Georgia exports tech to the world, Mr. Sloan said. The U.S. government often highlights the fact that while it often has a trade deficit in goods, services consistently generates a surplus. Photo by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash

Jeff Sloan may be recently retired, but he’s still fighting to keep Georgia globally competitive in an industry that employs tens of thousands of people across the state. 

The former Global Payments Inc. CEO has been urging Congress to take action to ensure the U.S. remains a “net exporter” of financial technology and payments innovation. 

Since immediate tax write-offs for research and development expenditures expired in January 2022, the U.S. has been disadvantaged by subsidies in Europe and elsewhere around the world, Mr. Sloan said at this week’s Fintech South conference in Atlanta.

Much like it does for domestic manufacturers, the U.S. should consider ways to help tech companies overcome potential trade barriers, he suggested. 

Global Payments has 7,000 employees in Georgia and 18,000 around the United States. Across its 25,000 global team members, the company counts 6,000 “technologists” who simply need a “level playing field” to continue delivering innovations that put the U.S. on the leading edge, Mr. Sloan said just after being inducted into the Georgia Fintech Hall of Fame

Jeff Sloan

“All we’re asking for is an equal chance in our ability to build the businesses that we know we need,” Mr. Sloan said during a conversation with Technology Association of Georgia CEO Larry Williams. “Those people should not be disadvantaged because they’re Americans or working in America.” 

Living up to its name, Global Payments had made key acquisitions in recent years that have expanded its geographic reach and market penetration in key segments. 

And it hasn’t had to look far. Its latest major deal, a $4 billion purchase of Atlanta’s EVO Payments in 2022, enhanced Global Payments’ exposure to key partners in Mexico and many other countries. 

Before that was the $21.5 billion all-stock merger with Columbus, Ga.-based TSYS. Closed in 2019, the melding of what he described as complementary corporate cultures gave Global Payments entree into Latin American markets like Brazil

It also offered the company new capabilities in e-commerce and better connections with card issuers and financial institutions, areas of strength for TSYS, while bolstering the company’s scale during a wave of payments-industry consolidation. 

Expanding outwardly has generally benefited the company at home, Mr. Sloan said, but for that to continue, the U.S. has to be vigilant. 

“We are a net exporter of our technologies from the U.S., in many cases from right here in Georgia, to places outside the United States. These additional target addressable markets geographically as well as the vertical solutions depend on people right here building them and sending them overseas.”

Both TSYS and an earlier purchase of Mineral Tree promised Global Payments a better foothold in business-to-business payments, an area Mr. Sloan suggested was ripe for disruption. With about five times the transaction value of consumer payments, B2B is still largely reliant on checks and ACH transfers, he said. 

Payments companies, he said, are also now seeing the need to invest more heavily in the “omni-channel” experience, the “seamless blurring” of e-commerce and physical retail. 

True to form, local partnerships have helped Global Payments demonstrate its capabilities in this regard: The company’s systems underpin both advance online ticketing (and parking) and in-person concessions purchases at games for the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United

Georgia, for its part, still has an R&D tax credit in place — one of many attributes that makes the state attractive in the fintech sector, along with a “deep bench” of industry talent, strong universities and an airport that enables companies to reach their customers around the world efficiently with nonstop flights, said Mr. Sloan, who used to travel 250,000 miles per year on Delta Air Lines

Global Payments invests more than a billion dollars a year in payroll and other expenditures to keep its innovation engine humming in the state, he added. 

But the industry can’t just rely on inertia; it must be cultivated, TAG’s Mr. Williams said. 

“One of our messages for policy makers is: Don’t take it for granted,” he said. “I think policymakers can say, ‘They’re here. They’ve always been here. They’ll continue to be here.’ That’s not the case. And we’ve seen so many examples of that.” 

According to TAG, more than 200 fintech companies in Georgia employ more than 40,000 people. 

As for Mr. Sloan, he remains on the board of directors Fleetcor, an Atlanta-based provider of fuel cards and other payment solutions for companies managing their payments and expenses.

The former Goldman Sachs partner doesn’t envision another day-to-day executive role for himself, but he does plan to use his experience in both operations and consolidations to help companies as an investor, mentor and advocate. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...