First Data has secured a partnership with Silicon Valley Bank, giving the payments technology provider and processor a front seat to take notes on all of the technology development taking place among the bank's clients.
That cozy position also allows First Data to become the payments acceptance vehicle for the bank's clients through their life cycles from startups to global corporations.
First Data expands upon its card processing relationship with Silicon Valley Bank by bringing technology for omnichannel, e-commerce and global payment acceptance. The bank offers payment acceptance in 140 currencies in 160 countries, and funds it clients in 17 currencies.
The bank's clients run the gamut from technology, life sciences, venture capital and private equity to wine industries.
But it's a two-way street for First Data, which figures to be on the ground floor of various technological advancements that have their beginnings in California's well-known technology mecca.
"SVB has a very broad range of clients across a host of industries, largely in the financial and developing technology spaces," said Chris Foskett, head of corporate business and development for First Data. "We can start working with these companies when they are just micro merchants, right through to the mature stages of their business cycles down the road."
The partnership gives First Data "a window into what is happening in the fintech space and form that around own own initiatives and innovation elsewhere," Foskett added.
An increased role in SVB's business comes not long after First Data rolled out Clover Online Store, an option for small businesses to build an e-commerce site with virtual checkout and all of the tools needed to connect to search engines and social media.
Earlier this year, First Data developed an EMV-enabled mobile card reader called Clover Go to compete with others on the market, giving merchants an option to accept payments through Apple or Android mobile devices.
Through its e-commerce payment gateways and the Clover platform, First Data will have much to offer the bank's clients for payments acceptance. "We have the ability to support e-commerce for mom-and-pop shop or a small technology company in early stages, all the way up to a company that is very mature and handling billions of dollars in transactions," said Mark Murphy, vice president of global communications and corporate affairs at First Data.
First Data's move to secure a stronger relationship with SVB does differ from a typical processor relationship with an acquiring bank, said Gil Luria, an analyst with Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities.
"First Data has a strategy to integrate more and more technology into everything they do," Luria said. "A partnership with Silicon Valley Bank sits very well with that strategy because this is a bank that has a lot of technology-focused customers and is very ahead of the curve in terms of incorporating technology."
In that regard, First Data wasn't focusing specifically on enhancing its stature in the retail payments space through SVB, Foskett said.
"We thought about what we call U-comm [universal commerce], bringing the intersection of e-commerce and normal acquiring through things like gift plans, loyalty programs, and all of the things that come together in retailing," Foskett added.
The partnership allows First Data to "think more broadly about where those things are headed in the future and how we can be an innovator going forward."
The first part of the agreement kicks in later this year when SVB Global Merchant Services will provide clients access to First Data's e-commerce solution, which includes a payment gateway for Web and mobile commerce applications. It also includes Clover Security, a First Data service that includes encryption and tokenization to protect data.
With the current uncertainty in the U.K. over Great Britain's vote to leave the European Union, First Data's move with SVB might appear as a way to "play it safe" with a strong U.S. bank partner for now.
But SVB has a branch in the U.K. that First Data does business with, and the company doesn't view current events overseas as a total dark cloud.
"As for what is shaking out in Europe, anytime there is a disruption, there is an opportunity," Foskett said. "We look at this partnership as global in nature and it gives us a window across regions. It doesn't create a lot of exposure on the downside in the U.K. and Europe, but it gives us a lot of upside."