Larry Williams, President, TAG
Intro: [00:00:07] Broadcasting live from the Georgia World Congress Center for Fintech South 2022, it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by Atlanta Blockchain Center. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:27] Lee Kantor here back at Fintech South 2022, right in the heart of Innovation Alley. So excited to be talking to Larry Williams, the president, CEO of TAG. Welcome, Larry.
Larry Williams: [00:00:39] Great. It’s great to be here. Thank you all for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:41] So, what do you think? Fintech South back, live in person.
Larry Williams: [00:00:46] You know —
Lee Kantor: [00:00:46] People, humans everywhere.
Larry Williams: [00:00:47] You know, I get to see people’s teeth again. And I’m just delighted to see that everybody’s got the energy here. You can just feel it. It’s palpable. It’s just people are excited. The interactions, the businesses happening here. It’s really what this is all about. You know, in TAG, whenever we started producing Fintech South five years ago, this is our fifth annual, this is what we envisioned it would be. We did a great job with a virtual platform for the last two years, but it’s great to be back in person and great to make those human connections.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:18] So, when you’re planning around an event like Fintech South, it’s a combination, obviously, education, there’s panels, there’s networking. We also have the whole Innovation Challenge, folks. You got the startups and the matching with the enterprise. How do you even, kind of, begin an event like this to make sure that all of those constituents are getting what they need?
Larry Williams: [00:01:42] Well, if you think about it, this really does bring together all of the elements of the ecosystem. So, everything, as you mentioned, from the startup. So, we really work through our Fintech society at TAG. And so, they really help start us at a very early stage. And really it’s an all year — it’s a year-round process. So, if we start to think about the Innovation Challenge, getting those startups because there’s a whole mentorship program that goes along with this. It’s not just the award on stage that we see here.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:12] Right, that we see the end result.
Larry Williams: [00:02:14] Right, so this has been going —
Lee Kantor: [00:02:14] There has been weeks or months ahead of time
Larry Williams: [00:02:17] Yes, months ahead. Same with the Advanced Awards and thinking about who are those companies that have really been accelerating and moving the ecosystem. These are all important parts of what we’re doing. And then it’s the professional development, the trends, the knowledge, news you can use that people can really go back and say, hey, this is what the trends of Fintech are. This is what I can apply back to my business. Even the thought sharing and the thought leadership that goes into it.
Larry Williams: [00:02:44] Now, one thing you did mention is also the workforce. You know, we’ve had lots of students here. We’ve had over 30 students here that have really — that are going through the FinTech Academy and other things to prepare that next generation of leaders in our Fintech community.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:58] And that’s a big innovation to have an academy that is just has a curriculum around Fintech. There’s probably not a lot of those in other places in the country, right? That are so specific to fintech and to grow your own talent, because the need is so great. We have to do something. You can’t sit here and wait and hope that this solves itself.
Larry Williams: [00:03:18] You know, we were really pioneers in this and led the way. There’s a lot that has popped up around the country that like to say they — I’d like to say me too. But I can really say that we really started it here. Our companies, our University System of Georgia really got behind it. We move fast. We stood it up and it’s doing a great job.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:36] Right. And so, can you share a little bit about how that works? Like how did — you know, how does a student get involved with that to take their career to a new level?
Larry Williams: [00:03:47] Yes, it’s really about getting the main doorways through the University System of Georgia. So, any of the schools, although it’s based at Georgia State University, other students at other universities can access it. So, it’s really just, you know, look for the FinTech Academy, you know, and go to the website and it will direct you on how to get engaged.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:07] Now, you mentioned five years ago the event began, and even in the short period of time of five years, the Fintech kind of brand has expanded, right? And Fintech is touching so many more things than it did five years ago.
Larry Williams: [00:04:21] You know, Fintech touches everything. As I like to say, everybody likes to get paid on time, every time. And as we go more and more to a digital platform, Fintech is really at the center of it. And it really does touch every industry because there’s no industry that there’s not some type of financial transaction happening.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:41] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:04:42] So it’s been great because we’ve been talking about everything here at Fintech South on our breakouts and on main stage. We’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion, financial literacy. We’ve been talking about the fan experience and you know, what’s going on whenever you have a large event at Brave Stadium or over at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with MLS. All of these things and this financial transaction, this intersection with the point of sale all affects that fan experience or the customer experience if we’re talking about retail or others.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:15] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:05:15] So, all of this has been part of it. And so, what we’ve been seeing, especially, which was accelerated over the last two years, is this idea of frictionless payments.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:24] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:05:24] You know, how do you start to make it even easier? So, you know, Amazon makes it pretty easy, you know, hit the, you know, one click button. But you’ve got to think about now where we’re going with wearables, with your digital wallet. The adoption of these types of tools have accelerated greatly, and that’s what we’re going to consider — continue to see happen. And just more adoption. You know, the younger generation, they’re not carrying cash anymore.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:48] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:05:48] You know, they’re not doing it at all. They don’t want to.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:52] Yes, they don’t walk into banks.
Larry Williams: [00:05:53] They don’t walk into banks and they don’t want to. And, you know, and part of it is when you think of the brick and mortar side of it, a lot of people say that people don’t need banks, they need services. And so, you’ll see the banking models starting to evolve that it really is service focused about what is it that we can do and how people can access them in a very easy and convenient way.
Larry Williams: [00:06:19] Now, the big pond, the big opening right now, and the big opportunity is really we’ve done a lot with consumer payments, but it’s really moving to business to business. So business to business is still predominantly done by checks. So, remember a check? When was the last time you wrote a check?
Lee Kantor: [00:06:36] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:06:36] You know, but business is still done that way. And so, if we think about the evolution of where payments are going, Fintech is going to be able to facilitate more business-to-business interactions.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:47] So, now as the leader of TAG, TAG touches all these kind of technology special interests. How are you seeing that evolve over the years of your leadership in terms of there’s many more things that are falling under the umbrella of technology? Like at one point — like you just said, everybody’s a Fintech company now whether they want it or not. Everybody’s been a technology company, whether they want to be or not.
Larry Williams: [00:07:11] Yes, you know, that’s been an evolution that’s happened. You know, every company is a technology company even if it’s not something that’s, you know, a recognized brand. But, you know, Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, all technology companies, because that’s how we do business and that’s how we connect with our customers and that’s how we grow our businesses in many, many different ways.
Larry Williams: [00:07:32] So, you know, I’m just proud of, you know, TAG of really being able to think about the things and the next, you know, what’s the next generation of innovation? What is the next thing that’s coming around, you know, whether it be blockchain or whether it be evolution in things about sales leadership? Because people we sell differently in the technical cells. The marketing of how you market and go to market’s very, very important now.
Larry Williams: [00:07:56] And you know — and so these things, marketing technology is a big core competency here in Georgia. If you think about what David Cummings has done, you know, with Pardot. What’s going on with Salesloft and lots of other companies that are really driving that, that’s an important part of it.
Larry Williams: [00:08:12] Blockchain, and really thinking about what Blockchain is doing, inclusive of but not exclusive to cryptocurrency. You know, right now, I think you’ve heard us say a million times, the 70% of all debit, credit, and reward card transactions are processed through Georgia. Today, we can say that 80% of global commercial cryptocurrency transactions are processed through Georgia.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:35] Wow.
Larry Williams: [00:08:36] And so, that’s us staying at the head of innovation. Now, the other thing that’s similar to this is cybersecurity. You know, cybersecurity, we’ve been in cybersecurity for decades and I’m going back to mainframes, to network, and to internet security. Things that we’ve done through Georgia Tech with the Department of Defense. And now we’ve been at the forefront.
Larry Williams: [00:08:59] We’ve been able to create great, great companies like ISS that became part of IBM. Secureworks that have been part of Dell. AirWatch, you know, that grew up and is now part of VMware, but is the company that — it was the first mobile security application that Apple led onto the iPhone platform that enabled people to choose an iPhone. And if you remember the BlackBerry.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:26] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:09:27] Blackberry didn’t make it. And that was all, you know, generated out of here. But that — it’s really to illustrate that we were able to go from, you know, the enterprise type of security all the way up to mobile phones and build it here. Because we built — we knew every iteration of the evolution of the technology.
Larry Williams: [00:09:48] And so, we’re seeing that with Fintech digital health. You know, we’ve got a broad portfolio here and that’s good for our economy.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:55] Right, that’s why I think that the Georgia economy is always so strong because of the diversity of the industries that allow us if there’s a downturn somewhere or something, there’s an upturn somewhere else. And a lot of times it’s here still in the State of Georgia.
Larry Williams: [00:10:08] You always want a balanced portfolio, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:10:11] Exactly.
Larry Williams: [00:10:11] You know, so that’s more resilient. And so, we’ve got a great portfolio here that makes us resilient. And so, it’s a great time to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:18] And it’s important that folks like you that are leading a community of people in technology, that you’re a part of it. And we have the public and the private intersection where everybody is being so collaborative and everybody’s helping each other. This environment is what allows Georgia to be as successful as it is.
Larry Williams: [00:10:37] You know, it’s hard for new people to believe that this is true. But as people get into this market, they really do start to learn that people here want you to be successful.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:48] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:10:48] And people will help you. And many times —
Lee Kantor: [00:10:50] It’s collaborative.
Larry Williams: [00:10:50] It’s collaborative. And many times those are competitors. But they say — they know that your success is our success.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:57] Right.
Larry Williams: [00:10:57] And so, I think that’s a great community. And people are always amazed that there’s something like TAG. You mean, I can just, you know, get plugged in immediately? Yes, you can.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:07] Right, and it’s — and it doesn’t matter what niche you’re in, in technology. There’s a space for you.
Larry Williams: [00:11:13] That’s exactly right. And it opens the doors to many, many other organizations and other ways to get networked or get support.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:19] Well, Larry, thank you so much for sharing your story today. If somebody wants to connect on — at TAG, what’s a website?
Speaker3: [00:11:27] At tagonline.org.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:29] Good stuff. Well, Larry, thank you again for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Larry Williams: [00:11:33] Appreciate all you all doing. Thanks for being here.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:35] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll be back in a few at Fintech South 2022.
Outro: [00:11:47] This episode has been brought to you by Atlanta Blockchain Center, the catalyst for Atlanta’s emergence as the Premier Blockchain Innovation hub globally, through cultivating entrepreneurship, inclusivity, and education. To learn more, go to atlblockchaincenter.com.