Since Frank Bisignano took the helm at First Data Corp. as Chief Executive Officer in 2013 and as Chairman of the Board one year later, the payment processor has seen transformation at nearly all levels, including going public with an initial public offering in October 2015.
At the same time, the pace of technological innovation has accelerated. "With innovation cycles, historically adoption rates have taken six to 15 years, and now with technology, we're seeing the innovation cycle in months, not years," said Dan Charron, Executive Vice President of the Global Business Solutions Unit at First Data.
In response, First Data launched innovation labs in Atlanta and Silicon Valley, and has engineers spread across Europe. This interconnected network of developers, designers and engineers is tasked with developing new products for First Data, Charron said.
Recent investment in product and infrastructure is also apparent. Charron pointed out that as an enabler of global commerce First Data has transitioned beyond payment processing to encompass broader applications through development of its Clover and deep analytics platforms, advanced security and prepaid gift program, to name several.
Charron noted that First Data no longer views itself as just a payment processor. "We call ourselves a technology solutions company, building solutions with technology underpinning commerce and payments for businesses, governments and financial institutions," he said.
Within these segments, First Data provides global financial solutions, global business solutions, and network and security solutions. Separate business units, such as the one Charron spearheads, were created as part of an overall strategy to transform the company into a client-focused global organization, he added.
"Being a global business, as we deal with major companies, we have the ability to handle their commerce solution needs, no matter where they are on the globe," Charron said. "I don't think anybody has the global footprint we do. We have customers in 118 countries, we have a platform that can authorize in 160-plus currencies, so having that network and ecosystem helps on both the solutions side and in-country, in-region opportunities."
According to Charron, First Data is very much a hands-on partner. "There is so much technical integration and code development that we do with partners," he said. "We truly are business partners in creating solutions," with tools to manage operations and integrate universally.
"We have a massive integration layer that we've done with Rapid Connect, where different people can connect to us," Charron said. "And you get the access of the worldwide First Data through one access point, which is pretty powerful. The majority of our partners are actually certifying one place and then they get access to all of our different platforms and geographies and solutions."
Partnerships are also integral to the company's global model. "We've got partners that are connected to us that can solve just about anything any of our distribution partners are looking for, as opposed to other competitors," said Kevin Sisk, of First Data's Partner Solutions Group.
The company's cloud-based Clover operating platform, which features an open application programming interface, encourages third-party applications development. It also forms the basis for the Clover Station iPad POS system; the Clover Mini, with a smaller footprint; Clover Go, which plugs into POS tablet and mobile devices; and the Clover Mobile device, which expands pay-at-the-table and line-busting capabilities.
And its online store platform offers cross-channel support. "More often than not, historically people have had to get two different solutions and vendors for their online and in-store business," Charron stated. "The problem with that is when you have two solutions you can't manage your inventory across both of those and your price points. With Clover Online Store, we've had people get their online store up and running as quickly as 30 minutes," and clients are able to synchronize price points across channels.
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Partner Solutions Group