In my expose of the shenanigans within IRTA and the troubles surrounding the Bartercard/IRTA software deal, one party has till now been silent, certainly in the public arena. GETs is the incumbent software provider for IRTA’s Universal Currency.
Richard Logie and his partner Linda Sim have run the core system behind the UC platform for some eight years (off and on). While I had spoken to them about it in depth privately, I have always respected their wish to keep conflict within the industry in the background. With some prompting they agreed that it was probably time that they put their side of the story. With explicit promises from me that they would have full pre-publication proofing of their words, we started.
Here is the interview with my commentary on their personalities, conduct and future in the industry following.
DS: Thanks for agreeing to speak on the record Richard and Linda. Please, tell us a little bit about your current business. What is it and what do you do?
RL: We have a Trade Exchange operating from Aberdeen, Scotland since 1995 and from 2005 we developed GETS which as you know is Peer2Peer credit clearing (barter) software for the complimentary currency industry. We also provide consulting services and now and then I’m asked do public speaking on the industry and currency. Completely different from my original career in engineering, and Linda’s in the oil industry but those disciplines have been invaluable in developing our business and technology.
DS: Can you tell us a little more about the GETs system? How does it fit into the marketplace? How many customers do you have on it?
RL: The GETS Technology operates as a SaaS, (Software as a Service). It’s core is built on the Microsoft .NET Platform which allows us to run various API’s and other technologies throughout the system which helps us to enhance the features such as swipe card processing, multiple currencies and languages, blah, blah enough of the techie stuff. It’s a mature system with a load of bells and whistles, but we would prefer to describe it more as a currency management system and not just a trading platform because baked-in to the GETS technology are quality standards & procedures that are not in any other system.
DS: OK, Richard, you’re a prolific networker in the Alternative Currency space but can you tell me why (other than posting links to articles) you’ve really never said anything about IRTA or your own situation in public. What’s the game you’re playing?
RL: No game. I’m a lot better at talking than writing so that doesn’t really get out into the public space as much as your blogs for example. I have always tried to be positive about IRTA, but in the past I’ve said things that haven’t gone down very well with some. I was politically naive and so when I started asking too many questions, I got bumped from the Board. That was not a nice experience and to be honest, we didn’t want to go through that sort of ordeal all over again.
DS: So why the change of heart? How did I get to you enough to spill the beans and get your story out there?
RL: Well you really are bloody persistent Dennis, but I have received loads of emails, calls and chats asking me, “What’s going on?”
I’ve got major issues with the direction or non-direction of IRTA and what a barter industry’s association should be standing for. We agreed with what you said to us, that it is probably time we spoke out. As you know it took a lot to speak because, to be honest you are a bit scary – nothing personal. The way that you systematically dismembered Daniel Evans and Ormita in public, something that no one else had managed to do, had us as well as many others I know, a little overwhelmed, and now your investigative attention is on Bartercard and IRTA.
I think many people are a little shocked as they assumed that you were in bed with them, and now you are turning the same light on them! To be honest it was a big call but Linda and I agreed that we have nothing to hide, so ask away.
DS: I can understand that very well – everyone has to go through the same process coming to terms with a straight-shooter eh? For the record, it is deception that is in my sights – not people. I ALWAYS go for the facts. If people happen to get in the way, well it was their choice to lie or deceive and any collateral damage is certainly not for the want of my warning!
Anyway, thanks again for speaking. Lets start with the hot topic of the moment . . . IRTA, You’ve been on the Board and involved with them for years. Tell me a bit about your history with them.
RL: Well my history with IRTA goes back to 1995 when we set up the first IRTA meeting in Scotland that resulted in the IRTA first European chapter. We made all the arrangements etc., and it was a really exciting time, it was well attended and very positive, although not many of those companies who attended are in the business now.
We didn’t renew our membership with IRTA (that would have been around 1996, can’t remember exactly), because of some concerns. Then we became involved once again in 2004 after a meeting of European exchanges in Belgium after being persuaded that things had for changed at IRTA for the better.
DS: And you lost your seat. How did that come about?
RL: I missed two members’ conferences this was in November 2009, but it was just pure simple politics. I had become a dissenting voice and was asking the wrong questions. That didn’t go down well with the Executive, so. . . off the board for me!
They got me on a technicality even though I was lead to believe the majority of the board wanted to keep me on the board the Executive told them they had no choice, due to the Bylaws, which I respect. Behind the scenes though there was a very different story from what has been presented. There’s a lot more to it that I could say but except for the fact that I’ve seen other dissenting voices railroaded too, it’s all history.
DS: How do you feel about it now? Do you begrudge what happened?
RL: Today I have no bad feeling about it. They did a good job on me. I just wish they put the same energy to a positive use. I did communicate my feelings and treatment at the time to the then current Board of Directors on the reason I had been removed and my interpretation on exactly why I had been removed, so to say I was ticked off would be an understatement, but you just try to put these things behind you and move on: at the time it wasn’t a nice experience but I’m well over it.
DS: So lets talk about your role as the chairman of with Universal Currency
RL: This was proudest period during my 10 years involvement with IRTA – my position as the Universal Currency (UC) chairman when I joined the UC. It’s no secret that UC was not in good shape, the software vendor at the time was far too expensive for their budget and rogue members were not honouring their debt obligations to UC.
By working closely for hours on end with the other UC Committee members we managed to turn the UC ship around and back on course so much so that UC cleared its feet and was profitable again and the rogue UC members were having their day in court eventually paying up what they owed in cash which sent of a message to other rogue UC members that UC meant business if they defaulted. I’m not sure how many rogue members with debts to the UC have been in court since my time but as the UC Chairman I was proud of that fact. We also introduced a credit matrix that helped the UC Committee to determine the quality of the applicant and how much of a line of credit a UC member should get . . . with the additional checks that ALL lines of credit still had to be approved the UC Committee.
I took the position as the Chairman of UC very seriously and became a big fan of the Universal Currency model and especially a big fan of people and the philosophy that originally created Universal Currency. They had vision and really knew what they were doing especially when they wrote the bylaws. I have always been a great advocate that all barter companies should be setup just like the UC model.
These people knew they had to create a “solid currency” as well as a building a strong “brand” which both stands and fall by reputations built on trust, consistency, transparency and quality.
Just to give some examples how brilliant and visionary they were when they wrote the bylaws:
To get TRUST, they created the UC Committee who are the day-to-day governing body for UC. They meet regularly to approve all new UC memberships, regulate all credit lines, oversee all collection efforts and set overall rules and regulations of UC, the members of the UC Committee must be members of the International Reciprocal Trade Association.
CONSISTENCY all Lines of credit are determined by set formula and not issued on impulse and always have to be approved by the UC Committee.
TRANSPARENCY all member balances and statistics are available for all members to see to prove the integrity of the systems and to prove it balances to Zero.
QUALITY no negative balances allowed for the administrator own accounts, so no deficit spending here.
The only omission I think the UC creators made is that they should have written into the Bylaws to have an independent annual audit report done and a sent to all the members.
I believe the Universal Currency has all the required ingredients in place to be a world class Brand.
DS: So let’s talk about your conflict of interest situation as a key software provider and being the past Chairman of Universal Currency. The current IRTA Executive have told me many times that you are a man with a serious conflict of interest. The strong implication is that you have a grudge, an agenda, cannot be trusted and are in it for yourself. You’ve just stated that they ‘got you’ on something other than a conflict of interest.
RL: First of all, I was not expelled. Dave Wallach the IRTA president at the time called me and told me I was doing a great job for the Association but there are “some complaints” saying that there was a “perceived conflict of interest” with me being the UC chairman and the UC platform technology provider. I did ask him if there was there an ethics complaint lodged he said, “No!” I then asked him who had made the complaint but he declined to answer. So I reluctantly had to agree with him and resigned.
DS: What’s your take on this murky area of ethics and the different stories?
RL: When we took on the responsibility as the Universal Currency Technology platform provider we made several ethical commitments that were not contractual. This was US volunteering to do the right thing because we believe in and try to live by doing the right thing:
1. Not soliciting clients from other software vendors who are members of IRTA. We’ve never done that, ever!
2. Not to set up our own credit clearing system to compete against UC. We haven’t.
3. Not to offer our technology to other clearing system such a Banc etc. Not only have we not done this, we haven’t even discussed this possibility with ANYONE.
4. To consistently evolve the platform so that the UC platform was seen to be a class leader. We believe that it is.
5. We would promote Universal Currency as the preferred clearing system for our clients. We always have and still do.
6. Not to actively promote that we are the IRTA/UC Technology provider. We don’t and we never have.
The bonus in doing the right thing is that we are now on really good terms with the other software platform owners and speak to them regularly.
DS: IRTA’s trying to get their software solution free according to some of the software companies. Is that true?
Yes but I’d like to add that the situation with IRTA getting their software free is ethically very risky for the future of the Association. Free has all sorts of and expectations from both parties.
Everyone knows in business there is no such thing as a free lunch; there will always be a price to be paid somewhere down the line. It is pretty obvious what the technology company gains in this case when they gain an exclusive endorsement of the industry association IRTA, but loses some revenue. This is a win big – small loss.
But IRTA will pay a far bigger price. Yes they may save some revenue in the short term by not paying for the UC platform and they may also receive some commission for software sales, but the price they will have the pay is huge, and it is a price no credible association would ever dare pay. That is, they lose all independence and their authority as the industry voice representing their member interests, and are no longer viewed as a benign organization to their members, they now become a direct competitor. It would insane and suicidal decision for any association to put themselves in this position when its main income is membership subscriptions!
Just think about it for a minute, imagine the “Tyre Association” telling all its member that they were going into the tyre selling business and they will only be selling one members brand and not a very good one at that. How long do you think that association will survive?
DS: You’re talking about Bartercard now . . . it’s that name again! What is your view on the current debacle with Bartercard and IRTA . . It is a debacle isn’t it?
RL: At first when the news broke I was like many others . . . I just didn’t believe it! I thought it a hoax and someone was being up to some mischief but when you broke the story on the release of the Bartercard Prospectus, my Skype started to light up and the emails started firing.
Your analysis of the Prospectus and commentary on their deal with IRTA has a lot of people in the industry asking questions. I’m there with the rest of them asking a lot of questions too.
A debacle, for sure!
DS: What’s your take on it? I’ve blogged extensively about and obviously we’ve talked at length about it since I broke the story, so share your thoughts.
RL: This will have major repercussions and is not going to go away any time soon it looks like this one is going to be a long slow burn and the people at IRTA have got some questions to answer to the members at large.
DS: Linda, you’ve told me that you’re pretty annoyed (to put it politely) with a few things to do with IRTA. What ticks you off the most about what has and I guess is still happening?
LS: The thing that winds me up is that IRTA is not doing what our industry needs. . If you look at the last few years, they’re not actually doing much FOR the industry! Apart from Daniel Evans, and software, it’s hard to see what else have they done or are doing on a global basis to promote awareness of the industry.
RL: There’s nothing global. They should be putting all their efforts into strengthening the brand – ‘Brand Barter’. [As an industry] we’re losing ground to the Cryptos.
LS: This ‘quest’ for other software has gone on for years. What we have not told anyone (until you pushed us to let our side of the story get out there) is that at the end of last year when our agreement was due to expire we informed the Global Board that we did NOT wish to continue as UC supplier, (and the reasons why). We were not obliged to do so, however they persuaded us to continue It would be unfair to divulge the nature of those discussions, but those discussions were key to our decision to continue to supply UC. I really don’t have the same respect or passion for IRTA as my partner [Richard] does, I’m tired of it!
RL: IRTA has lost its original goal. The issues that you are raising in your blogs are SO important for the industry. Truly understanding deficits for example is VERY important if it is to grow and thrive. There are THREE main types of deficit in any Trade Exchange – 1. Internal Trading Deficits from the Exchanges own ‘House Accounts”; 2. Internal Trading Deficits as a result of bad credit line management with “member” 3. External Trading Deficits with other Trade Exchanges
The whole subject of deficits needs to be addressed properly. These are issues that should have been addressed going back decades, but they’re not, especially the dangers that individual exchange owner could face if they fall foul of the tax authorities by having excessive house account debts in their system which could been seen as constructive income which may incur tax liabilities.
DS: When you said to me that Universal Currency should be audited, is that because you know something that we (or the Members) don’t? Should it be audited now?
RL: I can’t answer that specifically Dennis, because I’m privy to confidential information but in general, confidence in any banking system, cash or barter, is hard to maintain without some sort of auditing, preferably an annual audit, that is an independent report on performance of Board and Administrator to the owners who are of course ultimately the IRTA Members.
UC has never been audited that I know of. IRTA has only ever published trading figures, but it is prudent, and proper that Members get accurate, verified statistical information telling them the health of their currency.
To answer your question, yes I do think UC should be audited, and done every year by an independent source. That should also go back to when the last audit was done, of course!
DS: Going back to the Bartercard deal then, what’s in it for them? I’ve called this one a hospital pass. Is it a good move for them?
RL: It hinges on their IPO being successful doesn’t it? As you have said recently, that’s all they want – the money? If their IPO gets through then they’ve got what they want. I think they know very well that it will be difficult to get their competitors to use their software but that doesn’t matter – its looks like a cover story to me so that they can get the money from the IPO.
DS: You’ve told me that your phone has been ringing off the hook from people in the barter software business. What’s the general feeling out there?
RL: Well first I want to say that despite what any perception is out there, we software people DO speak to each other, and on a regular basis. We have our own forum called “PARTS” (Providers Association Reciprocal Trade Software) and there is definitely solidarity in regards to IRTA’s conduct under the current Executive. The general feeling about their search for software (that is clearly ‘ANYTHING BUT GETS’) is not very positive, but I think you should ask them what they feel and what their concerns are, as I am not their appointed spokesperson.
That said, bear in mind that some of us are still IRTA members and we were not very impressed with the language in the IRTA News Flash!
The positive thing out of this is that although commercially we are competitors we now communicate with each other well, something that really didn’t exist before, so you could say that IRTA has done a great job in uniting the software companies! It has also opened up lines of communication on future collaboration between the platforms, such as the GMEx Project that is already available for sharing trading marketplaces.
DS: Tell me their specific concerns. Is it all self-centric stuff or are there people out there who look for the greater good of the industry?
RL: Of course it’s for the greater good of the industry, and it goes without saying that as the industry grows that increases opportunities for all of us – let’s be honest – it is our livelihood after all. But the general feeling is that IRTA is now moving from an organisation that serves its members, that should be operating for the benefit of all its members, to one that could be contractually obliged to exclusively promote one! That’s a business, and a competing one at that.
DS: The whole GETs/IRTA thing seems like it has a long history and is pretty personal. What’s the real story behind IRTA dumping GETs for the second time and running with Bartercard?
RL: In early 2013 we were informed that the Global Board made a decision to move to another platform, they moved for a few months, then they came back, you will need to ask them why.
As for ‘dumping’ GETS for Bartercard we only found out about the real details from your blog. We have received no communication from IRTA regarding our agreement.
DS: What’s your take on Bartercard and their software? Have they got the goods? Can they do it do you think?
RL: Well money talks in the software world, if you throw enough money at any software project you can probably get results whatever you want, but these systems take time to develop and mature.
My sources inform me that the current Bartercard platform is written in old technology and this IPO is a means to give it a major upgrade. That’s what some of the money is for.
DS: Any predictions on what will happen in IRTA in the next little while?
RL: I can’t answer that one Dennis, all I can say is that there are a lot of raised eyebrows and from the calls I have received a lot of unhappy campers and a lot more questions to be answered. It really depends on what IRTA members think and want from their organisation and if that fits with IRTA’s goals.
DS: I know this is a passionate subject for you Richard, but talk a little in closing about Barter and Alternative Currencies and the bigger picture.
RL: I have never really like the terms ‘barter’ and ‘alternative currencies’. We use them of course because that’s the business we’re in. I prefer the words like Credit Clearing, Complementary Currency, Private Currency or Branded Currency better, but money simply represents relationships between buyers and sellers. I really care about that and it’s way too much to go into in this interview, but anything that helps develop and make relationships good between people and between communities has my vote.
LS: We believe we are in the beginning of a major Paradigm shift when it comes to the relationship between society and money and we have an opportunity to leave our small mark, that’s our motivation, not the money!
RL: For us it’s all about our legacy. What are our grandchildren going to think about our generation “the people” of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the naughty’s? What are they going to say about us? I for one, would love to hear “Thanks Granddad. Where would we be, if it wasn’t for people like you?”
DS: Thanks Richard & Linda. I know that there is much more to come . . .
My take follows, for what it’s worth.
Richard is an intelligent, thoughtful guy with a history in Barter circles that has put him on-the-spot and involved with many of the key events of the last decade or two. He’s got experience in the industry to die for and is clearly passionate. For the record I do not agree with him on all aspects of currencies and the future, but I do respect him enormously in many ways.
Linda, his partner has a big say in some aspects of the business if you really want to know, but Richard will back himself and do or say something that he feels is important, so to me, they seem to work very well as a team. Dealing with IRTA and their politics for almost a decade is certainly proof of that!
He’s a prolific networker and as anyone will know who has spoken to him a quick chat is an hour! When communicating with him it’s a challenge to focus on one subject as he will bring up many interesting and associated thoughts or experiences at the same time as addressing the one question, but as a result of the wealth of knowledge, and willingness to talk he has been a good source of understanding and introductions to key people in the industry.
He’s had a foray into the politics of the IRTA Board and getting railroaded hurt him, but he’s now re-engaging with the world – perhaps a little wiser and smarter – and dare I say it with my encouragement. He knows very well that there are people in powerful positions out to get him and that they can play dirty. He just doesn’t want to revisit that space. I can understand that . . . but he has enormous value to those wanting to deal with real issues ethically.
The thing that stands out for me about Richard is his genuine concern and passion for the industry. I’m ambivalent as to the future of IRTA. He’s not – he really, really wants to see it work the way it was set up to work, and for that to work well.
From what I have seen and heard, his ethics are beyond reproach. In the entire time I have engaged with him, first in relation to my investigation into the Ormita fraud, then in relation to the Bartercard/IRTA fiasco, I have never sensed excessive self-interest, or dishonesty, or malice. I’ve worked with him for over a year. In the early days of a new relationship I can sometimes be fooled but I’ve spent a lot of time with him now and I don’t think he’s got one over me, and contrary to the claims of a vocal IRTA Executive – he’s a straight player.
I think that he has a good future within IRTA. Putting aside the politics of the moment, with the current Executive ruling the roost, a weak and ineffective Board as evidenced with the ‘shonky’ secret deal with Bartercard, and so on . . . I think that his experience within the industry and respect amongst the key players could be very valuable to IRTA.
It remains to be seen what eventuates in that arena.
From my perspective, Richard’s call to have the Universal Currency audited rang serious alarm bells, for as an authorised user of the UC system for a short time myself, I was privy to inside information that concerned me greatly. I will be sharing more on my concerns in a future post.
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