Jeffery W. Yabuki says he's glad to be where he is.
"We are happy we began three years ago in reshaping the company," said Yabuki, who joined Fiserv Inc. in November 2005 as its president and chief executive.
Since then Fiserv has undergone a series of reorganizations that included the December 2007 acquisition of CheckFree Corp. of Atlanta, the leading provider of electronic bill-payment and presentment services, and culminated in the launch in February of a rebranded "one Fiserv."
The integration of CheckFree is substantially complete, Yabuki said. And with the financial industry struggling to emerge from the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, he said, "That gave us a year-and-a-half, two-year head start" on the competition.
Fiserv was the No. 1 company in American Banker's FinTech 100 ranking for the second year in a row, based on its 2008 revenue. But since two major rivals combined this month when Fidelity National Information Services Inc. bought Metavante Technologies Inc. of Milwaukee, Fiserv is unlikely to three-peat in 2010 unless it makes an acquisition of its own, something the size of the Swiss core processing software maker Temenos Group AG (No. 27 on our list) or the payments software company ACI Worldwide Inc. of New York (No. 28).
Yabuki would not say whether any big deals are being planned at Fiserv. And though he said he appreciated the recognition (the company bragged about its FinTech ranking, and other plaudits, at its analyst day this month in New York), he said Fiserv has all the scale it needs today to do what it wants to do.
"Would I rather be No. 1 in the FinTech 100 or be No. 1 in client satisfaction, in client wins, in client retention? I would rather have that if it were a binary choice," he said.
But Yabuki did not rule out acquisitions down the road. "We'll look to see what happens next year," he said.
A number of market watchers have said the FIS-Metavante deal could restart the wave of vendor consolidation that has reshaped the financial technology industry in the last decade, transforming the remaining independent companies providing specialized software and services into a handful of behemoths offering extensive integrated offerings.
Robert Hunt disagrees. "I don't think you'll see any sea changes here anytime soon," said Hunt, the senior research director of retail banking at TowerGroup of Needham, Mass., an independent research group owned by MasterCard Inc.
Both Fiserv, of Brookfield, Wis., and FIS, of Jacksonville, Fla., now have the scale to serve the full range of the industry, from desktop credit unions to the largest, continent-spanning banks. "Fiserv now says I've only got to compete against one big guy, not two," Hunt said. "I think they see this as an opportunity also to gain market share. Fidelity and Metavante have to go through a big integration. That takes energy from a company standpoint."
In fact, the consolidation of the large outfits might give new vitality to smaller rivals, Hunt said. "Competitors benefit from one of the big players being taken out of the equation. When you get to the shortlist, there's room for one more."
Yabuki said Fiserv plans to bring new products to market. In October, the already crowded core-systems market became more so with Fiserv's rollout of Acumen, which targets larger credit unions. "We saw a need in the market, and we sought to meet that need," Yabuki said.
The Acumen system uses contemporary technologies, including Java and Ajax, to provide real-time processing capabilities and the delivery of data through multiple channels, whether to tellers in a branch or consumers using a home computer or a mobile handset, Yabuki said.
Digital transformation is an important part of Fiserv's strategy, he said. "How do we take a variety of solutions and put that in a digital layer to capture where the world is going? How do you serve this electronified consumer, who wants immediate, real-time access to information?" he asked. "It's a very device-oriented world."