Fintech South 2023 is a world-class summit with its nexus in Atlanta live and in-person, a global financial technology hub that is home to more than 200 fintech companies. The top 15 public fintech companies in Georgia alone generate more than $100 billion in revenues. On September 12th & 13th, 2023, at the Georgia World Congress Center, we welcomed fintech leaders from around the world for an amazing experience designed to help you make the most of the opportunities of the fintech revolution.
Jeff Sloan, Former CEO – Global Payments
Intro: Broadcasting live from the beautiful Georgia World Congress Center for FinTech South. 2023. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here broadcasting live from FinTech South. 2023 celebrating fintech leaders from around the world. Right now, we have Jeff Sloan, Hall of fame recipient. Formerly with Global Payments. Welcome, Jeff.
Jeff Sloan: Thanks for having me, Lee.
Lee Kantor: Well, first, tell us a little bit about your career at Global Payments.
Jeff Sloan: So I spent the last 13 years at global payments versus our president and COO, and then for the last ten years as our CEO and just retired in June.
Lee Kantor: So for people who don’t know, can you tell us mission, you know, how are you serving? How is global payments serving the fintech world?
Jeff Sloan: So one of the largest providers of digital payments technologies on the planet, a really good example. As I mentioned before, we started, a really good example since we’re sitting here in the World Congress Center is for the Falcons, for the United, for the Hawks. When you get your tickets, you let them into your digital wallet. You go to pay for them to get your food, you get your parking, you name it. A lot of that software technology payments connectivity is developed by global payments right here in the United States and especially in Georgia.
Lee Kantor: Now, can you talk about the beginning? Like what was the vision of global payments when they first started? And, you know, just talk about the evolution of where they’re at today.
Jeff Sloan: So I’ll date myself a little bit late by saying global payments and Jeff Sloan are pretty much exactly the same age. I think we were born within a week of each other, 56 and a little bit years ago at at this point. So I’ll date myself also, if you remember and you go back in the 80s and you used to have to call what would we call these knuckle busters, which is when you use your credit card, it was over a sheet of like mimeograph paper and they would take it and like do the impressions and global payments was born as a company that said this transaction is good. The paper or you would open that onion skin book and say, Hey, that card number is bad. And that’s literally the way the business started in the 70s and 80s. And we grew from a company that was a subsidiary of another company here in Georgia called National Data Corporation. And when I was in banking many years ago, I helped take global payments public in the late 90s into 2001. And we’ve grown from a company that had a market value of $400 million at the time of the IPO. And you know, the other day it was 50 billion. So it’s obviously been a great growth story for global payments and we’ve always been headquartered here in Atlanta and a great growth story for Georgia.
Lee Kantor: So now how does a company make that transition from paper to all digital? And now paper is not even you know, they don’t even make brochures for this conference here. You know, everything’s online.
Jeff Sloan: Well, I think it mirrors the developments we’ve seen in computing in the United States and kind of globally over the last probably 4 or 5 decades. Lee So think about where we are today. So today, most of the technologies that global payments sells are cloud based, meaning they’re in the ether and they’re not even really on your desktop and they’re not even really at the point of sale. You may see a terminal and may tap it with your phone, but a lot of that heavy lifting is done in the ether with Amazon or with Google. And in fact, we’re shrinking the number of physical data center sites that we have from something like a max of 55 down to three. And as we’re shrinking those, that’s all getting done in the cloud and in the ether. And I think that’s probably the best way to think about where cloud and computing has gone over the last 5 or 10 years. But you can work in reverse and you can go all the way from the paper example in the 70s and 80s up through Apple and up through Commodore and up through the developments, up through IBM and all the developments in computing power over the last 4 or 5 decades have really been a nice tailwind and included the benefit of people like global payments all the way up to the current day through cloud based technologies.
Lee Kantor: So now what made Atlanta the place for for this to happen? Like what were the elements here in Atlanta that was conducive to having a company like that grow so, you know, so dramatically?
Jeff Sloan: So as Larry will tell you from Tag, who is, of course, hosting this conference, more than half of the transactions that are credit and debit card based here in the United States flow through Atlanta, which is why it’s called transaction alley flow through here. Now, why is that? I think there’s a few reasons. Number one, it starts with the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has historically been known as the payments experts in the United States. So for the last number of decades, there has been a body of knowledge, governance, oversight and regulation that’s developed in the US, but especially here in Atlanta. And as a result, a lot of the people who came into the industry 34 years, 30 or 40 years ago came from the Federal Reserve, kind of point number one. Point number two, we’re blessed here in this state with Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Emory with a very. Sound technology footprint and very sound technology base of people who grew up in tech land here in Georgia and want to stay. So we have probably in the state of Georgia, we have about 7000 team members. But right here in Atlanta, in the greater metropolitan area, we probably have 1500 team members. And a lot of those folks are technology specialists, particularly in digital payments. And a lot of them grew up here or went to school at the schools I just mentioned. So I don’t think there’s a better place in the country to hire, recruit, train, motivate and keep people in the technology business, especially for payments than than Atlanta.
Lee Kantor: So what does the ecosystem need more of in order to continue the growth?
Jeff Sloan: Well, we need more investment. So global payments, just to pick one example, we’ll invest $2 billion this year in OpEx and CapEx in our technology environments all focused on digital payments. But we need to continue to do that number. You know, probably five years ago was a billion, right? So we’ve doubled over the last five years. Our investment in technologies. And if I had to guess where I’d be in five years, hopefully it’s 3 to 4 billion of investment. So if we don’t continue to make those investments, particularly here in Atlanta, in Georgia, in the United States, we won’t grow at the rate that we should be growing at. The other thing I would say, as I mentioned in the in the group session is, you know, we need a favorable government environment, which we have here in Georgia, but federally in particular, we need a level playing field. So we build these technologies in the US and we export them so our net exporter worldwide of our technologies, we need a level playing field with countries in Europe and countries in Asia. So the expiration of the federal R&D tax credits a couple of years ago that have not been renewed is a really big headwind for development and investment in our technology environments. And all we’re asking for is not a leg up, we’re just asking for a level playing field with people in Ireland and in the EU and in Asia and the like who have a lot of government support for developing the technologies that we’re going to build right here in Georgia.
Lee Kantor: So how does a government kind of keep keep up and keep the pace when technology changes so quickly and dramatically and government tends to kind of lag?
Jeff Sloan: So we need to incent private corporations to make the decisions around what the next successful technology is going to be, whether they’re right or wrong, you know, they’ll fail and they’ll be successful. Right.
Lee Kantor: But government doesn’t like to fail. They don’t like that, you know, they only want wins.
Jeff Sloan: But if you can create the favorable conditions where people can make those investments, you’ll naturally get to the right place in our type of economy. So what we need is the R&D tax credits, for example, back. What we need are incentives to continue to train, hire and develop and retain our our people. And I think we have a lot of those here in Georgia. But multinationally, we need to make sure that as a country, not just as a state, that we’re making the investments we need. So 5 or 10 years from now, that 2 billion is 3 billion is 4 billion on the line.
Lee Kantor: Now, talk about the Hall of Fame being a Hall of Fame recipient. That must have been a proud moment. You know, kind of the cherry on top of the career.
Jeff Sloan: I mean, it’s a real honor when you look at some of the recipients. Picket My predecessor, Paul Garcia, who hired me at Global Payments 13 years ago and I’ve known for 30 years. It’s really an honor to be on the same piece of paper, you know, to be honest, We mentioned in even remotely the same breath as all the technology leaders you’ve had here in Georgia. I’d also say, you know, I hate to feel old, right? But when you you know, when you’re kind of like moving on and retiring in these things and you see it, it’s really nice to see. It does make you feel. And I know 34 years sounds like a long time. It didn’t sound like a long time when I was living it. You know, it sounds like a long time when you’ve done it, but it does make you look back and I think reflect on the things that while you’re growing yourself, your family, your company, you don’t really reflect on those things because you’re so focused on moving forward. It does give you an opportunity to sit back and reflect on, well, what have we accomplished? You know, here at Global Payments and here in Georgia, I really none of that could have happened without the team members we have without the support we’ve gotten here in Georgia. And it makes me feel very grateful and kind of humbled, you know, to be in that position.
Lee Kantor: So what’s the next move for you? Where are you staying connected to the fintech world and still getting involved in different ventures.
Jeff Sloan: So while I’m pretty old, I’m not too old, I think, to continue to be helpful. So I really think my greatest value add is mentoring, coaching, advising younger CEOs, people who are just getting into the role, or people who are in senior management and private companies. Well, how do you think about growing and scaling your people, your businesses, your investments, your markets, your boards? How do you think about IPOs? How do you think about buying and selling assets? How do you think about raising capital? And look at Goldman. When I was in banking and then at global payments, I’ve done those things. So I think that I can provide value there in terms of sharing things I’ve done wrong and sharing things I think that have gone well. And if I can make those things happen and create value over time, I’ll consider that a success.
Lee Kantor: So before we wrap. What’s one piece of advice you can share with that emerging CEO?
Jeff Sloan: Yeah, I would say don’t get too high or don’t get too low. I mean, I think it’s very easy, especially with what the world has been through, you know, in the last three and a half years. I think it’s very easy to get sidetracked, you know, in a given day with the volatility we’ve all experienced and obviously the dramatic health impacts we’ve had. I think this stuff is a marathon. It’s really not a sprint. And I think it’s important in that context to keep your wits about you and realize that nothing’s ever as good as it seems and probably nothing’s ever as bad as it seems to. And I think if you can do that successfully and provide team members with hope and opportunity, I think you’ll be pretty well served.
Lee Kantor: Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success. You’re doing, important work, and we appreciate you.
Jeff Sloan: Thanks for having.
Lee Kantor: Me, Lee. All right. This Lee Kantor will be back in a few at FinTech South 2023.