For an established company to grow, it needs to find new paths.

Sometimes, those paths lead somewhere unexpected.

Visa’s payment facilitator program is just such a route. For Visa, the program began simply as a way to expand acceptance of its cards. But it has evolved into much more, said Mamie Lee, senior director, Global & Americas Third Party Risk, for Visa.

Lee’s team manages global policy for Visa’s Third Party Agent program, which covers payment facilitators. It also carries out the program in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

In an interview with, Lee talked about what the PF space means to Visa. She also shared what she wants companies considering the model to know.

“This space is definitely growing. It’s growing in different ways from how they originally started,” Lee said. “Originally, it was just, ‘How do I allow, for example, the artists at street fairs to be able to sell their pieces of art to someone who is not carrying cash on them?’ The model has just really grown to where, now, payment facilitators facilitate commerce globally.”

Now that the genie has left the bottle, Visa doesn’t want to lure it back in. Instead, the company wants to figure out how to harness its power.

“I think the model is getting more complex,” Lee said. “For Visa, it’s how we can support this model, how we want to look at them, and our definition of a merchant vs. our definition of a payment facilitator. All of that is something that we’re consistently looking at. Visa is driven to extend the reach and value of electronic payments in ways that can power new forms of commerce.”

To that end, Lee said, we can expect continued changes to Visa’s PF program.

“You do want things to evolve,” she said. “Nothing should stay the same. There is so much now just in innovation and technology that, just two years ago, wasn’t even around.”

Take, for instance, the recent news that Visa is working with IBM. IBM customers using its Watson IoT platform will have access to Visa payment services. This move embeds a point of sale into any IoT device connected through IBM.

Technology will continue to open new payment doors like this. Creative people will continue to find ways to make life easier and solve problems. And PFs by their nature will often be at the center of the evolution.

But even though innovation is interesting, Lee reminds PFs not to lose sight of a bigger picture.

“I think that being a PF is a great opportunity. It allows payments to occur where they may not have been possible before. At the same time, it’s a great responsibility that they have, to protect data,” she said. “Unfortunately, many data breaches happen because businesses rely on third-party technology providers that have not been aware of data security.”

“So it’s not just about signing up as many merchants as you can as quickly as possible. Security is a 24/7 concern. It cannot be a once-a-year thought,” she said. “We strongly support devaluing sensitive data wherever possible, with chip and tokenization. And strengthening the protection of traversing networks through point-to-point encryption.”