Transaction processing firm EVERTEC is entering a new phase as it looks to accelerate growth and expand its footprint even further into Central and Latin America, as one of Puerto Rico’s most dynamic technology firms.
During an interview with this media outlet, EVERTEC President Morgan “Mac” Schuessler confirmed there are several objectives in the pipeline as part of that transformation, related to both internal and external changes.
“Changing a brand doesn’t change a company, the company changed, and the brand is a resemblance of that,” said Schuessler, adding that the external transformation began a month ago, when EVERTEC unveiled its new logo and brand identity.
But in preparation for its new “look,” the company first launched initiatives to modify its internal culture, through reinforcing its belief in its employees.
“We’re really trying to create a workforce that has ownership in what we’re doing,” he said, adding that among other things, when EVERTEC went public, it gave a greater number of its employees the opportunity to own company stock.
“We went from 20, to 100, to the 160 employees that now own stock, at every level that are the highest performers,” he said, noting that EVERTEC now has a payroll of 1,900, including its business in Colombia through its acquisition of Processa in February. “We’re also re-launching our employee recognition program. We want to create a great place to work, to make it tough for people to want to leave.”
So, the payroll is likely to continue growing, as EVERTEC pushes forward in its pursuit of more M&A opportunities and expands its current business relationships in the region, he said.
But because Puerto Rico is and will remain an important part of the business, EVERTEC has been claiming its stake here, through its business relationships with FirstBank and renewed its ties with Oriental Bank for technology services.
And with a new management team in place in Latin America, EVERTEC is also working on expanding its reach in the region. Most recently, the San Juan-based firm has also grown its reach with Davivienda, one of the top five banks in Colombia.
“They’re based in Bogotá, but the business we had with them was in Costa Rica. Now they decided to expand that into Honduras,” Schuessler said. “We put a new management team in place in Latin America and now we’re reaching milestones by entering new markets.”
“All of that is possible because the company is a different company. We’ve done a lot of things to start changing the culture. We brought in new management, someone to run all of Latin America, who hired a new CIO and head of operations,” he said.
“We have a team of people very focused on M&A,” he said, although he refrained — due to company policy — from discussing transactions under consideration, Schuessler admitted that Perú, Chile and Argentina present opportunities.
As part of its focus on innovation, EVERTEC is now getting ready to launch a commercial version of ATH mobile service in the coming months focused on business applications, to provide more functionality and features to make it easier to run a business, he said.
“Puerto Rico is fairly advanced and it’s EVERTEC’s job to keep it at the front of the curve,” Schuessler said. “There will be more places that will look at ATH Mobile as a way to accept payments.”
As far as looking ahead, considering the island’s economic predicament, Schuessler said the arrival of the Oversight Board should provide “confidence in Puerto Rico again and predictability for investors and the community.”
“But that’s not the panacea. We have to find a way to create jobs. Have to have a healthy growing middle-class job creation to have a great economy. We hope that that the [Congressional] Task Force also comes up with recommendations that are helpful [toward economic development], but beyond that, there’s still a question mark as to what the processes will be and the groups that will create that stimulus,” Schuessler said.
“EVERTEC is an important part of that growth because of our ability to expand into Latin America and put jobs here to handle that and be part of the solution,” he said, adding there will be a need for administrative staff, call center employees, as well as technology experts and developers.
EVERTEC pumps some $30 million a year in technology-related capital expenditures to support its mission of developing and deploying cutting-edge tools, most of which are developed in-house, the executive said.