TSG’s founder and namesake, Kurt Strawhecker cut his teeth in marketing followed by being First Data’s first “non IBM-type” management hire in the 1980s and created the division that introduced advertising into credit card statements (thanks, Kurt). He helped take First Data international in the 1990s with expansion into the UK, and upon return, he was one of the individuals responsible for the formation of First Data Merchant Services and also managed the “Omaha Merchant Platform“. Seeing a need for specialized payments consulting, he started the firm in 2001 and rebranded as The Strawhecker Group in 2006.
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Strawhecker brings a strong Midwest work ethic to his company. His business philosophy is just as strong and is built on the belief that anything is possible if you work hard enough and have a plan, it will happen. Strawhecker is married with three grown children and keeps in shape with tennis and his passion for scuba diving.
Co-founder of TSG, Jamie has been in payments since 1983 and has been a payments Savant (pardon the pun) ever since. He started at Deluxe Check Printers/Chex Systems, followed by Envoy where he sold relationships into Bank of America and Wells Fargo. In the early/mid 90s, he was one of the first to identify and sell new business through what was then called “cybermalls” (now ecommerce) to clients like Netscape. In 1997, Savant co-founded Humboldt Merchant Services, building it up to a top 50 U.S. merchant acquirer with 15,000 merchants, and sold it in 2003.
Savant was born and raised in Whittier, California, is married with three children and when not working hard for his clients, Savant finds time to indulge in his other passions—water skiing and snow skiing.
Mike joined TSG in 2006 and has been immersed in payments data and trends for the last 10 years. This includes being a co-creator of an industry-leading benchmarking data warehouse for payment processors that has data on over 3.5 million merchants. Additionally, in 2016, he spearheaded the creation of another industry first – a reporting service for gateways in the payments industry called GEM. Day to day, he leads TSG Metrics, as well as operational aspects of the business, including TSG’s HQ staff, product development, and marketing initiatives. Over the past year, Mike has personally contributed to the sale and execution of client projects for over 100 payments companies. He was awarded the 2014 Electronic Transaction Association’s (ETA) Member of the Year for his contributions to the organization.
Mike attended DePaul University in Chicago and spent time in Washington DC as a Congressional Intern, where his experience of working on the prescription drug bill showed him the light and steered his path away from a career in politics. He graduated With Distinction with a BS in Marketing & Management from Bellevue University and continues his education daily through his daily interactions with the TSG team. Mike resides in beautiful La Vista (a suburb of Omaha) with his wife Becca. He is a rabid Nebraska Football fan, a voracious reader, and an avid scuba diver and traveler.
Jared has lived and breathed consumer spending and the payments industry his entire career (12 years to be exact). He plays centerfield for TSG (the A team when it comes to payments consulting) catching fly balls and line drives in the form of media and client requests and has been quoted in the NY Times, USA Today, and even discussed payments with The White House. Jared can handle difficult client questions on consumer spending, mobile payments, EMV, and industry trends. Because of this, his colleagues refer to him as “The Face of Payments.” Jared does have other tools on his tool belt such as his ability to craft appealing industry research, his impeccable support for almost any consulting engagement and his unique ability to look at data and understand what it means and who finds it valuable.
Prior to joining TSG, Jared held market intelligence and product management positions during his ten years at First Data. While at First Data, Jared supported major strategic initiatives such as partnership exploration, international enter and exit strategies, developed and launched First Data’s first international market intelligence team and managed First Data’s SpendTrend product. Jared completed his undergrad degree at the University of Nebraska - Omaha with a major in Journalism. Jared was born in Kansas but has lived in Nebraska almost his entire life. Jared is married to his high-school sweetheart, has a daughter and shares his family with a black cat and Doberman. On the side, Jared is a “Vette” aficionado and enjoys his need for speed.
Rich Eyberg has over 30 year's experience in the bankcard business. Eyberg is a payments consultant specializing in merchant acquiring businesses, prepaid, and acquiring activities in the specialized oil and convenience store verticals. He also focuses on strategy, business development, and vendor management. Eyberg’s previous positions at Alliance Data included Senior Vice President of Prepaid Services, Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development and Vice President of Payments. While at Alliance Data, Eyberg was in charge of, at various times, Sales, Account Management, Business Development, Systems Development, and Project Management. He also participated in both Alliance–wide and Payment division specific strategy review, formulation and implementation activities.
Eyberg held a variety of positions of increasing revenue responsibility at First Data over a 25 year career, in both the Issuing and Acquiring groups. His last positions were Executive Vice President of the General Electric Card Services Account Team, Senior Vice President of the Chase Card Services Account Team (and Chemical/ Manufacturers Hanover prior to the merger) and Vice President of Merchant Services.
Chuck Fillinger, has substantial experience in the Electronic Payments Industry with over 25 years of experience, most recently with First Data Corporation. He has proven results working with merchants within all vertical retail and internet markets, vendor’s, gateway providers and acquirers, providing enhanced payment processing solutions on a national and global scale.
While at First Data, Fillinger’s responsibilities included National Client Relations, Third Party Relationships and Sales, Operations, Product Management and Development, Marketing, International Market Development and International Portfolio Management. He was also instrumental in introducing the first electronic payment processing solution in Mexico for major hotels and resorts and for establishing market leadership in the multi-currency transaction market, providing a significant growth opportunity for global merchants as they expand beyond U.S. borders. Chuck also introduced Dynamic Currency Conversion services allowing international consumers the choice to transact business in the U.S., either in U.S. dollars or in their country’s currency enhancing services at the point-of-sale for merchants in the retail, auto rental, hotel, internet and travel and entertainment industries achieving annual revenue exceeding $15M.
Fillinger is an inventor of four U.S. Patents, is a member of the Product Development Management Association (PDMA), and has articles published in the American Banker Magazine, Transaction Trends and other industry publications. He received the 1995 Pinnacle Award for Mexico Market Implementation and the 1999 Winner’s Circle Top Performer Award while at First Data.
Director of Metrics
From report and illustration production, content strategy, client engagements, and market research coordination, Trevor is active throughout TSG’s business. You will often find him writing copy for TSG products and proposals, coordinating research processes, developing TSG’s market strategy, designing documents, and working with senior consultants on client initiatives. Over the past three years, Trevor has contributed to more than 100 client engagements.
Prior to working at TSG, Trevor held internships within the marketing departments at TD Ameritrade and QuikServe Solutions. Trevor graduated cum laude from the University of Nebraska Omaha, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. Trevor enjoys board games and occasionally playing a game of pool.
Sanjay Garapati has over 20 years of IT experience architecting and designing customized mission critical solutions and data warehouses for several large corporations, including Fortune 500 companies. Garapati has led multiple projects through the Systems Development Life Cycle performing at various levels through out the process.
Prior to joining TSG, Garapati worked as Solutions Architect for GMAC (now Ally Financial Inc) and played a key role in defining and implementing the technology roadmap for their Dealer Solutions and Products Group.
Garapati has a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from University of Southern Illinois Edwardsville and a Masters of Business Administration from University of Nebraska Omaha.
Mike Goding is a finance and management professional with nearly thirty years of experience in the merchant acquiring and transaction services industries. Goding advises clients of TSG on business and negotiation strategy, with a focus on processing agreement terms and pricing issues. While Goding brings experience in managing all areas of these businesses, his greatest expertise is in finance where he spent the major portion of his career.
Goding served in several senior management roles during his more than 20 years at First Data Corporation. Most recently he was the Vice President and General Manager of the Full Service Processing business unit within First Data Merchant Services. In this role he managed merchant processing agreements as well as merchant acquiring agreements with major merchants. Goding also provided financial support – including business case analytics, strategic planning, contract analysis and negotiation, and portfolio analysis – to several FDMS business units.
Goding is also a non-practicing CPA.
Cliff Gray is an expert in electronic payment systems, transaction processing, and the acquiring space. He is a leading authority on large-scale, high-performance payment system design, including network infrastructure, platform and software architecture, system security, and industry compliance. Throughout his 20-year career, Gray has spearheaded the evolution of third-party integration methods, particularly the introduction of internet transport into the electronic payment space. He has long been a proponent of modernizing integration, and most recently is focused on payment data security.
Beginning in 1990 at Envoy Corporation, Gray was instrumental in establishing their new Integrated Point of Sale unit, working directly with leading providers such as Micros, Fujitsu, NCR, and IBM, ultimately establishing Envoy as the leader in integrated offerings. In the mid-to-late-nineties, Gray was instrumental in proving new eCommerce gateway technologies and infrastructures, working with groups such as Netscape, CyberSource, and VeriSign to ensure the growth of eCommerce processing from its infancy through to the sophisticated systems that exist today.
Susan Horne is a highly skilled bank executive, proficient in presenting experienced and precise acquiring information to Board of Directors at banks on an executive management level. She assists banks, ISOs, processors and any other entity in the acquiring business with specific solutions to issues related to the payments industry. Other roles include specific expertise in areas of company and portfolio management, policies and procedures, contract research and review, ISO relations, bankcard operations, risk management, and ACH rules and management.
Horne is the former President and CEO at Redwood Merchant Services/National Bank of the Redwoods where she created an in-house bank acquiring portfolio that grew to monthly processing volume of over $450 million. Under her leadership, Redwood Merchant Services was ranked as one of the top 50 merchant processing organizations in the United States. Additionally, she has interfaced directly with members of Visa USA, MasterCard International and OCC Regulators. She maintains extensive familiarity with acquiring membership standards as well as card association rules and regulations.
Horne’s experience includes over 18 years in senior management positions within the financial services industry and of those, 16 years involved in all aspects of the merchant acquiring business. She is accomplished in bankcard operations, sales, contract negotiations, planning, budgets, scheduling, program and personnel development as well as human relations.
Josh Istas is the Director of TSG’s Acquiring Industry Metrics (AIM) platform and the accompanying AIM Web Portal. AIM is the industry-leading benchmarking data warehouse for payment processors with data on over 3.5 million merchants. As Lead Data Scientist, Istas focuses on data procurement and validation, client relations, and database management. Previously, Josh worked at the Nebraska Medical Center (Omaha, NE) as the Medication Safety Data Analyst.
Josh earned his Master of Business Administration degree from the John Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Cellular Biology with a minor in Business from the University of Kansas. Josh is an avid golfer, fantasy sports enthusiast (aka office commissioner), and a big fan of Kansas Jayhawk Basketball.
John Kirkpatrick brings more than 29 years of leadership experience developing and implementing complex global business strategies for companies of all sizes using his extensive knowledge of technology valuations, gateways, and back-ends. Before joining TSG, Kirkpatrick was the Chief Information officer for six years at TransFirst where he oversaw the company's information and technology, including payment gateways and all aspects of transaction processing such as security, financials, data center operations, software engineering, quality assurance and complex data analytics.
Throughout his career in information technology, he has held multiple executive roles and had numerous global responsibilities, including IT M&A, software engineering, business intelligence, corporate governance, data center operations, e-commerce and product development.
David Laferla has 35 years of executive experience in banking as well as extensive experience in finance, operations and project management. Consultant engagements with TSG include research and analysis of Banking organizations with merchant operations, acquisition activities and work on projects with the largest processors in the industry.
His experience with a prior consulting firm includes projects with the US Navy and activities with other government contractors such as SAIC. His background includes extensive experience developing new programs and processes. During his time with US Bank N.A., he was a Market Manager with the Institutional Trust Group working in relationship management and with the investment management group. He served as CFO and was responsible for operations while at Heritage Bank holding company and its predecessor holding company. While with Heritage, Laferla also worked on acquisitions projects including analysis of the acquisitions, negotiations with not only the selling entity but also the appropriate regulatory agencies.
Laferla earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is a graduate of the B.A.I. School for Bank Administration located at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Peter brings over two decades of extensive experience in the payment industry to TSG including payment processing for merchants and card issuers, product development, corporate strategy, account management, and acquisitions. Prior to joining TSG, Peter was the Vice President of Product Development at Hap-X, a leading healthcare B2B payments company. Peter also worked at TSYS as the leader of Market Research and Competitive Intelligence for TSYS Merchant Segment and as the head of Financial Planning and Analysis for TSYS Acquiring Solutions.
Peter is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, began his career as an Auditor at Arthur Andersen in Washington, D.C., and passed the Certified Public Accountant exam in Virginia. Over the next 15 years, Peter held several accounting and finance positions in healthcare, media, and financial services.
Peter played football in college, was a competitive rower, having competed in 1996 and 2000 Olympic Trials, and a 3-time Ironman triathlete. He spends his free time playing guitar, golfing, coaching, and, along with his wife Jennifer, transporting their two sons to numerous activities.
Andrew Nuss manages all aspects of day-to-day marketing and communications for TSG. Since joining in 2009, Nuss has helped create global awareness for TSG by highlighting the synergies of the firm’s expertise and unparalleled data. Nuss is Editor of TSG’s weekly newsletter, NewsFilter, which is distributed to over 35,000 recipients inside and outside of the Payments Industry. He focuses heavily on social media interaction, graphic design, email marketing initiatives, web site management, conference partnerships, and ad space management.
Nuss completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) as a Marketing Major with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) along with a Minor in Accounting, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He also received a marketing excellence award as one of the top marketing students throughout the junior and senior classes at UNO. Nuss is presently a member of ETA’s Technology Council. He resides in Omaha with his wife, Kristin.
For the past two decades, Bob Schmitz has provided his financial and project management services for M&A and Business Development groups within the Payments Industry. Prior to joining TSG, Schmitz spent 18 years at First Data with his most recent role managing acquisition projects as Senior Director of Corporate Strategy and Development. Schmitz’s background includes extensive financial modeling and analysis skills, due diligence, business case development, strategic direction and recommendations.
Schmitz earned an MBA from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a Bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Matt Sobczyk is heavily involved with TSG’s Acquiring Industry Metrics (AIM) platform. Sobczyk works with the accompanying AIM Web Portal assisting with building quarterly AIM Reports and data validation. In addition, Matt assists on data-related ad-hoc requests and helps manage TSG’s data warehouse. Matt worked for TSG on a part-time basis for over a year before following in his father’s footsteps and joining the team full-time in July 2015.
Matt earned his BBA in Finance from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. Matt is a big sports fan, especially of the Huskers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, he enjoys playing softball and has a twin brother named Mike.
Raymond Sobczyk joined the company in 2006 and has led the firm’s Strategic Acquisition engagements. In this role he has prepared value assessments, supported due diligence efforts, and advised buyers, sellers, and investors on over thirty potential transactions in the merchant acquiring and processing industry.
Sobczyk has over thirty years of financial management experience in the Payment Industry, having held several senior management positions at First Data Corp including First Data Resources CFO, SVP Finance-M&A, SVP Finance- Merchant Services, and Government Solutions CFO. Sobczyk also has extensive experience in designing and implementing performance measures for processing and acquiring portfolio businesses.
Judith Tullius joined the team in October 2014, bringing a variety of corporate, administrative and office management experience. Her responsibilities include executing all administrative duties and being the central point of contact for incoming communications to HQ. Judith uses her organizational skills to assist with scheduling and accurate execution of client projects she contributes to. Judith also assists TSG’s CFO, Dave Laferla, in the completion of various accounting tasks.
Prior to joining The Strawhecker Group, Judith worked in the real-estate development sector for Cornerstone Associates and Beacon Management (the property management’s sister company) for 9 years as their Administrative Assistant. The company specialized in providing market rate and affordable housing for families and seniors across the Midwest.
Judith graduated from Bellevue University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Business. She has a passion for salsa dancing, can play the guitar, knows her way around the engine of a car and has the cutest puppy on earth named Timón.
A long-standing payments industry veteran, Steve Vickers brings a decade of expertise within the merchant acquiring space to The Strawhecker Group. He has held management positions at JPMorgan Chase, TSYS, and First National Bank of Omaha. During his tenure, he set revenue records, shepherded project completions through negotiations with multi-organizational representatives, while navigating the complex, elongated sales cycle of implementing changes in payments providers for several large retailers and ecommerce merchants.
As Director of Product Delivery, Vickers is responsible for delivering new and innovative solutions to the consulting services of TSG. This approach is accomplished by driving product launches, new go-to market tactics, and solution sets; while interfacing with all areas affected by the project including clients, internal client account teams, analysts, related integrated communications teams, and project management/finance teams. This method provides end users, and client services, a single point of contact for their respective project.
Vickers received his Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Barry University in Miami, Florida, and was employed with the Miami HEAT and Miami Dolphins before relocating to Omaha. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, Creighton University athletics, and the outdoors. In 2002, Steve completed a thru-hike of the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail.