NEW YORK - It's been 15 years since Bruce Anderson held his last job with a technology firm, but it seems he has never been quite able to shake his fascination with the business.
Since 1979, Mr. Anderson, along with his partners in the firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, has worked as a venture capitalist, specializing in benign buyouts and startup fundings of technology concerns.
That focus is far from unique. Any number of investment banking firms have engaged in high-risk, high-reward technology deals.
Scrutiny of Two Industries
But Welsh, Carson has further focused on technology companies in two specific industries, financial services and health care.
"The focus of our investment has been mainly software and services," said Mr. Anderson, a one-time employee of ADP. "Over time, we've narrowed that focus into a couple of specialties, one of which is the financial-services industry."
The firm's attentions have had a profound effect on the development of a number of the financial industry's most influential technology concerns. Deals involving Fiserv Inc., Bisys Group, Inc., Sungard Data Systems Inc., Broadway & Seymour Inc., and ARM Holdings Corp. are among the fruits of Welsh, Carson's labor.
|Not Just Investors'
Although each of these companies came to the firm with different funding needs, they have taken off on strikingly similar paths following their involvement with Welsh, Carson.
"Bruce Anderson and the guys [at Welsh, Carson] have been mentors to, me, no question about it," said George Dalton, chairman and chief executive at Fiserv. "They are not just investors; their contact with other businesses within our industry makes them valuable as consultants for identifying new acquisitions."
Mr. Dalton is not alone in his opinion. William Neal, chairman and chief executive officer at Broadway & Seymour, also credits much of his company's success to Welsh, Carson's advice in acquisition matters.
"They are exceptionally good in the post-investment phase," said Mr. Neal, whose company specializes in banking software for International Business Machines Corp. hardware.
Where does Welsh, Carson's good investment sense come from? With his experience at ADP, Mr. Anderson brings some computer expertise to the table. Likewise, another partner, Richard Stowe, an engineer by education, also has a technical background.
Complementing those technical abilities is the experience of the other two founding partners, Patrick Welsh and Russell Carson, both of whom were originally with Citicorp's venture capital unit before coming to Welsh, Carson.
The responsibilities within the company are not strictly divided along the lines of previous experience. But the partners point out that the combination of their various backgrounds have played a large role in helping Welsh, Carson finance a group of financial-industry companies that had a combined $3 billion in revenue last year.
"We see a lot of opportunities in areas in which the partners have some previous experience," said Thomas E. McInerney, general partner with the firm.
For the companies, the primary benefit of a Welsh, Carson cash infusion is the ability to grow through acquisition. In that regard, Fiserv, one of the firm's early triumphs, may be the best example of the role Welsh, Carson plays.
Seen as a Model
Based in Brookfield, Wis., Fiserv is considered by many analysts to be the model of a modern banking software and services company. But at its inception in 1984, Fiserv was strictly a data-processing concern, formed by a Welsh, Carson-financed buyout of the data-processing units of a Florida thrift and a Milwaukee bank.
Early on, Fiserv began to expand the range of businesses in which it participated. The company's founders, Mr. Dalton and Les Muma, almost immediately embarked on a campaign to attain such diversification by acquiring complementary computer' businesses whose growth prospects were dubious or limited at best.
In less than a decade, Fiserv acquired more than 40 companies, including Citicorp Information Resources and more recently two data-processing units of Mellon Bank Corp. The strategy has transformed the company from a small, regional data processor to a many-limbed corporation with more than $322 million in annual revenues.
Despite its relatively narrow focus, Welsh, Carson sees its opportunities increasing over time. As the franchise of banks and thrifts broadens, so must the range of services that companies like Fiserv and Broadway & Seymour provide expand, the partners say.
"The principals [in Welsh, Carson] all come from places that have served as great schools for understanding. the industry and understanding the formulas that work," said Bernard Goldstein, managing director at Broadview Associates.