Transaction Alley

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgia’s financial transaction industry dominates that particular field so handily some in the business call it “Transaction Alley.” Today an advocate says future industry growth could stall unless the state produces a skilled, trained workforce for job vacancies. Elsewhere, writers opine on the “sharing economy” and the 40th anniversary of an advocacy agency for minority-owned supplier businesses.

Building Georgia’s tech workforce

By H. West Richards

A mom in Ohio swipes her credit card to buy a new baseball glove for her kid’s Little League season. A student in California buys his textbooks for the new semester online. A boss in Alaska buys a gift card for her employee of the month.

Georgia may not have been on their minds, but chances are their payments sped through our state. Georgia is the epicenter of the American financial technology industry, with more than 70 percent of credit, debit and gift-card transactions processed here in what is known as Transaction Alley.

American Transaction Processors Coalition member companies are hiring thousands of new workers. From 2007 to 2013, financial technology job postings in Atlanta increased 49 percent, double the rate in the country as a whole, according to a study by the Atlanta Regional Commission.But the industry’s explosive growth in Georgia could be hampered because our companies are having trouble finding the skilled workers needed to fill the positions. These companies are paying for talent to relocate from other states and countries.

This challenge is particularly frustrating when you consider Georgia has a large number of unemployed workers who would like nothing better than a good job. So what can be done?

In December, we launched the “ReUp Georgia” campaign, an economic development initiative to bolster the state’s economy and secure our position as the nation’s leader in financial technology. Our member companies are making commitments to invest in training, grow their Georgia operations and create new jobs.

One of our member companies, Worldpay US, just announced an innovative partnership with the state’s Advanced Technology Development Center. The company gave $1 million to the business incubator and pledged its senior leadership team’s time and talent to build a new financial technology accelerator.

But the industry cannot tackle this challenge on its own, particularly when so many other states are working overtime to entice our companies and their jobs away.

Our last two governors and their respective economic development officials have had some signature achievements in convincing major companies to relocate here. Those efforts cannot displace the work that needs to be done to support the industries that already call Georgia home.

We need the state’s leaders to commit to building the tech workforce to fill these jobs and attract new companies and thus facilitate continuous innovation.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama launched the TechHire initiative which challenges cities and states to work with the private sector to expand training and access to tech jobs. The administration is offering $100 million in competitive grants to industry, schools and local governments that commit to tech training.

Already, more than 20 communities have joined the TechHire initiative, from the traditional tech powerhouses like the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, to regional competitors closer to home like Chattanooga and Eastern Kentucky.

Georgia needs the same kind of concerted effort from its leaders. The financial technology companies already here are ready and willing partners. We are already working with the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to develop America’s first financial technology curriculum to train new workers. The state’s economic development team seems open to examining new strategies for expanding and retaining the financial technology industry. These emerging partnerships represent a solid step in the right direction.

The day after announcing his TechHire initiative, President Obama came to Atlanta to address students at Georgia Tech. He told them, “Jobs and businesses will go wherever the best workers are.”

The president is right. If Georgia wants to grow its position as the center of gravity for financial technology in the country — and if the United States wants to stay the global leader in the industry — then government and the private sector need to work together to build the workforce we need.

H. West Richards is executive director of the American Transaction Processors Coalition.

Atlanta can benefit from new economy trend

By Reggie Walker

Years ago, while planning a vacation, I used a message board to find someone to rent their home to me at my destination. At the time, this was very new to me and I was one of only a handful of consumers taking advantage of technology to do this. While it was a bit clunky at the time, I liked the options it provided and the ability to work directly with homeowners. Little did I know that I was an early participant in a trend that is now fundamentally changing how consumers access goods and services.

Today, I regularly use several online marketplaces and smartphone apps to plan holidays, which allow me to explore information, read reviews and connect directly with others who offer affordable options for my destination. As it turns out, my approach of “access” versus “ownership” makes me part of “the sharing economy,” a trend poised to significantly disrupt how we do business in Atlanta and worldwide.

If you’ve ever made a reservation at a private residence, hailed a cab from your smartphone or listened to someone else’s playlist on a music streaming service, you, too, are engaging in the sharing economy. And while sharing is nothing new, technology advances are bringing it into the mainstream and even making it profitable for visionary entrepreneurs.In critical Atlanta industries like hospitality and retail, new sharing platforms for travel, dining and ancillary services offer consumers greater flexibility and choice. A “new retail” has also emerged from the environment of sharing, borrowing and renting, offering customers better pricing, more convenient access and choices. For example, consumers have the option to purchase “pre-owned” clothing, toys or even sporting goods directly from another individual through online marketplaces or peer-to-peer networks.

According to new research published by PwC, consumers are hungry for a sharing-based economy, which values borrowing, renting or exchanging skills for access or money. In fact, “The Sharing Economy,” which surveyed 1,000 consumers, found that 57 percent of American adults agree “access is the new ownership” and four in five consumers see real advantages to renting versus owning. The three “C’s” of sharing — cost, community and convenience – are ultimately what’s driving this shift. And as you might expect, it is the youngest millennials leading the way.

Those familiar with the sharing economy perceived a number of benefits:

  • 86 percent agreed it made life more affordable.
  • 83 percent agreed it made life more convenient and efficient.
  • 63 percent agreed it’s more fun than engaging with traditional companies.

While customization, convenience and more competitive pricing are draws, creating trust with consumers is critical. Our report showed 69 percent of respondents needed a recommendation from someone they trust before they trusted a sharing economy company. Other critical success factors include safety, privacy and quality control. Seventy-six percent of those familiar with the sharing economy also believe it’s better for the environment.

The sharing economy may prove challenging for established business in Atlanta and beyond. It will also provide these same companies with tremendous opportunities to add value and engage consumers in new and exciting ways. If the sharing economy has proven anything, it’s that business models cannot be taken for granted in a highly connected, fast-changing world. Today’s disruptors can easily be disrupted tomorrow.

With its growing base of millennials, Atlanta is particularly well-situated to be a leader in adopting the sharing mindset in the months and years to come. And given Atlanta’s core assets around technology, mobility and our growing base of millennials, we have the opportunity to become a global leader in the development of this movement, providing Atlanta yet another avenue for economic growth and innovation.

Reggie Walker is a managing partner of PwC’s Atlanta office.

Firm’s partner for success

Stacey Key

The Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council has created jobs and stimulated the economy of Georgia since 1975. The Council – one of 24 local affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) scattered across the nation – celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

The Council facilitates supply chain relationships between Minority Business Enterprise firms (MBEs) and major corporations all across the state. In 2014, council business partners transacted more than $6 billion in business together, a major economic impact by any measure.

The council is focused on four pillars that support the building of win-win partnerships:

  • Certify: Small businesses submit to a nationally standardized documentation and evaluation process that validates the firm’s corporate structure and minority ownership status.
  • Develop: Minority business enterprise firms have access to a suite of services, including classes, seminars, mentoring programs, conferences and workshops that increase their capacity and competitiveness.
  • Connect: The Council facilitates networking opportunities throughout the year and hosts matchmaking events and forums that put corporate procurement executives and supplier candidates together.
  • Advocate: The Council is a clearinghouse for practices in supplier diversity and an advocate on behalf of small business in government, media and other circles.

The Council’s corporate membership reads like a Who’s Who of corporate America, including such global brands as the Coca-Cola Co., UPS, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, Accenture, IBM, AT&T, Wells Fargo and Aflac among 400 corporate partners. Some 700 minority business enterprise firms are certified through the Council, which makes them eligible to compete for contracts and opportunities.

One of the council’s minority firm titans, Worldwide Technologies, was ranked No. 1 on the 2014 Black Enterprise magazine listing of the Top 100 companies. Over the four decades it has served Georgia’s business community, the Council’s relationships have exceeded $30 billion dollars in revenues.

Recently, the council held its annual conference, the Business Opportunity Conference and Expo (BOE), the largest and longest running small business expo event in the Southeast. The conference brought together small business advocates, corporate executives, commodity buyers, governmental entities, business owners and supplier diversity champions for events designed to put corporate supply chains in touch with vendors and suppliers they need to achieve their goals. The council is committed to ushering its constituents into the marketplace of tomorrow through innovative programs and strategic partnerships.

The council continues to blaze new trails on behalf of Georgia’s business community. The organization collaborates with partners, from government to lenders to other business organizations, in order to marshal the resources necessary to assist minority business enterprise firms in building sustainable enterprises. It is a legacy born out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s that’s still bearing fruit after 40 years.

Stacey Key is president/CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.


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