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Georgia FinTech Power Players Talk State of The Industry

by Muriel Vega

You’ve heard it said again and again, but the financial technology, or FinTech, industry in Georgia is truly something to impress. Consider:

  • Annually FinTech companies of Georgia generate over $72 billion in revenue, placing the state third in the nation
  • Six of the ten largest US payment processing firms are in Georgia
  • More than 60 percent of payment processing companies are based in Atlanta and 70 percent of all U.S. payments processed run through Georgia

And it’s not just large companies; plenty of startups are finding success in the FinTech arena here. They are supported by organizations like the American Transaction Processors Coalition, the Technology Association of Georgia, and the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC), which has a specific FinTech accelerator program thanks to a million-dollar grant from Atlanta-based Worldpay US. 

The city is also quickly becoming the preferred beachhead into the U.S. market for international FinTech companies, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber (truRating, most recently, built their North American headquarters in Atlanta.)

Barry McCarthy, EVP at First Data and Chair of Georgia’s FinTech Task Force, and Hala Moddelmog, President of Metro Atlanta Chamber, speak to Hype on the state of our FinTech industry, initiatives they’re driving to help it thrive, and the number one goal they hope to achieve by 2020.

The FinTech ecosystem in Atlanta is thriving. What factors are helping it grow and why?

BM: The biggest factor is our high density of FinTech companies — over 100. The area has been dubbed “Transaction Alley” because 70 percent of all U.S. payments are processed in metro Atlanta. Giants such as First Data, Equifax, NCR and Worldpay are headquartered here, alongside high-growth, venture capital-backed companies like BitPay and Kabbage.

HM: Additionally, FinTech companies that relocate or launch in metro Atlanta are drawn to our deep and diverse talent pool. Atlanta employers have accessibility to graduates of top-ranked schools like Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. These schools have designated FinTech programs and are known for producing best-in-class developers.

What are some current initiatives being implemented to make Atlanta a permanent global leader?

HM: Georgia’s economic development community is constantly working to educate legislators at the local, state and federal levels on the importance of our FinTech industry – and for good reason. Georgia-based payment processing companies directly employ more than 30,000 people, occupy nearly 8 million square feet of office real estate and generate $34 billion annually. Our public policy team at MAC along with our partners work hard to ensure lawmakers understand this sector’s importance on our economy.

I’m proud that these public policy efforts have paid off. For example, Merchant E-Solutions, the U.S. arm of Brazilian payments company, Cielo, announced earlier this year that it was moving its headquarters from Silicon Valley to our region, along with 140 jobs. In addition, after considering other locations, Worldpay recently decided to stay based in Atlanta.

What advice do you have for incoming entrepreneurs as they join the FinTech industry?

HM: I’d encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of all the resources at their fingertips. Not many metro areas can offer entrepreneurs a rich mix of talent, corporate innovation and capital like Atlanta can – especially as it relates to FinTech.

BM: Scalability is key. Our goal is for companies to establish their presence in metro Atlanta and then scale their business beyond our region. I always encourage entrepreneurs to realistically consider the scalability of an idea and develop a plan that will facilitate the execution.

Where do you see the local FinTech industry headed?

BM: First, FinTech Atlanta’s goal is to nurture the 100 companies currently based or operating here and to grow our ecosystem’s footprint significantly by the year 2020. Second, I look forward to cementing our global reputation as the FinTech capital of the world, and home to the payment industry’s Transaction Alley.

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