already submitted 10 support tickets on a question easily addressed in our Knowledge base AND tries to reach us on the phone all at the same time. This wastes everyones time and stops someone with a real question from getting to us. You’ll find our customer support staff are super friendly and helpful but we do get very tired of questions like “I can’t remember my password” and “how do I deposit money”.

b) Is there any way the entire system of verification and customer support could be streamlined and dealt with more efficiently?

Members will be very pleased to know that we have fully automated and streamlined our entire verification process. Verifications can now be completed in less than 15 minutes via our new automated option or within 2 – 3 business days via our upload option.

24. Has STP now become a registered company in the UK as well as Canada? Is there any real practical benefit to STP or their members in doing this?

We have had a UK corporation for over 2 years. This is to facilitate the acquiring of an FSA license for Europe which should be finalized within another month or two. There is no advantage to members, but is a European requirement for payment processors.

25. One thing I know myself from running an internet based small business with MNO is that you can never stand still and you can never consider yourself to be finished with anything. If you’re going to succeed then evolution has to be permanent, and nothing less will do. So what are your plans for the future development of SolidTrustPay? How far have you come over the last six years and where would you hope to see it in another five? In the shorter term do you have any other plans to introduce new features or to improve existing ones?

Absolutely, if a company stands still, they’ll get run over! There isn’t a day that goes by that some small refinement is not made to the site! The biggest, most noticeable improvement is our new site design, just launched. Two new Member Card Products are imminent, the new site design contains a personalized Member’s Message and News area, Developers Forum and much more! We’ve definitely evolved, changed and adapted to meet our member’s wants and needs over the years. As far as the future goes, a dream has been to be able to offer an interest bearing feature to SolidTrust Pay accounts. THAT would be very welcome, I’m sure.

26. And finally with all the recent improvements we’ve seen in SolidTrustPay is there anything you’d like to add that wasn’t covered in this interview that you feel relevant to your clients? Keeping in mind that you are addressing a mostly HYIP related audience here, is there anything that will remind existing and potential clients that STP is an efficient payment handler and a serious alternative to some of the other names in the business who seem to be unreliable and unpredictable recently?

STPay has the strongest reputation in the industry for integrity, honesty and ethics. We are actively working on solutions to ensure only the best businesses are authorized to use our services. If there is a problem, we will respond to it and take action accordingly. Now, that said, everyone knows that any online program has inherent risk and players do so knowing full well what those risks are. STPay cannot be expected to play parent. But we will do all we can to try and stop abuse before it happens!

I’d like to thank MNO for this opportunity to respond to questions from its readers. MNO is a great meeting place with a great reputation and we’re pleased to be associated with it. Anyone with any further questions, comments or suggestions is welcome to contact us at anytime.

Well, what can I say to that? That’s quite a lot of information to take in so I hope anyone not reading this as part of the MNO e-mail subscription service will flag this webpage and use it as a reference point until you can study it all in a bit more depth. But it’s full of useful information and I was very impressed also with the plans for the future, so thanks a million to Stella for living up to her name (you’re a star!) and giving is such a stellar interview! I wish her and her staff every success for the future with SolidTrustPay, and all I can say is that if my experiences with them over the last six years are anything to go by then that success is all but guaranteed. Planning, organization, diligent hard work, knowing what your clients want, and providing them an efficient and professional service is what puts your business at number one. That’s what STP do best and I don’t see that changing.

So that’s it for now guys, but don’t go too far as I’ll be back tonight with the main news stories from the programs listed on the MNO monitor, so stay tuned for that and see you all then!

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