The Plastic Pushers

An open market and popular features have helped CEO Dave Eason sell Berkeley Payment Solutions’ reloadable, prepaid Visa gift cards

“We didn’t necessarily have to go out and try to convince clients of the value of prepaid cards, since there are so many obvious applications.” —Dave Eason, CEO

5 Questions
with Dave Eason


1. What does innovation mean to your company?
Innovation is one of our core values. It’s something we have to do every day to keep our clients happy and our business profitable. This means we focus on adding value through small, continuous, and incremental ideas and improvements at the employee level and through larger strategic initiatives at the executive level. Everyone has a say.

2. Where do you hope this innovation will lead you in the next five years?
The payments space is rapidly evolving with big players like Google and PayPal vying for a dominant position. For us to continue being successful requires agility and responsiveness to shifting client and customer expectations.

3. How can a company encourage innovation without breaking the bank?
Innovation can be about small continual improvement, like people improving how they do their day-to-day. It’s the Japanese kaizen approach: constant, small improvements every day can lead to positive business transformation.

4. How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
Number one, we ensure that we’ve got an open communication loop running through all levels of the organization. Two, we have a close understanding of our client needs and continuously work at enhancing their experience. Three, we retain the best people to drive new technology, new products, and new processes.

5. Is there a technology, trend, or idea that’s driving your company forward?
Many businesses get lost in the sound and fury of the latest tech innovations and forget that happy customers are the real indicators of a successful business.

Dave Eason already had a significant financial background and a­ware­ness of the relatively uncrowded prepaid-gift-card market, so he was a natural fit to join Berkeley Payment Solutions (BPS), which provides plans for, launches, and manages prepaid Visa card programs for more than 500 corporate, governmental, and financial clients. Founded by Jonathon Hamburg, the Toronto-based firm hired Eason as its CEO around the time of its inception, and for the past seven years, he has retained his position, helping the company grow in key markets, including the United States.

“I really loved doing something entrepreneurial that’s new to the market,” Eason says. “Berkeley is innovative.”

An economics graduate of the University of British Columbia, Eason also holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, and his background includes a stint as director of the American Express Global Corporate Client Group, where he saved the company and its clients tens of millions of dollars in savings. In BPS, he saw an opportunity to leverage his experience in “an evolving and exciting growth segment,” he says.

Knowing that the firm was going into an emerging strategy that had seen significant growth in the United States, Eason helped BPS focus on a “strong value product,” ensuring that the card provider would have the most efficient model ready to go when it took off.

“The way we launched this product and partnered was a win-win for everybody,” Eason says. “We didn’t necessarily have to go out and try to convince clients of the value of prepaid cards since there are so many obvious applications and business benefits for them in the corporate world.”

A key selling point of BPS’s product is that companies see the multiple-use cards as a way to motivate employees, who will more likely notice a gift-card bonus than an extra $50 in their bank accounts.

“A major segment that we compete in is corporate incentives, like with Nissan or Samsung,” Eason says. “Our clients distribute branded cards to their employees or to customers as a reward or a thank you. It’s to provide recognition outside of direct pay or to reward them for performance. Plus, every time someone uses the card, there’s strong brand recognition and association at the point of redemption.”

BPS also assists companies such as Ford and Energizer in giving the prepaid gift cards to customers instead of offering product discounts. According to Eason, granting discounts ultimately knocks revenue off companies’ bottom lines, and customers prefer tangible savings to an invisible price slash.

“If you say, ‘Thank you for your business, from Nissan,’ and give [customers] a card,” he says, “it increases the sense of loyalty.” At the same time, Eason adds, BPS assists clients in cutting down costs associated with regularly sending out checks, which the Canadian government now does for social-program disbursements.

With such significant growth for the company within Canada and the United States, it seems inevitable that BPS will expand to other countries. It won’t happen immediately, Eason says, but it’s almost assured to happen when the company’s ready.

“We have been approached a number of times by financial institutions that are looking for Berkeley to provide support out of Canada,” he says,” and when it’s the right time, we will pursue that.”