This episode of the MGMA Business Solutions podcast features James Ford, sales manager with the MGMA Emerald Card.
Launched in 2022, the MGMA Emerald Card is a credit card designed specifically for MGMA members and their business needs. It offers an easy-to-use platform that allows members to manage transactions, create and manage employee cards, set spending permissions, redeem rewards and make payments.
MGMA Sr. Editor Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM brought in Ford to discuss the evolution of the Emerald Card since its launch one year ago. They also discuss its unique features along with feedback from MGMA members who have since utilized the card.
Q. Could you give us a brief overview of the MGMA card and why it's specifically built for those MGMA members?
A. The MGMA Emerald Card was built with a singular goal in mind: to provide the best credit card experience for MGMA members. The way that we came to this is we collaborated very closely with the leadership within MGMA. We ran surveys and we spoke with members to really get an understanding of what their needs were. Once we had that, we decided to create something that really stands out against the more status quo cards in the market – creating industry tailored benefits, exceptional cashback components, exclusive vendor offers and tailored administrative controls.
Q. Is the MGMA emerald card a credit card or is it a debit card?
A. It is a credit card, but you can have a revolving credit limit as opposed to some of the other cards on the market where it may be personal and may be business. This one is strictly for the medical groups themselves and the businesses.
Q. Let's talk about some of the unique benefits. What are they compared to some of the other financial tools or credit cards that are out there in the market?
A. One of the ways that the MGMA Emerald Card really stands apart and offers something unique is in its bespoke underwriting process. What I mean by that is the cards on the market today are overgeneralized – they're all going to provide you the same underwriting process as a medical group as they provide for a gym, a new hair salon or any of those other small business that may pop up. But that's really kind of where we separate ourselves.
We recognize that as an industry, medicine has unique needs, so we underwrite them with those unique needs in mind. Alongside that, we also understand that your administration is different as well. For example, if you have a CFO who is maybe leaving for another business or retiring, they don't want their personal credit tied to the previous institution. Currently, it's a headache to get it moved. To get it transitioned with us, it's a simple two-minute form to transition that ownership from the previous CFO to the current one.
Q. There's a real ease for CFOs and an ability to decouple personal credit from the hospitals card. Is there anything about that you want to add?
A. The traditional cards on the market all have a personal liability attached to them or ties to your personal credit. There's a couple of outliers there, but the MGMA Emerald Card is going to be one of those outliers. We completely separate the personal from the business whenever we're looking at these medical practices.
Q. Let's talk about some specific examples then some success. Is there anything you want to share about those MGMA members who have already utilized the card as a tool?
A. I recently worked with an account that had a unique set of circumstances. They are a critical access center and they receive both state and federal funding, but they were looking to expand and they needed access to additional capital. That's where we came in. We spoke with their CFO and financial team and recognized that there was an opportunity for us to help support them. After we approved their application, we were able to create cards for all of the necessary team members and get them enrolled into the pertinent vendor offers that we had available. Now they're enjoying the benefits of our transaction monitoring that not only notifies them of any potential fraud, but also any savings that they may be missing out on.
Q. How has the card evolved over the past year since its launch as a small business card?
A. When the MGMA card was initially created, it was designed to service those small independent practices. What we quickly came to realize was that there was a need – what we refer to as the midsize segment. This is going to be any group doing less than $500 million in revenue. Many of them are still working with their traditional banks, their local banks or some of the traditional card issuers, but they didn't have those unique benefits that the MGMA card really brings to the table.
Q. What were some of the driving factors to start expanding the card services to now serve not only those small businesses, but also those hospitals, universities, and those large systems?
A. There were really two critical factors that drove this expansion. The first was the entanglement of personal credit with business cards, but also the limitations of the traditional platforms for hospitals and larger systems. We wanted to provide a modern financial solution, so we started addressing these challenges that are being faced by the C-suite executives. Separating out the personal from the business, the MGMA card provides access to a streamlined platform, reducing the complexities associated with fraud, card replacement and vendor adjustments for these larger entities.
Q. Have you had any feedback yet from some of those larger systems (universities and hospitals) since they've been using the card?
A. We've actually had some overwhelmingly positive responses to the MGMA card. One of the things that we've been hearing is just how personalized our approach is whenever we're working with these systems. Earlier, I spoke about the bespoke underwriting process. Whenever we're talking to some of these larger groups, we loop in our credit team to really get an understanding of the financials, the vendors they're spending with and where we can help maximize their savings and reduce those complexities we were just talking about.
Q. We've been talking about this evolution of the card by expanding the scope of the card. Have there been any unexpected challenges or obstacles encountered during that transition from being a small business card to serving larger organizations?
A. There were definitely some challenges with the first being who we're speaking with originally. We were speaking with single or individual owners, maybe a couple of different owners within a practice. But as we recognized this midsize segment needed our help and support, we realized we're not speaking with the right people – it's no longer speaking with the owner of the business. Now we're speaking with the CFO and speaking with controllers. It was a whole different ballfield we're playing in, so we had to learn to speak on their level. We had to learn how to interact with them on their ballfield essentially.
Q. When you made the expansion to those larger systems, what were some of features that were offered for those systems?
A. The primary feature that we got feedback on, that we really wanted to elevate and improve upon, were our vendor offers. We got super niche with them targeting very specific industries, but as we realized these larger systems could benefit from the MGMA card, we kept an open feedback loop listening to which vendors they were spending with or wanted discounts with. That’s when we started incorporating some of the larger, or more popular, medical distributors within the field into the platform, where you can access a variety of different vendor offers really across the entire space.
Then to build on top of that, as we increase our vendor offers, we started utilizing AI transaction monitoring. This is where we notify you, “Hey, you just spent with this vendor, but we have additional savings that you could access if you utilize our deal with this vendor.” And we don't automatically opt you into it. We don't force you to use that vendor; we just want to make you aware that it is an option.
Q. When you first started developing this card for MGMA members, you did some surveys that got some feedback. Talk about that feedback from the MGMA members. What have they been sharing with you and what is some good information they've been giving you?
A. Whenever we first launched the MGMa card, we were and still are incredibly receptive to the feedback. One of the first things that we were hearing is – because we weren't dealing with just the owner anymore – we needed to have multiple users be able to access the platform. Once we started hearing that more frequently, we got our product and engineering teams to escalate that issue. So we'll soon be coming out with a multiple-user function that actually provides administrative controls for anyone with access to the platform based on their role within the organization itself.
Alongside that, we have continuous vendor expansion through these feedback loops. Anytime one of our accounts or even someone who's thinking about getting the MGMA card comes to us and says, “Do you have a deal with this vendor that I use more than anyone else?” If we don't, we take that back to our vendor relations team and say, “Can we start conversations with this group here?” Typically, that's how this process gets started and how we really want to keep the motion going.
Q. What are the future plans for the MGMA card? Are there any additional enhancements or any other features in the pipeline that you are thinking about?
A. We really want to keep our future roadmap extremely dynamic. We’re dedicating our time and efforts into expanding our vendor offers by catering to both the large systems and the smaller businesses within MGMA. We want to bring enhancements like receipt and invoice matching for those role-specific experiences I was just talking about. Plus, the AI driven savings optimization are all things that we have within our pipeline that we plan on bringing to the table. Unfortunately, as with all things technology, it's really hard to put a time stamp on these types of things. But just know they are coming.
Physician Business Training
This course is for early-career physicians or physicians who need a comprehensive understanding of the business of medical practices. The course is seven hours long and broken into nine modules. It was developed by Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and leaders from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. This course awards seven hours of CME credit.
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