Moving the money: Fargo transaction business has clients from around the country

There's a business in Fargo that electronically processes 38 million money transactions annually for more than 44,000 companies nationwide. "If you've got money that needs to be moved, that's what we're here for," said Bryan Smith, president of F...

Owners Craig Dresser and Bryan Smith
Craig Dresser, left, and Bryan Smith are the owners of InterceptEFT. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

There's a business in Fargo that electronically processes 38 million money transactions annually for more than 44,000 companies nationwide.

"If you've got money that needs to be moved, that's what we're here for," said Bryan Smith, president of Fargo-based InterceptEFT.

Intercept works with financial institutions and the Federal Reserve Bank to seamlessly move funds between all kinds of organizations and payees, said Smith.

Its primary services include check, debit and credit card processing, direct payroll deposits and paperless electronic billing and payment services.

Smith and CEO Craig Dresser launched InterceptEFT in 1993. Smith came from the banking industry, and Dresser had co-founded InterceptEFT's predecessor Barrington Corp. in 1989.


Barrington Corp., a software development company that writes software for Automated Clearing House banks, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Intercept.

ACH is the payment transfer system that connects all U.S. financial institutions and is the central clearing facility for all electronic transfer funds that occur nationwide.

"We have clients in all 50 states, as far west as Hawaii. We do the Hawaii Yacht Club," said Smith.

Other clients include Creative Solutions Inc., located in Dexter, Mich., a subsidiary of New York-based financial data powerhouse Thomson Reuters.

InterceptEFT integrates CSI's payroll systems for direct deposit, tax payment, dependent care, and health savings accounts. It also manages receivables for CSI's CPA firms and their clients, Smith said.

The Detroit Red Wings professional hockey team and Detroit Pistons professional basketball team are also InterceptEFT clients. "We do their payroll and tax deposits," Smith said.

Four years ago, InterceptEFT launched a full-time sales staff that now consists of six people.

"Our growth is in sales," said Smith. "We add 30-plus new CPA firms a month. That was a really good move."


Peaks and valleys

From its two-story headquarters at 1700 42nd St. S., a team of 34 employees perform a variety of high-tech tasks.

"We write all of our own software platforms. We do all of our own underwriting of risk," said Smith. "We do our hardware support, too."

Staff members conduct technology tests, audits and reviews to ensure that customer data is safe and secure, he said.

InterceptEFT witnessed a "really huge growth spurt" in the mid-2000s as a result of new technology, Smith said.

"We were able to integrate into our accounting package primarily on the payroll side," he said.

InterceptEFT handles electronic payroll for companies ranging in size from a couple of employees to major firms having as many as 500,000 transactions, Smith said.

Like many other businesses, InterceptEFT has felt the impact of a declining economy.


"Last year, we shrank a little but just because of the economy," Smith said. "This just tells me we've hit the valleys of employment. Every time you read about unemployment, somebody's not getting paid; somebody's not getting health care."

In 1998, InterceptEFT did 3.2 million transactions and peaked in 2008 with 42.6 million transactions. In 2009, the number of transactions fell to 37 million, Smith said.

"We will get some of that back this year," he said. "We're starting to improve."

On the horizon

Already, InterceptEFT clients can make credit card payments via their cell phone through what is called mobile payment processing, Smith said.

"There's a whole group in the industry that believe that the phone will be your payment method - it will be your electronic wallet," Smith said.

InterceptEFT plans to trot out new offerings in the near future.

"We're going to tie text messaging to transactional processing," said Smith. "We will be able to send you a text message that tells you how much you are getting paid and when it will be deposited."


Another text message may inform clients that money has been moved from their checking account to pay their car payment, he said.

A business-to-business product is also on the drawing board that will enable business users to log on to an accounting system, hit a button and automatically pay a vendor, Smith said.

"That's scheduled for announcement in November. We think it will be a huge thing for us in the payment realm," Smith said.

And there are plans for growth.

"We look to have a bigger footprint in Canada," he said, where Intercept already serves customers.

The company also hopes to expand across the Western Hemisphere, he said.

InterceptEFT has surpassed Smith's initial expectations, he said.

"We thought we could always have a nice little niche business," said Smith. "I didn't think we would be as large as we are on a national scale."


Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Craig McEwen at (701) 241-5502

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