Dalton Fowles – A career in payment processing

MasterCard country manager Dalton Fowles started his payment processing career in the days before point of sale machines, when the authorisations required an individual to look up the credit history of the person standing in the store with the credit card.

Mastercard country manager, Dalton Fowles

A Jamaican native, Fowles became involved in data processing and money management in 1991 where his first job out of school was at the now defunct Citizens Bank. He immediately went into the card processing department. In those days, there was no point of sale machine; merchants had to call the bank to get an authorisation number to process a credit card transaction.

Now fast forward to his current job as country manager for the global payment processor, MasterCard.

Country Manager for Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago Dalton Fowles (left); and Division President for the Caribbean (right) field questions from the media at MasterCard’s official launch in Jamaica on Tuesday, October 15 at the AC Hotel in New Kingston (Photo: Shaquiel Brooks)

Fowles has been a part of the development of the payment processing industry in Jamaica. He moved from the Citizens Bank to the now also defunct Island Victoria Bank to set up their credit card division. That job evolved into leading the conglomeration of banks that were rescued in the late 1990s through the organisation known as the Financial Sector Adjustment, otherwise called Finsac.

The five failed banks were merged under the name Union Bank which was sold to the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, and later bought out by the Sagicor Group. During that transitional period, Fowles joined First Global Bank in 2007 where he was the lead on payment processes for the Visa brand. Then this year, he joined MasterCard as country manager for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

After a series of buy-outs, the five failed banks which Fowles worked with, were eventually acquired by the Sagicor Group to become Sagicor Bank.

That said, when Fowles talks about the evolution of the payment processing industry in Jamaica, he does so with authority. “Let us always remember that [with] the regulatory framework now, banks cannot carry more than a five to eight per cent of assets in a bad debt portfolio and this debt could not be carried for more than three months,” he said. “And pre-1990s when regulation was not as strong, people took credit and [were] not serving it. Things have changed, especially with the introduction of the credit bureau about five years ago. [It] helps to change behaviour. So over time, I believe our country has matured.”

“With the maturing of the card payment regulatory sector, it allows for the expansion of payment options. The credit bureaus offer the financial sector a way to ensure that credit is repaid. This creates a greater sense of confidence to issue credit. Further, the payment sector has matured to where there are three electronic options for Jamaicans – credit, debit and prepaid cards. This now means that Jamaica is poised to fully benefit from the evolution of the global payment platform.”

Photo: bloomberg.com

Fowles pointed out that MasterCard is not in the business of issuing credit. “The focus for the brand is to allow for improved payment processes. We want to work with our partners to make it easy to issue cards because MasterCard has done the work to build out the payment network.”

And with the opening of the MasterCard office in Jamaica, there will be time for Fowles to demonstrate how his brand can provide innovative ways to grow the business and government payment sector.