Gov. Nathan Deal announced on April 24 that InComm Inc., the Atlanta-based financial technology company, acquired the distribution rights of American Express’s prepaid reloadable and gift card products.
The governor highlighted the creation of 150 jobs in Georgia and $20 million in capital investments while expressing his interest in learning more about the potential impact of fintech on the state’s economy.
The announcement also provided a backdrop for a panel of local economic development officials and industry specialists to underscore the impact that the state’s fintech firms will have globally.
While letting their global ambitions soar, however, the panelists honestly addressed the need to prepare a workforce that can handle the innovative and rapidly changing technology associated with the field.
Mary Ellen McClanahan, director, entrepreneur and small business and metro project manager at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, immediately claimed that Atlanta has become “a magnet” for tech driven companies citing the 10,000 engineers graduating annually from Georgia schools with one third coming from the highly academically rigorous Georgia Institute of Technology.
We are thrilled with what’s going on in fintech the last few years,” she added. “It’s been going on for a long time…and it’s such a positive message for the others that we are trying to attract. We use the fintech vertical as one of our recruiting tools, and it provides a really good dialogue for us. When people see this kind of development, they start to believe in the other verticals such as cybersecurity and health IT.”
Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Metro Atlanta Chamber, stressed that fintech was attracting both companies and talent to the city, especially millennials who are seeking the life-work combinations that both the city and the industry are providing through its ChooseATL “endless possibilities” campaign.
Larry Williams, president of the Technology Association of Georgia, highlighted the fintech conference TAG is hosting at the Mercedes-Benz stadium May 7-8, which is to feature 100 speakers, 40 startups and 90 exhibitors from around the world. A Georgia developed fintech startup also is to receive a $50,000 cash award.
“This is the most relevant (fintech) show in the country and it’s taking us to a new level…a global stage,” he added.
West Richards, executive director of the Atlanta-based American Transaction Processing Coalition, echoed TAG’s global ambitions by citing the P20 conference, which will be held in Atlanta in October, following up on last year’s conference in London with their peers from the United Kingdom.
The P20 conference— short for Payments 20 — will bring together business leaders, government officials and regulators to draw up a blueprint for regulations with a view that they should be applied not just nationally but globally, according to Mr. Richards.
For Georgia to retain its lead in the fintech industry it will have to have an able workforce, all the panelists acknowledged, and Dr. Art Recesso, chief innovation officer of the University System of Georgia, responded that the state’s 26 institutions of higher learning have gotten the message.
“Who knew how big this was?” he asked rhetorically, playing off the governor’s comment that even he, the governor, wanted to know more about the importance of fintech with its 30,000 employees and the $30 billion that it is injecting into the state’s economy — a figure that was not well known around the state, Dr. Recesso added.
From both an academic and a business perspective, the most pressing issue, he said, was providing a workforce for the rapidly expanding business sector that was looking for 5,000 new hires.
He also indicated that three years ago none of the university system’s institutions were preparing students for this sort of employment. Today, however, he said, seven institutions are developing the fintech curriculum.
He praised InComm for its role in helping prepare students for the industry by outlining the sector’s human resource needs and the necessary skills required as well as establishing the sorts of apprenticeship programs that support mastering the necessary skills.
“We found that we didn’t need to provide a generalized degree,” he said. But after extensive research the system has focused on a post baccalaureate certificate featuring acquisition of skills in the five following areas: data analysis, cybersecurity, application development, client development and client services.
An offshoot of the university system’s initiative has been the collaboration of the U.S Department of Labor in a special initiative of its own to support apprenticeships related to fintech.
The university system under the direction of Dr. David Snow, director of military affairs, has launched a program to steer veterans into the field, praising their technical backgrounds and service to the country.
Kenneth Snuggs, president and co-founder of the Cumberland Group, added that by pressing the development of hardware and software to handle high transaction workloads, fintech’s innovations were enabling companies like his to expand their offerings to other industry sectors.
Scott Meyerhoff, InComm’s chief financial officer, who served as the panel’s moderator, said that the companies success in the more than 30 countries in which it provides payment services to retailers’ point-of-sale systems at more than 500,000 points of retail distribution, was due primarily to responding to its clients’ needs.
The acquisition of distribution rights of American Express’s prepaid reloadable and gift card products will enable InComm to add 400 employees to its workforce nationally, more than 150 of whom will work in several of the company’s Georgia offices.
Brooks Smith, InComm’s CEO, announced in a news release that some of the employees will transition from American Express while others are to be hired locally.
For more information about InComm’s announcement, call Anthony Popiel, senior account executive, The Dalton Agency, at 404-876-1309.