'Fintech used to be a buzzword and now it's an actual sector' - Technical.ly Philly

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Oct. 18, 2016 12:59 pm

‘Fintech used to be a buzzword and now it’s an actual sector’

After 10 years of running King of Prussia's CardConnect, CEO Jeff Shanahan reflects on the state of the fintech industry.

CardConnect CEO Jeff Shanahan speaks at the 2016 Connect Conference.

(Courtesy photo)

CEO Jeff Shanahan stays on message like a guy who’s running for office.

When asked about the current state of fintech — both in Philly and in general — he keeps pivoting the conversation back to the latest from CardConnect, the King of Prussia, Pa.-based payments integration company founded by his brother Brian Shanahan in 2006.

For example, when asked what are some of the latest trends in the game, the 38-year-old fintech exec points to omnichannel operations (the ability to take payment from several methods) and payment security as the main buzzterms in fintech. Shanahan said both happen to be on CardConnect’s focus right now.

The publicly traded company, which is currently at 172 employees working mainly from its KOP headquarters, has been led in one way or another by the Penn State grad since the early days. Having served as president since 2008, he assumed the CEO position in February 2014. During the past decade he oversaw the company’s move from Cleveland to the Philly suburbs, as well as its acquisition and subsequent bid to go public.

Coming from the consulting space with Booz Allen Hamilton, what was it that led him to fintech in the beginning? Well, it helped that it was sort of a family trade.

“My brother Brian had a payments company called Transaction Solutions, and I helped on the IT side,” said Shanahan. The company was eventually sold to iPayments in 2004 but that marked his first exposure to fintech.

(Brothers Michael Shanahan and Patrick Shanahan, as well as father Jim Shanahan, have also worked in the fintech/financial services space.)

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Despite the family ties, Jeff said what eventually clenched him to join the fintech ranks back in the day was growth.

“The payments space I knew back in 2006 was a great space to be in,” Shanahan said. “Every year there was a lot of paper payments transitioning to electronic payments. It was changing a lot from a technology perspective.”

Fast forward to 2016 and CardConnect is squarely nestled in the fintech space, a slice of the tech scene which — according to Forbes — has a global valuation that nears the $900 billion mark.

But it’s not just a hot industry, Shanahan said. It also has the potential to make a positive impact on the everyday lives of millions.

CardConnect's HQ.

CardConnect HQ. (Courtesy photo)

“Just look at Uber,” Shanahan said. “Uber’s a great example of taking an industry that, from a payments perspective, had a lot of friction, and turning into a seamless experience. I think integrating payments as a frictionless technology is what’s benefiting people’s lives the most.”

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Shanahan sees fintech as a space that goes beyond wonky payment platforms familiar only to those in-the-know. He sees it as a space that has proven itself in terms of growth.

“Fintech used to be a buzzword and now its an actual sector,” Shanahan said. “It’s one of the most attractive fields for people to work,”

So with all this potential, how can Philly — widely recognized for its eds and meds scene — raise its profile as a fintech town? How can it leverage the wealth of the brainpower being churned out by local universities?

“Well, that would be the result of companies in the space growing,” Shanahan said. “The fact is the city is becoming younger, and people can’t stay here unless there’s cool companies to work for.”

On that note, here’s a ping-pong-laden video of the company’s startupy-looking offices:

But there’s one thing on that front holding the ‘burbs back: more transportation options for car-wary millennials.

“King of Prussia has become a hotbed of companies, but ultimately without rail service it’s going to be a tough sell,” he said. “We’re actually toying with the idea of opening an office downtown to try and recruit and attract more talent there.”

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Roberto Torres

Roberto Torres became Technical.ly Lead Philly Reporter in May 2016. Prior, he was a freelance contributor to Technical.ly and Al Dia News. The native Venezuelan moved to Philadelphia in 2015 after reporting on research at his alma mater, the University of Zulia. Whenever he's not fencing deadlines, he can be found standing in line at Overbrook Pizza in West Philly, running Netflix/Hulu marathons with his wife or reading news from Venezuela.

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