Taking One and One, To Make Three

Capitalizing on the changing payments marketplace means not only keeping pace with the evolving technologies but also ensuring the payment needs of both merchants and consumers are met. John Shlonsky, TransFirst president and CEO, shares with PYMNTS why joining forces with TSYS may position the combined entity to do just that.

Gone are the days where being able to pay with and accept plastic cards was enough for a merchant, says TransFirst President and CEO John Shlonsky. With mobile wallets, NFC-enabled devices, smartphones and even fingerprints, the technologies surrounding making payments are constantly advancing and expanding.

Keeping up with the dynamic front-end mechanisms to make payments is one thing, but merchants are also dealing with an onslaught of other challenges — such as navigating doing business in an omnichannel world and industry-wide impacts from EMV — while also constantly trying to thwart increasing cybersecurity and data breach threats.

Helping merchants navigate through that is one of the big drivers of the acquisition of TransFirst by TSYS. Shlonsky said the timing was right for TSYS and TransFirst to come together to support the types of offerings that will enhance an end user’s experience on the front end, while also optimizing a merchant’s back end.

“The challenge right now is that the payments space is changing, and when I think about the combined entity, I don't just look at it as TransFirst and the TSYS merchant segment uniting. The goal here is how to combine products, including all of what TSYS has to offer in terms of issuing, international reach and new payment schemes and products, on the front end and the back end,” Shlonsky explained.

“That's no easy task. It’s consumer behavior and merchant behavior all kind of changing dynamically within an ecosystem. That's a challenge in its own right.”

But, as Shlonsky pointed out, the confirmed acquisition represents the extension of a long-term 15-year partnership between TSYS and TransFirst with the goal of building a “reliable, secure way to bridge the gap between those two product sets but also be able to enhance those products so that end users have a better experience on how they want to make payments and how they want to accept payments."

"That's really the goal here: to take one and one and make it three," Shlonsky added.

“I don’t think that's going to be that easy, but I don't see a big impact to the merchants on our side or the merchants on their side again, because this relationship has been cohesive from the start. It's really just going to enhance the capabilities for those merchants and bring us more scale and more functionality and capability.”

TSYS’ acquisition of TransFirst will also enable it to tap into the client base of more than 235,000 SMBs throughout the U.S. and gives the company leverage into the omnichannel arena, with scale and size enough to become the sixth-largest acquirer in the U.S., as measured by the top line.

Shlonsky explained how TransFirst’s insight into the SMB market, as well as its solutions partners in high-growth verticals, such as health care, government, ISVs in the commercial area and nonprofits, has helped shape the importance of offering more than just the latest “cool shiny objects” when providing solutions to SMBs.

"I do think that when you get into the SMB space, there are two things that they want from us: easy-to-use solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into the same capabilities that they have with us today, and they want those solutions to be relevant for them to effectively manage their business and grow it,” he said.

For TransFirst, this means offering vertical-specific solutions and products that are aimed at providing each customer with a specialized and unique experience that gives the impression of a front-end component entirely devoted to that vertical alone.

"It involves creating those seamless products that operate on a ubiquitous platform for scale and efficiency but really meet the needs of our customers in very specific verticals and very customized for them in an efficient way," Shlonsky added.

The combined entity will support more than 645,000 merchant outlets. Key areas of focus will include prepaid programs, issuer processing and merchant services.

According to Shlonsky, the culture, strategy and timing are right to bring together and maximize the potential of leveraging a card-issuing component, a merchant component, an international component and a consumer-based product called prepaid.

“The market is giving us a great opportunity to take advantage of having all of those segments in one organization,” he said.


John Shlonsky
TransFirst President and CEO

John Shlonsky is president and chief executive officer for TransFirst. He brings almost two decades of experience in the financial industry, where he has been responsible for sales, operations, technology and finance within leading U.S. payment processing and financial services organizations.

Shlonsky joined TransFirst in 2006 as president and chief operating officer. Prior to that, Shlonsky was president of merchant services for First Data Corporation, where he had responsibility for all business units, including alliances, as well as Card Services International, TASQ and Concord. He spent 11 years at First Data and held various leadership roles during his tenure. Shlonsky also served in financial management roles within Smith Barney, Chadbourne & Parke and Grumman Data Systems.

Shlonsky earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Arizona State University. He has served on the board of directors for several American Red Cross local chapters. He resides on Long Island, New York, with his wife and two sons.



About: Accelerating The Real-Time Payments Demand Curve:What Banks Need To Know About What Consumers Want And Need, PYMNTS  examines consumers’ understanding of real-time payments and the methods they use for different types of payments. The report explores consumers’ interest in real-time payments and their willingness to switch to financial institutions that offer such capabilities.