No online and mobile payments system in the world is bigger than Alipay, a service of Alibaba's Ant Financial Services Group, with 450 million active users. For its entry into North America this year, Alipay turned to the biggest of all payment processors, First Data Corp., with a network serving 6 million business locations and 4,000 financial institutions in more than 100 countries, handling 2,800 transactions per second, adding up to $2.2 trillion annually. "Staggering" is how First Data president Guy Chiarello describes it not just the volume numbers, but also the data byproducts, "the macro- and micro-level information" they yield for insights on consumer spending habits and trends. To deal with the complexities and deliver on the opportunities takes a technology company, Chiarello says. First Data is exactly that, with a New York money-center flavor, given that Chiarello has served as chief information officer of Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and chair and CEO Frank Bisignano is a former JPMorgan co-COO and former CEO of Citigroup Global Transaction Services. Chiarello, 57, says his experiences as a prominent Wall Street CIO were ideal preparation for $11.6 billion-in-revenue First Data, which, since going public in a record-setting 2015 IPO, has been paying down debt from a Kohlberg Kravis Roberts leveraged buyout and turned profitable in 2016. The debt overhang did not prevent dealmaking and product development like that which followed the 2013 acquisition of Clover, a Silicon Valley remote-payments startup that Chiarello says is a game-changer.
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