Connecting at Conexxus
It appeared to be just a dinner capping off the second night of the four-day Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS) annual conference at Tucson, Ariz.?s Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. But April 29 was no ordinary night.
Following a video retrospective during dinner, PCATS made big news by announcing it was changing its identity to Conexxus. ?Conexxus will improve the financial success and viability of our industry,? Executive Director Gray Taylor said in his speech announcing the rebranding. ?Our vision will be creating data exchange standards, fostering innovation, creating expert communities, leveraging industry knowledge, and advocating on behalf of our industry for equitable and open standards and practices.?
Conexxus also announced a new tagline: Solve forward. This tagline exemplifies its work within the industry, according to the organization.
The new identity marked the culmination of a research study commissioned by PCATS that concluded the trade group was perceived as a reliable and trustworthy organization, but carried ?negative brand equity,? noted Taylor.
Conexxus named four new members to its board of advisors. Joining the organization as vice chairman was Gabe Olives, Rutter?s Farm Stores? director of fuels. In addition, The Coca-Cola Co. veteran Jeff Toeppner was named secretary; Bill Wade of Professional Datasolutions Inc. was voted in as the chairman of the technical advisory committee; and Sue Chan of W. Capra Consulting became Conexxus? chairwoman of standards quality assurance.
BIG ON EDUCATION
Following an unsuccessful attempt last year to combine the PCATS and NACStech trade shows in Dallas as THE Tech EVENT, this year?s Conexxus Conference returned to its roots by hosting educational sessions and committee meetings without offering exhibitor booths.
Payments and data security were the two hottest topics. In a presentation on the ?Future of Payments,? Taylor told attendees that mobile payments are in for ?a bumpy ride.?
?Something better will always come out,? he said. ?Mobile payments are like the iPod. Initially, when the [Apple device] came out, everyone thought it was great. But it took seven years to truly make it great. Mobile payments will undergo a similar process.?
For mobile payments to take off, settlement of the transaction has to be improved significantly, added Taylor, who noted that ?half of mobile payment providers don?t know how to settle a transaction.?
Speaking during the same session, Terence Spies, chief technology officer at Voltage Security, piggybacked on the idea and said the answer to settlement issues may come from an unexpected source: bitcoin. Despite some analyst predictions that the virtual currency will die off, Spies relayed that bitcoin can settle a transaction in just eight minutes.
Taylor agreed that bitcoin could be the ?backbone of mobile payment? transactions, but said its adoption will be slow due to government involvement. ?The currency steps on too many toes right now,? he remarked. ?It also could upset company business models.?
The greatest roadblock standing in the way of success of mobile payments, though, is data security, according to Taylor. The massive data breach at Target Corp. that led to the recent ouster of its CEO is proof that payments are still a long way from being considered safe from hackers.
He cited Consumer Reports data that very few U.S. consumers have smartphones incorporating antivirus software, a phone finder, a PIN containing more than four digits, remote reset or encryption. In fact, 35 percent of smartphones have no security function at all, Taylor added.
?The research shows that 4.4 million phones were lost or stolen last year, a large increase compared to 2012,? he said. ?That?s not because Alzheimer?s suddenly kicked in for a lot of people. It?s because thieves are taking the phones and easily using them to their advantage.?
The first night of the Conexxus show, April 28, culminated with its premier event: Hall of Fame inductions. The three inductees into the 2014 Conexxus Hall of Fame have changed so many lives in the convenience store industry that Taylor felt introducing them himself would be an injustice. Hence, he invited their industry peers to introduce the Hall of Fame inductees.
Inducted first was Jenny Bullard, chief information officer at the 172-store convenience chain Flash Foods Inc., who has served Flash Foods parent The Jones Co. for the past 42 years.
?Jenny is everything PCATS stands for,? Margaret Atkins, business analyst for Pilot Travel Centers LLC, said in her introductory remarks during the event, which were made before the Conexxus name change became official. ?She has always made all of us feel like friends.?
Bullard acknowledged all of the Hall of Famers who preceded her. ?It?s an honor to be inducted with two friends,? she said during her speech. ?Most of all, I appreciate the company I work for.?
In addition, Bullard expressed appreciation for her employer allowing her to represent Flash Foods in the industry, and offered a special thank you to Bob Johnson, president of The Pinnacle Corp. ?I appreciate Bob?s support and encouragement over the years,? she said.
Johnson coincidentally had the honor of introducing the night?s second Hall of Fame inductee Henry (Hank) Armour, president and CEO at NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
?We wouldn?t be here without Hank,? said Johnson. ?NACS considered pulling its funding for PCATS in the ?90s, but Hank led the charge to convince NACS how important PCATS was.?
During his acceptance speech, Armour recalled his conversations with NACS Executive Committee members in an effort to save funding for PCATS. His dedication to the cause led to NACS voting 8-1 in favor of keeping funding for PCATS.
?That?s the first initiative NACS ever committed to for more than $1 million,? said Armour, adding that he is proud of what NACS and the industry has achieved since that defining moment many years ago. ?I don?t think there?s a stronger community than the technology community.?
Honored last, but certainly not least, was Loring Perez, president of Chattahoochee Oil Co., a branded jobber that serves more than 225 retailers in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
?Loring was always considered a no-nonsense guy,? said Michael Davis, vice president of member services for NACS, who introduced Perez. ?He always understood the financial implications [if we did] not have technology standards.?
Perez concluded the ceremony by expressing how grateful he was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
?I thank you from the bottom of my heart,? he said. ?I remember years ago when I had my own ?I had a dream? speech about what we needed in the technology industry. It?s great to see all of the efforts that have been made [since]. A lot of my dreams have come true.?
The 2015 Conexxus Annual Conference will take place April 27?30 at the Loews Annapolis Hotel in Annapolis, Md.