A humble Frank Bisignano told top non-bank acquirer executives Thursday that his company, processing giant First Data Corp., wasn’t “always good” at listening to its clients and asked the audience to hold him “personally accountable” for the company’s performance in the coming year.
Bisignano, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. senior executive who took over as chairman and chief executive at Atlanta-based First Data last year, said the company’s purpose now is to help independent sales organizations, value-added resellers, and software developers in helping small businesses find and keep new business.
“Small and medium-size businesses have been greatly underserved,” he said in a morning speech at the Electronic Transactions Association’s Strategic Leadership Forum in Palm Beach, Fla. “We can change that landscape and help small merchants grow.”
Striving to appear personable and accessible to his audience, Bisignano cited products First Data has released or developed on his watch, including the Clover tablet-based point-of-sale system, the Perka rewards technology, and the Insightics analytics tool as examples of his company’s new commitment to innovation. He added First Data has deployed 20,000 Clover systems so far, less than a year after the product was introduced. “For a long time, we didn’t build product or innovate product,” he said, contrasting First Data’s new approach with the processor’s former stance.
The new technology, coupled with such efforts as First Data’s support for such new services as Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay mobile-payments product, is aimed at arming small merchants with technology that can put them on an even footing with large businesses. “But we have to do it through you, and do it in the way that you want,” Bisignano told the audience of some 400 top-level merchant-processing executives, many of whom are or have been First Data clients.
Stressing First Data’s new commitment to technology and innovation, he referred to his company, which was founded in the 1970s, as a “42-year-old startup. This is not the First Data you knew.” He confessed, however, that the company, which in addition to processing for acquirers also operates the Star PIN-debit network and supports banks’ card-issuing programs, still has some distance to go to achieve his ambitions for innovation and supporting ISOs.
“I don’t think by any means we’ve gotten it right,” Bisignano told the audience, inviting them to “grade” him a year from now on how well First Data supports their efforts to serve small merchants. “If we think we are in acquiring, we’re stopping short,” he said. “If we think we’re in payment processing, we’re stopping short. We’re in the business of helping your client.”
Indeed, Bisignano hinted far more is coming from First Data. “I think we have far more functionality to build,” he said, without going into detail. He eschewed the notion of long-term planning, however, arguing the payments business is undergoing rapid change. “I don’t have a five-year plan,” he said. “This industry moves too fast, and we’ve got to be nimble.”
Addressing the multiple processing platforms First Data has historically operated on, Bisignano stressed the company will manage a platform consolidation without making a big deal out of it.
“Ultimately, there’ll be a bunch of consolidations,” he said, referring to criticisms analysts and others have made over the years about the inefficiencies of separate platforms. “But it will happen in the background. We won’t bother you with what room in our house it all happens in. We should never in our life talk about what systems we’re [running] on. Our objective is that you will never have to think about that.”