Total System Services, Inc., better known to its closer friends as TSYS, is one of the worldâ€™s largest credit card payment processorsâ€”serving banks and private-label card issuers the world over. The company offers its clients credit authorization, payment processing, merchant acquiring, account management, e-commerce services, card issuance, call-center operations, customer loyalty programs, prepaid programs and fraud monitoring.
The credit card system was in its infancy in 1959 when The Columbus Bank and Trust Company (now part of Synovus Financial Corp.) became the second bank in Georgia to issue cards to its customers. Within five years, the bankâ€™s card holders increased by more than ten times, and CB&T installed a computer to process transactions in 1966. With time, the bank became increasingly interested in creating a computer system to further automate the work. By 1969, it had written credit-processing software, which would become known as the Total System in 1973. Among its achievements, the Total System became the first of its kind to process cards from Visa and MasterCard (then known as BankAmericard and MasterCharge, respectively). The divisionâ€™s revenue was $6 million in 1980. Two years later, when CB&T decided to spin it off into a subsidiary known as Total System Services (for obvious reasons), revenue stood at $10 million. TSYS, as it would soon be popularly known, was then processing over one million accounts for 60 banks in 28 states.
Plans for world domination
In 1992, TSYS added mass mailing capabilities to its transaction processing services for billing and marketing purposes. Three years later, the company inked a deal with Mexican bank Controladora Prosa, expanding abroad under the name TSYS de Mexico. Geographic expansion continued in 2006 for TSYS; the company acquired Card Tech, a U.K.-based company, and made further inroads into Asia with a deal to handle transactions for the credit arm of Toyota. Shortly thereafter, the company announced a joint venture with Merchants, a South African subsidiary of the IT firm Dimension Data, which would incorporate call centers and payment processing for card issuers in Europe and the Middle East. Growth overseas proved to be lucrative for the company, as revenue from international transactions increased by nearly 25 percent between 2005 and 2006.
Hey, big spender
In October 2006, Bank of Americaâ€”which accounted for nearly a quarter of TSYSâ€™ total revenue that yearâ€”opted to move its credit card processing over to MBNAâ€™s system, following the merger of the two companies. TSYS didnâ€™t predict that losing business with Bank of America would cost a 25 percent decline in revenue for 2007, though, forecasting only a decrease of between 3 and 5 percent for the fiscal year. The company was vindicated when it posted total revenue of $1.806 billion in 2007, a 1 percent increase from $1.722 billion in 2006, counting the Bank of America termination fee.
In October 2007, Synovus agreed to distribute its TSYS shares to Synovus shareholders, making TSYS a fully independent company. In his 2007 letter to stockholders, chairman and CEO Philip Tomlinson saw the spin-off as an opportunity for TSYS to fulfill its potential of a broader investor base and better position in its industry. The following year, the company did enjoy its newfound freedom, establishing itself in Austria and Turkey, and bagging new deals in Germany and the United Kingdom.