Veterans Day is Nov.11 in the U.S. — a day set aside each year since 1954 to honor all those who have served in the military. There are roughly 26 million veterans in the U.S. today and, each year, about 1 percent of those eligible for service enlist.
First Data CEO Frank Bisignano told Karen Webster that the 1 percent is critical.
“[Veterans] are the 1 percent that protect all of our liberties and freedom,” Bisignano told Webster. “They have already proven they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect this country — we honor their service not only on days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but all year.”
For Bisignano, giving back to veterans is personal. He grew up in a military family (his father served in the armed services, as did all his uncles), so valuing those who have served their country was second nature and a huge priority. Moreover, throughout his professional life, he’s seen both the contributions veterans make to organizations and their need for greater corporate and institutional support. Veterans, he said, have a lot to offer society, even after their tour of duty is over — and it’s been his career-long commitment to see that they get those opportunities.
At the end of 2017, about 370,000 veterans were unemployed. The group that was hit hardest were those in their “prime working years” — 59 percent of unemployed veterans are between the ages of 25 and 54.
For many veterans, the best support they can get upon re-entry into civilian life is a job, and helping them find those jobs has been a focus of First Data during Bisignano’s tenure. For him, it’s not just about doing the right thing for service members, but for First Data as well.
Former soldiers also make excellent employees, he added.
“They have been extensively trained, they know how to execute well as a team and they understand more than anything else how to operate under pressures. They are fabulous employees,” Bisignano said.
Giving jobs to veterans is important to helping them transition back into civilian society, he noted. Helping them create jobs by tapping into that deep vein of entrepreneurial spirit is a logical expansion of that effort. Veterans are a disproportionately entrepreneurial group — veteran-owned firms represent 9 percent of all U.S. firms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, nearly 2.5 million vets own small businesses (SMBs) and those veteran-owned companies collectively employ nearly 6 million workers.
To give those would-be entrepreneurs a head start, First Data gives vets a free EMV-enabled Clover Mini device, and provides free processing on Veterans Day and Independence Day. In addition, both Bisignano and First Data work extensively with educational institutions, particularly Syracuse University, so that veterans are offered programs that can teach them “how to build and run a small business.”
“We want to bring tools to veterans’ businesses that give them an advantage at the start,” Bisignano said. “Veterans want to do what they’ve always done: contribute to society. Our contribution is to make that easier for them with the products we offer.”
Access to Clover gives veterans and all SMBs easy access to a technology driven payments toolbox, which provides plug-and-play access to apps and other functionalities as their businesses grow. It’s a product that’s gaining traction among SMBs, as First Data’s most recent earnings report reflected: $70 billion in annualized payments volume, up from $20 billion in 2016.
Those results, Bisignano told Webster, are a strong signal to the First Data team that it’s time to do more — both in terms of the value-added services it provides and the geographic reach of its platform. On that note, Bisignano said he will be in Argentina next week to launch Clover.
“The future for Clover is very bright,” he said.
As is the future of SMBs, and on this day, Bisignano said the rather large swath of veterans who currently own and operate SMBs embrace challenges with the same great sense of purpose they did when committing their lives to service, and are prepared to succeed. It’s only fitting, he added, that we all offer those who’ve already given so much a new chance to contribute to the nation they have so willingly committed their lives to serve.