Spun off from Synovus Financial Corp. on the last day of 2007, Total System Services Inc. entered 2008 with much more control over its costs and a newfound ability to make its own decisions about acquisitions.

"Little did we know we were spun into the worst economic environment since the Great Depression and virtually every bank in the world was headed into hard times," Philip W. Tomlinson, the Columbus, Ga., processor's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview.

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