Common Ground
How the Movers Shake

(the Hobbies of our Industry’s Top Dogs)
by Greg Cohen

   It is holiday time so I have decided to take a break from my usual informative, detail-laden, typical column and devote this month to letting you in on the after-hours activities of some of the more influential and well-known people in our industry. No, I am not going to write a tell-all and dig through their personal lives. I am going to show you some of the very diverse athletic and extracurricular endeavors that some of our constituents partake in. Before I get into this, I want you to know that I intentionally left out the sport of golf. The list would be way too consuming as everyone, other than me, in this industry is an avid golfer and most would claim to be just two-strokes away from their PGA card. So let us see what some of the movers and shakers do in their spare time:
   Ed Freedman of Total Merchant Services is a snowboard and wakeboard aficionado. If you ever get a chance to go to Basalt, Colorado, make sure to spend some time on the slopes or on the lake (depending on the time of year) with Ed. Guaranteed, his abilities will amaze you, especially for a Philly transplant. Another ski slope star is Marc Gardner of North American Bancard. Marc began skiing at the age of three and even raced on his high school ski team. Though Detroit is not known for skiing, Marc makes sure to plan his vacations around the slopes. A couple of our industry veterans are avid flyers spending their free time above us gaining crucial flight time so they can upgrade to jobs in the booming airline industry (I hope you can sense the sarcasm). Both Henry Helgeson of MerchantWarehouse.com and Brian Mills of Infinity Data can be seen over New England waving a wing at the world.
   While some of our ISO principals are enjoying the slopes and the skies others are taking to the water. Ray Sidholm of EVO is an avid deep sea fisherman and diver and has been in numerous sponsored tournaments around the globe. I think Ray has no greater joy than taking his friends or colleagues fishing or diving, no matter how sea sick they might become. Paul Hunter of Sterling Payment Technologies can also be found spending his weekends off the coast of Florida fishing or relaxing on the high seas as well. A little closer to the shores, Garry O’Neil of Electronic Exchange Services is an amateur Kayaker. Garry spends his free time river kayaking in Georgia and ocean kayaking when he has the opportunity to get to the gulf or ocean. On the other coast, Chuck Smith of Payment Processing International can be seen at the earliest hours of the morning with his long-board surfing the waves and “hangin’ ten.” Chuck has been surfing since he was a child and has surfed all over the Pacific from California to Cabo San Luca to Costa Rica. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Chuck to a wave.
   As we work back towards land we have a host of industry sports phenoms. Steve Pavent of Bankcard Payment Systems and a fellow TW contributor was the 2001 Florida State Champion in cross country mountain bike racing, winning every race but one. In 2003, he finished 3rd overall in the South East Regional Championships. Steve still rides at least 150 miles per week, every week! This industry also boasts two professional racecar drivers. Philip Fayer of PaySystems races on the Grand Prix circuit cruising at high speeds through city streets. I was personally lucky enough to see him race at the Long Beach Grand Prix and can testify that “these babies move.” In addition to Philip, Lee Ladd of LADCO Leasing used to race stock cars. Moving from cars to horses, John (Jay) Rice of NPC manages shares in racing horses from his home in Louisville, Kentucky. Rich Ward of Meramak Bancard rides and shows Tennessee Walking Horses and last year was awarded the Tri-state (NJ, PA, MD) High Point Award for his horse, “The Grand Dandy.” Rich has said, “I feel proud that I am able to actively compete with people half my age. The best part is I win too.” And you thought the credit card industry was competitive.
   Let us get back to the ground and off of the machines and animals. Jim Marchese of IRN Payments was an All-American soccer goalie at Long Island University and was drafted into the professional ranks. Jim is still a top level amateur player and competes in numerous leagues in the New York area. Bill Blanda of Integrity Group Financial was once ranked 53rd in the world in professional billiards. Watch out for Bill at the ETA events in the back of the lobby bar working the table. And do not challenge Steve Eazell of Secure Payment Systems to a game of bowling. Besides actually owning his own ball and shoes, Steve has a 298 game under his belt. Charlie Cramer of Midwest Payment Systems and former ETA president is a national handball champion. With a major rotator cuff injury, Charlie’s national champion days may be over, but he will be back on the court soon. Todd Linden of Card Commerce International believes in giving something back to the kids. As the head coach of the Junior Lakers, Pacific Palisades/Malibu YMCA basketball team, he has championed these 7-9 year olds to three consecutive undefeated seasons. Seems like perfect training for the payments business.
   This industry is filled with individuals who believe their bodies are temples and Oscar Munoz of Worldwide Payment Services (Puerto Rico) has devoted his life to this. In high school he was a local kickboxing champion only to leave the martial arts to become a fulltime bodybuilder. In 1990, he won the Mr. Puerto Rico title. After retiring from the sport, Oscar took up Jiu-jitsu in an exaggerated curriculum that included fighting every day at 6:00AM, until he finally became a first degree black belt (Shodan). Today, Oscar teaches his version of Jiu-jitsu, usually for free, to low income project kids. Another bodybuilder, Allen Genereux of Payment Processing International was last year’s Masters Division winner of The Aloha Natural Muscle Classic. For a little guy, this man is “ripped.” At over sixty years old, Jerry Marmurek of Advanced Payment Solutions can be seen pumping iron at Gold’s Gym in Long Island four or five days a week. Taking a softer and more gentile approach is Rosalie Vasquez of RCS Merchant Solutions who has been a runway and photo model for the past twelve years. When the ETA comes out with new uniforms, Rosalie can expect a call.
   So how do I do this article without including with my hobby? I am a natural bodybuilder winning the International Natural Bodybuilding Federation Georgia Middleweight title in 2002. After recovering from two ruptured discs, I will be back and hopefully competing again in 2005. I know this is just some of the individuals in our industry who have truly fascinating and fun hobbies. For next year, I will look to add new faces to the list and hope you will send me the hobbies of some of your colleagues. I will attempt to include them all. This was fun to write, but there was another reason for this article. To point out that in order to run a good business, one must have a well-balanced life. These professionals do not spend their entire day and night at work. Do not get me wrong. They all work hard, but they also escape work and have fun at their hobbies and in their personal lives. Life is a balance and without that balance, no aspect will thrive and flourish. So work hard at your payment business, but enjoy all aspects of life.