Sunday , October 25, 2020

Fiserv CEO Yabuki Sees Signs of Stronger Growth as He Yields to Former First Data Chief Bisignano

Jeff Yabuki will step down July 1 after 15 years as chief executive of Fiserv Inc. and will be succeeded by Frank Bisignano, who joined the company last year after it acquired First Data Corp., of which Bisignano was CEO, in a $22-billion all-stock deal. Yabuki, who is also Fiserv’s chairman, will serve as executive chairman until the end of the year, the Brookfield, Wis.-based financial-services processor announced late Thursday.

The news came as Fiserv reported results for a first quarter whose latter weeks were clouded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which depressed in-store sales but boosted functions like e-commerce, peer-to-peer payments, and remote check deposit. Fiserv’s merchant-acceptance unit, which is mostly the former First Data, posted $1.25 billion in internal revenue for the quarter, up 6% year-over-year on strong growth in integrated payments and for its Clover point-of-sale technology. What Fiserv calls internal revenue is net of currency conversions, acquisitions, and divestitures.

The merchant unit saw Clover shipments grow 29% year-over-year in the quarter, Yabuki told equity analysts during an afternoon earnings call, adding the unit’s e-commerce operation added 36 clients. “We’ve been seeing signs of early recovery in merchant transactions,” Yabuki said. “Overall, we are quite optimistic about the early trends.”

Merchant-acceptance posted the fastest growth of Fiserv’s three units. The payments and network unit, which houses the company’s Zelle and proprietary peer-to-peer payments services as well as its debit network, grew 3% to $1.4 billion in revenue. Financial technology, which includes core processing for banks, increased 1% to $720 million for the quarter. For the company as a whole, internal revenue grew 4% to $3.37 billion.

Calling the Covid-19 crisis and the restrictions imposed to contain it a “once in a century event,” Yabuki said the company has started to see broader improvement across merchant product lines only in recent days, though he called the uptick “gradual.” His projection for the near future was muted by the consumer caution left in the wake of the pandemic. “When will things be normal? I don’t think normal this year will be anything like the growth rates we saw last year,” he told the analysts. “Until we see protections in place, it’s going to be hard to call it normal.” By “protections,” he meant a vaccine and a regime for antibody testing.

For his part, Bisignano indicated he has no intention of letting the coronavirus move Fiserv off a familiar path. “I don’t see us veering from any direction we’ve been driving,” he told the analysts. “Our best days are in front of us. There are no big changes happening here.” Bisignano becomes only the fourth Fiserv CEO in the company’s 36-year history. Before coming to First Data in 2013, he had been a long-time executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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