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The United Kingdom, for example, took 10 years to reach 80% EMV penetration, Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group, said during a panel discussion at the Southeast Acquirers Association annual conference.

“This is Act 1 of a 31-act play,” Ablowitz declared.

To complicate matters here, EMV is arriving just as the payments industry enters a state of flux and uncertainty reigns over contactless payments, mobile payments, mobile wallets and Near-Field Communication, suggested panelist Russ Wolfe, Equinox Payments manager, security products.

The rush will eventually come because the U.S. has little choice but to convert to EMV, Ablowitz said. As the last country without the EMV, which is more secure than magnetic-stripe cards from certain types of fraud, criminals worldwide will turn their attention to this country, he cautions.

“All the fraud’s going to come here like a tropical storm,” he predicted.

At some point a mass launch will occur as Chase, Bank of America, Capital One, Amex and other big issuers release smartcards, Ablowitz said.

ISOs and agents will play a key role in the transition because the duty of explaining it to merchants will fall to them, speakers said. It’s a job that requires expert knowledge of EMV as well as the hustle and salesmanship that sustained them up to now, according to Ablowitz.

“The time has passed when all you had to do was knock on doors and add the numbers,” he said.

ISO and Agent, March 5, 2013