Tony Catalfano | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
The Art of Hard Work
By Robert Green
Current research shows – unsurprisingly – that hard work is the key to success in any field. Tiger Woods is successful not only because of natural talent but because he started playing as an 18 month old and kept at it. High level performance comes with persistence and experience. Truly successful people not only work hard but focus on work as an activity that one can become better at, or more engaged in - like tennis or golf. The idea of hard work as an art form is well known to Tony Catalfano, CEO of WorldPay US, because he has practiced it for his entire life.
Tony was born in Springfield, New Jersey and began working at an early age. His first job, at 13, was to clean the slicing machines at a butcher shop after school. Although he also ran track – he was a quarter miler – and did well in school, he was always focused on work. By age 16, he was working at the local ShopRite gathering shopping carts and stocking shelves. Working his way through college at the store he also worked at an auto body shop. He was definitely not afraid of hard work. After earning his Associate’s Degree, he accepted a full time position as an insurance adjustor with Hanover Insurance and went to college at night to complete his Bachelor’s degree. Tony quickly became a supervisor and then a manager. “I learned a lot at Hanover,” says Tony, “it was where I learned to negotiate.” He also learned how to manage people. In his first leadership position – at age 24 – Tony was assigned the management of a business category called NJ- JUA . He organized his team to monitor and manage more carefully and thereby drive down expense while still getting the necessary claims paid.
In 1989 Tony moved to EDS to manage the entire administration of claims for property and casualty in the state of New Jersey. Things had not been going well. Tony made the surprising discovery that things were bad because the systems and business processes simply didn’t work. Tony assembled a team of business analysts and developers who first fixed auto claims and then moved from area to area until everything was fixed. At this point he was working across the entire business. “My main job became to communicate between business and technology on what was going on, what needed to be done, and how,” said Tony.
In 1994, EDS sent Tony to New Hampshire to turn around Medicaid Healthcare administration. Again, things had not been going well and the state had not paid EDS for 9 months because of a growing backlog of claims. Tony and his team turned a paper based/batch processing system into a real-time electronic one and cleared the backlog. He had succeeded again. By now, Tony was known as the person to turn to when things were not going well or were at the point of failure. He was asked to go to Indiana to fix the Medicaid system there. EDS was accruing liquidated damages for non-performance and the contract was soon up for renewal. Again, Tony cleared the backlog, set the organization on a path to success and ended up renewing the contract at a one third larger amount.
In 1999, EDS had a division that did payment processing for ATM/Debit Cards, mostly for community banks and credit unions. Hurricane Floyd had flooded its data center and the division was $400 million out of balance. After 30 days of not being fixed, Tony was called to New Jersey to fix it. “That was my first day in payments, “says Tony, “a flooded data center and $400 million out of balance.” As bad as it was, this was a big opportunity for Tony in terms of the size of organization that he would be running. Indiana Medicaid was a $35 million business and he was now in charge of a $250 million business. Fixing things in this case would require a great deal of the formula with which he was well acquainted – hard work – so he rolled up his sleeves and got to it. It took over a year to manually rectify the negative $400 million “combined with a lot of customer relationship management,” according to Tony. But in that year he whittled the $400 million down to $8 million and was then able to get that much and more from the insurance carrier. His prior experience in property and casualty claims certainly came in handy. After 18 months, Tony had new data centers, better processes and more stable systems. Things were going so well with his division that when EDS later experienced cash flow problems it decided to sell his division to Fiserv for the much needed revenue infusion. Tony’s company was merged with Fiserv’s ATM/Debit card business in 2004 and is still a big business for Fiserv today.
Because of his reputation for turnarounds, Tony was asked by Fiserv in 2005 to move to Florida to take over a division that provided software to smaller banks. The business was struggling due to a lack of focus. “The biggest problem was deciding what was really the base software product and what was true customization,” says Tony. He discovered that valuable time was being spent on some customization that nearly always had to be done. Why not make that part of the base product? He made the company more software product focused and less consulting focused. He obtained large software deals in the US, China and Australia. Tony had again succeeded in making a business very profitable.
In 2012 Tony was recruited into WorldPay US as President and CEO. The company had been owned entirely by RBS which had neglected it because of the financial downturn. In 2010 RBS sold 40% of the company to Advent International and 40% to Bain with RBS retaining a 20% stake. Tony started on March 1, 2012 and spent his first two days with sales people. The first day he went on sales calls and the second day he spent with telesales. On the third day, he followed customer paperwork for a new merchant from start to finish. “I had no managers around me,” said Tony, “just the employees and me so that I could get a ‘no spin’ picture of what they were going through.” He got to see what company processes looked like, what customer service really looked like and concluded that WorldPay needed to make a lot of investment in systems and people.
Tony began the turnaround by creating a strategic plan to reposition the business. He hired new management, exited unprofitable contracts, refocused on more profitable small and mid-sized merchants and invested in new technology infrastructure. Prior hiring freezes and staff reductions had cut the sales force in half with EBITDA falling to half accordingly. Tony changed this as well. By executing on a comprehensive plan, Tony was able to win the confidence of both investors and employees as they saw the constant positive improvement. WorldPay will experience double digit top and bottom line growth this year. “Our strategy,” says Tony, “is to treat small and mid-sized businesses so much better than our competitors that they would never consider using anyone else.”
The strategy appears to be working. WorldPay’s Net Promoter Score has hit a high of +21 while the industry average in 2011 was -11. The company has definitely stabilized, is growing, and is ready for the next level. “I’ve even overstaffed the leadership team slightly for strength,” says Tony.
When asking Tony how he would explain to someone what he does as a CEO or how he does it he becomes thoughtful and quiet for a moment before giving a valuably concise explanation on the art of hard work: “I take companies and transition them to high growth with next generation processes and innovation. After fully understanding the marketplace, I get the company to take controlled risk. The controlled risk HAS to be underpinned by incredible process – like with astronauts.” Astronauts? “Well, astronauts seem very rigid to most people,” says Tony, “in the way they do what they do – totally by the book. But they’re really the biggest risk takers of all. If you can combine risk taking with process like they do, you’ll be a champion.”
Tony also believes that as the rails of various forms of payment start to converge that decisions on what processor to use will be based on speed and that the customer loyalty component will be ever tighter.
Married for 26 years, Tony and his wife live in Buckhead . His son is working on a Masters of Engineering in Robotics at the Florida Institute of Technology and his daughter is a junior at Centenary College in New Jersey majoring in Fashion Design with a minor in business. He and his family enjoy living in Atlanta.
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