How hackers help the sales cycle at Vantiv

Posted at 10:05 AM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 11:05:26-05

NEW YORK - Vantiv Inc. launched six new products in 2015. Five of them involved security enhancements that help merchants and banks guard against hackers.

“It is part of every conversation,” said Todd Lasher, vice president of business development and partnerships for Vantiv, a Symmes Township-based payment-processing company with 3,300 employees, including 1,300 in Cincinnati.

“Every CIO and CEO in our world is taking about security,” Lasher said in an exclusive WCPO interview at the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Big Show in New York. “They want to talk about lowering transaction cost. Then, they want to talk about preserving and protecting their companies and their data security. So, it is a big part of the sales process and a big part of the ongoing conversation in the industry.”

Vantiv is a 2012 spin-off from Fifth Third Bancorp, which continues to benefit from the divestiture. The bank remains its largest investor despite selling off millions of shares over time, including a December transaction that netted $419 million for the bank. Vantiv has roughly doubled in revenue since splitting from Fifth Third, racking up $2.3 billion in revenue through nine months of 2015.

Vantiv sent a team of 40 sales reps to meet with retailers in New York last week, all of them touting a product roster that included three new security enhancements launched since September.

Vantiv is scheduled to reveal fourth-quarter earnings Feb. 3 with an analysts feeling bullish on the stock. A Jan. 28 upgrade from “neutral” to “positive” by Susquehannah is the third ratings upgrade since early December by Wall Street analysts. Sun Trust Robinson rates the stock a buy, and Credit Suisse expects it will “outperform” the market.

Payment processing companies are increasingly popular with investors because of an industry shift to EMV technology, or credit cards with chips instead of magnetic strips to carry personal data.

A string of retail data breaches hastened the move to EMV. Vantiv is gaining new clients because of it.

“EMV helps to generate new sales because it really creates a catalyst for a broader conversation about security,” Vantiv CEO Charles Drucker told analysts Oct. 28. “Within our Merchant business, we are processing EMV transactions for several leading retailers and are now processing well over 1 million EMV transactions a day.”

Vantiv doesn’t break out revenue by security products, but it’s clear they still represent a small chunk of total revenue. In the quarter ending September 30, only 20 percent of Vantiv’s $430 million in net revenue came from financial institution services, a segment that includes security products. Most of Vantiv’s revenue comes from merchant services, which includes “all aspects of card processing including authorization and settlement, customer service, chargeback and retrieval processing and interchange management,” according to the company’s most recent quarterly report to shareholders.

Lasher sees plenty of room for Vantiv to grow revenue from security products because of how it approaches the market. Instead of offering a one-size fits all solution, Vantiv offers a variety of products that are compatible with existing data systems. Whether a client is big or small, advanced or primitive in its approach to data protection, Lasher can find a Vantiv solution that makes consumer data more secure.

“We’re not going to sell you vapor ware,” he said. “We’re going to work with you to find what’s the best solution for you.”

Vantiv uses tools like tokenization, which means substituting sensitive customer data with information that is useless to data thieves, and point-to-point encryption, which means converting credit card numbers to indecipherable code when a card is scanned.

“The reality is you can’t stop a hacker,” Lasher said. “But what you can do is you can neutralize a hacker. So, when somebody hacks, there’s no data. There’s nothing there. From a security perspective, it’s all about shielding the liability, protecting the customer information.”

Other vendors take a similar approach, but Vantiv is winning converts. The U.S. Postal Service signed up last summer for a full range of payment-processing and security solutions. Trade publisher Paybefore recently selected Vantiv’s new OmniShield Assure as a winner in the “Fraud Fighter” category in its annual “Pay Awards” competition.