Frank Martire has spent his entire career in the bank technology field and has seen it all, but even he couldn’t predict the rapid advancement of mobile banking in the 2010s.
Martire, executive chairman of Fidelity National Information Services Inc., or FIS, thought it would take 10 to 15 years for banking by mobile phone to catch on.
“I was very wrong,” Martire admitted Wednesday at a World Affairs Council of Jacksonville luncheon at the Downtown River Club.
He underestimated how quickly young people would embrace the technology.
“It’s native to the current generation,” he said.
Martire’s career goes back to the 1970s when automated teller machines were the next big thing in banking, but he said they were slow to catch on at first.
However, when a major blizzard hit New York City in 1978, Citibank had to close its offices and customers flocked to ATMs to get cash, said Martire, who later worked for Citibank.
The bank pounced on the opportunity to promote its ATMs and everything changed.
“That was the big uptick in ATMs,” Martire said, but now it’s mobile banking that is overtaking the industry.
“There’s going to be a geometric growth there and we have to be ready for it,” he said.
The advancement of remote banking services has raised questions about the future of actual bank offices. Martire said there will still be a need for branches.
“How large they’ll be, how many there’ll be is questionable,” he said.
Martire said it’s hard enough to predict the future of banking technology just a few years down the road, so he wouldn’t even try to forecast what the world will look like in 25 years.
“I don’t have a clue,” he said. “Whatever you can imagine, whatever you think it is, it will be far exceeded in 25 years.”
Jacksonville-based FIS provides technology services for banks and is the largest company in its field, Martire said. After it completes a pending acquisition with another financial technology company, SunGard, it will have annual revenue of more than $9 billion.
However, he said, “it’s not about being the largest. What’s more important to us is being the best.”
FIS operates under a set of guiding principles that are instilled in every employee, he said, including having an entrepreneurial spirt and a “passion” for your work.
“Your clients will know (if you don’t have that passion). Your fellow employees will know,” Martire said.
FIS was spun off from Fidelity National Financial Inc. and operates from the same Riverside Avenue office complex as FNF and another company spun off from FNF, Black Knight Financial Services Inc.
Martire gave a quick tutorial on the companies originated from the Fidelity organization for luncheon guests who might get confused at times.
The businesses began as a title insurance company built up by FNF Chairman Bill Foley, who also is vice chairman of FIS.
“Then he said I could add things on to this company,” such as the bank technology business, Martire said. Eventually, FNF began spinning some of the businesses off.
The three companies headquartered on Riverside Avenue are all publicly traded.
“Everybody thinks Bill owns them all and he probably thinks he does,” Martire joked. “But the reality is they’re all public companies.
Foley was actually scheduled to speak to the World Affairs Council this week.
However, he had to travel to New York to make a presentation to the National Hockey League’s executive committee regarding his application for an expansion team in Las Vegas.
Foley is the lead partner in a group that wants to bring a hockey team to a new $375 million arena under construction near the Las Vegas strip.
“This meeting was the result of successfully completing three previous phases of the expansion application process,” Foley said Tuesday in a statement issued through the hockey group’s website.
“We made it to this point because of the passionate fans that helped us secure more than 13,500 season ticket deposits and commitments,” he said.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at a news conference that no decisions have been made regarding expansion. A group from Quebec City has also applied for an expansion franchise.
“This is an ongoing process that doesn’t have a specific timetable and doesn’t have a predetermined outcome,” Bettman said, according to a transcript of the news conference posted by the NHL.
He said expansion teams would join the league no earlier than 2017.
Although Bettman was non-committal, Martire is confident that Foley will succeed in getting a hockey team.
“I think he’s pretty close to making that happen,” he said.