Rumors were flying last week, and late on Memorial Day weekend, CNBC’s David Faber is reporting that Atlanta based Global Payments will merge with Columbus Georgia based Totals Systems. Billed as a “merger of equals” with a split board, Global Payments appears to be slightly more equal, with their CEO Jeffrey Sloan retaining that title, while TSYS stockholders will receive 48% of the combined company.
While the news will likely be unsettling for some in Columbus, the key here is that the Georgia FinTech industry maintains a significant global HQ within the state. Much like with commercial banks who recently saw SunTrust participate in a shotgun wedding with BB&T and move to Charlotte, FinTech companies know they must grow or be acquired. It’s all about scale these days.
Still, TSYS needs to retain credit for getting it all started here. From a 2016 column of mine:
Three decades ago there barely was a credit card payment processing industry. Columbus’ CB&T bank began a subsidiary to handle payments of other banks and spun it off into a company called Total System Services in 1983. In 1996 Total Systems (now known as TSYS) looked at moving away from Columbus and Georgia because it needed 500 computer analysts per year, and the entire state was producing about 780 annually.
Gov. Zell Miller stepped in with one of Georgia’s first workforce development programs known as ICAPP, which partnered with Columbus State University to train workers toward specific needs. Today, TSYS and Columbus State anchor a revived downtown Columbus, with many high-tech jobs created, and many Georgians employed.
TSYS isn’t the only success story in this field for Georgia. Other companies that aren’t exactly household names such as Worldpay, Elavon, and InComm anchor this industry that has a distinct Georgia accent. Gov. Deal reports that Georgia-based credit card payment processers account for 70% of all US financial transactions, accounting for $85 billion in annual transactions processed.
Additional details will be learned in the days and weeks ahead. The effect on Downtown Columbus (if any) will be of chief concern. Hopefully, for the city and state’s sake, the merger will ultimately mean securing FinTech leadership in Georgia for decades to come.