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Payments Processing Services Market Heats Up: Financial Results of Six Key Vendors Show What it Takes to Win

Changes in banks’ regulatory capital requirements for businesses are leading banks to exit or downsize lines of business and increase the focus on other lines of business. Payments is an area where banks and non-banks are significantly increasing their commitments. Over the next five years the payments industry will change its entire shape, structure, and offerings. In the past, the complexity of the payments industry has made it very difficult for new entrants to displace incumbents, regardless of how innovative the challengers have been or how slow the incumbents have been. That is no longer the case.

Looking at the recent financial results of six key incumbent vendors (four payment processors and two card schemes, all global vendors) highlights where the industry is going and what it takes to succeed. Below are results for the quarter ended September 30, 2014 (refer to NelsonHall’s tracking service articles for more detailed analysis).

How Payment Processors are Winning in the Current Environment

Headline results for payment processors are:

  • Alliance Data: Q3 FY 2014 revenues of $1,319.1m, up 20.3 % year-on-year (yoy). International revenues grew at 23.5%
  • Euronet: Q3 FY 2014 revenues of $453.4m, up 25.7 % yoy. International revenues represent almost all revenues (~90%). EFT services grew 28.6%
  • First Data: Q3 FY 2014 revenues of $2,791.1m, up 2.9 % yoy. International revenues grew at 4.1%. Merchant services grew 0.3%
  • TSYS: Q3 FY 2014 revenues of $552.9m, up 8.5 % yoy. International revenues grew at 12.2%. Merchant services grew 1.2%.

Vendors growing revenues (and profits) are focused on:

  • Non-U.S. and non-mature markets growth
  • Emerging services such as mobile payments, EFT payments (especially ATM networks in emerging markets), and P2P payments, including cross border money transfers

Among the payment processors, two vendors with winning strategies are Euronet and Alliance Data.

Euronet

Euronet's growth is the result of:

  • Continuing expansion of its payments network (primarily ATM machines in India and Europe)
  • Products:
    • Electronic payments in Middle East, Germany, and India
    • Money transfer, consumer to consumer, and Walmart2Walmart

The key to Euronet's success has been its ability to identify under-penetrated markets and pursue those opportunities. For example, Germany is not typically thought of as emerging, but its use of EFT is accelerating. Similarly, Walmart is a merchant with leading technology, but deployment of money transfer capabilities into retail merchant environments is leading edge in the U.S. 

Euronet should continue to grow revenues in double digits just based on its existing footprint, which is not yet fully saturated. As it develops new initiatives, its revenue growth can accelerate further. 

Alliance Data (ADS)

ADS’ growth is the result of:

  • Growth of its loyalty programs in Canada and Brazil (Loyalty One in Canada, Dotz in Brazil, and BrandLoyalty/LoyaltyOne for grocers in Europe and LATAM)
  • Growth of its merchant marketing programs in Europe and LATAM (Epsilon globally)
  • Growth of its private card program, primarily the loan balances on the merchant clients’ private label cards)

The key to ADS’ success has been supporting clients in increasing their sales. ADS centers its offerings on marketing and sales support, driven from its proprietary technology and underlying transactions data. Payment processing, a core deliverable of ADS’ services, does not stand center stage in its value proposition.

ADS’ delivers services which are scarce in the marketplace, but not unique. For example, funding and managing card loans is especially important to merchants now that banks are withdrawing from that market. ADS is embracing this profitable business, while other participants are withdrawing.

ADS should grow its revenues in double digits by expanding into new markets in LATAM and Europe. Its Canadian market opportunities are saturated, by logo, but not by service offering. New analytics and payment types (e.g. mobile) should help drive growth in the Canadian market for ADS over the next five years.

Card Schemes Find Their Own Path to Success

Headline results for card schemes are:

  • Mastercard: Q3 FY 2014 revenues of $2,503m, up 12.8 % yoy. Cross border volume grew 15% on a constant dollar basis. Total processed transactions grew 18.3% to 11.7 bn
  • Visa: Q4 FY 2014 revenues of $3,229m, up 9.9 % yoy. Cross border volume grew 10% on a constant dollar basis. Total processed transactions grew 4.2% to 20.9 bn.

The card schemes face a somewhat different set of challenges because they sell highly standardized services, which are underpinned by massive capital investments, through card issuers (banks). Despite the limitations placed on card schemes by the nature of their underlying services, card schemes are finding the same drivers of success. Critical to growing the business is international markets and new services.

Mastercard has aggressively moved into emerging markets, staking out an aggressive growth strategy in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Key examples over the past year alone include:

  • National identity card program in Nigeria with payments capabilities
  • Electracard acquisition in India to expand processing services for banks in 25 countries
  • Opening various delivery centers in Middle East and Asia
  • Launch of a development platform in Ireland for ISVs to develop APIs and solutions for Mastercard processing services

These aggressive moves into markets and services have allowed Mastercard to grow revenues faster than Visa over the past year, and in the past quarter alone 28% faster.

Competitors Face Limited Window of Opportunity to Challenge Incumbents

In summary, the winners are moving into new markets and services. Critical new markets are emerging markets with little payments infrastructure and mature markets with legacy payments infrastructure where newer payments technologies (mobile, EFT networks) are starting widespread adoption. Establishing proprietary networks or distribution outlets (such as P2P payments) will create barriers to entry in the future and the opportunity for upsell of additional services, such as analytics.

Over the next two years, the window for competitors to catch up by pursuing these vendors will close. Already, presence in smaller countries, such as ADS in Brazil, makes it challenging for competitors to displace an entrenched vendor. Once payments vendors have created dominant market positions in major country markets, over the next five years, the payments industry will begin a consolidation phase in order to convert local leadership into multi-country leadership.  

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