Fintech in Atlanta #1- Interview with H. West Richards, Executive Director at ATPC
Dubbed as the “Transaction Alley”, Atlanta’s thriving fintech industry continues to seek for a demand of talents in the fintech and payments industry. Payments & Cards Network extended our footprints two years ago and set up our U.S. office in Atlanta to serve the fintech community by helping companies to connect with fintech talents in the region.
“Fintech in Atlanta” aims to showcase the fintech scene in Atlanta by interviewing C-level executives and entrepreneurs to talk about the growth of the industry, and how they contribute to the rapid development in the region.
For our first interview, we talked with H. West Richards, Executive Director at ATPC. He shared with us how the organization created the world’s first university system-sponsored Fintech Academy.
1. How did the ATPC begin?
The American Transaction Processors Coalition (ATPC) began in 2013 when the payment processing industry recognized that Atlanta, known as the “Transaction Alley”, home to the world’s largest concentration of payment industry fintechs, warranted its own unique voice in Washington, DC and of course in its home state of Georgia. The original champions of the ATPC concept included leadership from the international law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP, U.S. Congressman Tom Price, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. ATPC was launched on April 14, 2014 at a Town Hall meeting at its member company INCOMM that included the largest number of federal, state and local politicians, and staff ever to support such an initiative in the state of Georgia. ATPC operates as a “National Platform” as its members operate across the U.S. as well as across the globe.
2. From your perspective, why or how did Atlanta, and Georgia as a state, become “Transaction Alley”?
In the 1950’s banks in New York City outsourced a great deal of manual credit card processing to the labor force in Georgia. Simultaneously, the Federal Reserve Bank of Georgia was testing ACH and Wire Transfer technology in its R&D labs. Banks in Columbus, Georgia were early adopters of promoting the use of credit cards during this era as well. All of this activity converged in the 1960’s inspiring a company called National Data Corp (NDC) to form in Atlanta, becoming the first corporation to develop and adopt electronic processing of credit cards and the rest is history.
3. What are some of the projects or programs associated with the ATPC?
Our projects can be summarized as what we call the “ATPC Universe”, including the below:
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta created PeachPay, which is now a leading industry education platform for fintech; ATPC was active in being supportive of its creation
P20 – an International Platform that brings together the world’s top 20 leading payment companies together with U.S. and U.K. legislators and regulators in an effort to help shape the world’s future regulatory frameworks. This “Davos of Payments” hosts a rotating conference between London and Atlanta but also provides a platform for various working groups to tackle issues that include regulatory, cyber-security, education and financial inclusion
Cyber Forum – a National Security platform that convenes and coordinates a public/private partnership to increase cyber resiliency in “Transaction Alley”
Fintech Atlanta – the largest industry led economic development platform in the state of Georgia designed to promote Atlanta as a global fintech capital by attracting investment, companies, talent, jobs and technology to the region known as “Transaction Alley”
Fintech Academy- the world’s first university system sponsored academy aimed at becoming the world’s premiere fintech educational platform
4. How did the concept of a Fintech Academy begin?
ATPC member companies expressed a concern as early as 2013 over talent shortages and the idea of creating a fintech curriculum emerged as a means to grow talent organically. This need and potential solution was shared by ATPC with the political leadership in the state of Georgia and actions were taken in conjunction with the university system to tackle the issue. The university system of Georgia boldly took it upon itself to conduct very detailed HR needs analysis over 2 years across the payments ecosystem in “Transaction Alley”. ATPC members played a key role in this endeavor. The result was a plan to go beyond a basic fintech curriculum but to create a “Fintech Academy”. ATPC continues to support this ground-breaking initiative led by the university system of Georgia. Ultimately, the goal will be for Georgia to be the global destination for those seeking degrees and certifications in fintech.
ATPC 1st Quarter Board Meeting, FinTech Academy students from Georgia State University along with ATPC staff and members and the Dean of GSU, an initiative ATPC helped start and supports, 3/27/2019.
5. What is the status of the Academy now, and where is it projected to go in the future?
It is the goal to produce 5,000 fintech “ready” graduates by 2022. The plan as it stands today is for all 26 universities in the university system of Georgia to participate in the Academy. The Fintech Academy has established a physical campus at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta as well as a satellite campus in Buckhead. Obviously, it will provide a virtual campus option for students as well. The curriculum will cover both undergraduate and graduate programs but will also include executive programs, industry certifications and even curriculum geared towards high school students. Eventually, the university system may one day build connectivity with other universities in the southeast region outside of the state securing a Congressional Center of Excellence designation.
About the interviewee
H. West Richards has had a diverse career both in the public and private sectors. In Washington D.C., Mr. Richards filled various roles from chief of staff to oversee a House Subcommittee. After seven years in the U.S. House, Mr. Richards left for Georgia to lead Georgia tech’s public relations strategy for the 1996 Olympics, helped create the Georgia e-Commerce Association, and found two tech start-ups. In 2014, Mr. Richards co-founded the American Transaction Processors Coalition.
American Transaction Processors Coalition was founded in a time when the payments processing industry was under-recognized in the political sphere. The Coalition was formed with three main purposes: to protect, promote, and preserve the payments processing industry. The ATPC is a national coalition with an emphasis on Georgia’s Transaction Alley. As such, the ATPC has offices in Atlanta and Washington D.C., from which members, including some of the largest international payment processors, and staff can educate policymakers on the payments processing industry.