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Disrupting from within

Fintech giant FIS drives innovation by shaking up its own business

Disrupting from within
FIS engineers and data scientists compete in the company’s annual hackathon, InnovateIN48.

Last year, five newly hired engineers and data scientists at FIS decided to band together to compete in InnovateIN48, the fintech company’s annual internal hackathon. Members of a new artificial intelligence (AI) team at FIS, they came up with a way to use natural language processing to improve the customer-service process. Their product, Intelligent Ticket Advisor, now has a patent pending and is being incorporated into FIS’s customer-service platforms.

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That’s not a bad outcome for an invention that lost early in the hackathon. But thanks to strong internal support and a culture that fosters innovation, Intelligent Ticket Advisor is now ready for prime time. Bruce Lowthers, president of FIS, credits the firm’s chairman and CEO, Gary Norcross, for inspiring innovation at the company. “When Gary became CEO in 2015, he spearheaded this thought of transforming the company and creating opportunity for our employees,” Lowthers says.

One of Norcross’s first initiatives involved consolidating FIS’s data centers around the world and moving the company’s substantial data-processing operations to the cloud. Today, FIS has vastly simplified its network and moved the majority of its processing to the cloud, while continually developing and implementing new products. It’s for these reasons that FIS has been named one of Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators.

A FOUNDATION FOR INNOVATION

In 2020, FIS launched a venture-capital arm, FIS Ventures, aiming to invest $150 million in fintech startups by 2023. The company also operates the FIS Fintech Accelerator, an annual program supporting startups that have promising technology. The idea, Lowthers says, is for FIS to intentionally disrupt itself from within. “It’s been fun to watch these ideas emerge, like real-time payments, big-data initiatives, and banking as a service,” Lowthers says. “These are big concepts that will help us position ourselves for the next decade.”

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FIS named to Best Workplaces for innovators

The company is building that innovation on a strong foundation. After Norcross’s efforts to consolidate FIS’s infrastructure were completed, the company turned to modernizing the platform built on top of that infrastructure. The improvements allowed FIS to double the number of cloud-based applications covered by its industry-leading service level agreement (SLA), while reducing the designated service disruption period for cloud-based applications to as little as ten minutes. Meanwhile, revenue from new products has increased by 50% over the past year—solid evidence of the value of FIS’s investments in innovation.

PANDEMIC-INSPIRED CREATIVITY

As with many companies, the pandemic was a catalyst for innovation at FIS. Soon after the COVID-19 outbreak, FIS transitioned its more than 60,000 employees around the world to remote work while maintaining their existing workload. The company also leveraged its Real-Time Lending Platform to enable its banks to offer critical Payroll Protection Program loans to merchant customers, providing small businesses with crucial funds to hire back employees. FIS also acted quickly to create and distribute millions of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards to families in need across the U.S. “These programs had significant impact on our community when it mattered most,” Lowthers says. “But these successes also got our team to start thinking about how agile we can be and what’s possible for us. And that’s been really exciting to watch.”

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