Fiserv doesn’t go small. The financial technology provider has been making waves in this state since at least September 2021 when it received a $109 million tax incentive award from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to open a new office in Berkeley Heights. It was one of the largest such awards ever granted by the agency. The company said it would create 1,927 new jobs and warned that 1,063 jobs would have left the state had it gone elsewhere.
“Our new location in Berkeley Heights will be a dynamic hub of collaboration and innovation, bringing our people together in an inspiring workplace environment to create opportunity for unmatched energy and career growth experiences as we move payments and financial services forward on behalf of our clients,” Fiserv President and Chief Executive Officer Frank Bisignano said at the time.
The Fortune 500 company, based in Brookfield, Wisc., is also going big when it comes to corporate citizenship. Last August, for example, Fiserv teamed up with Rutgers University-Newark in a program to nurture diversity and innovation in the financial technology industry. The effort, dubbed the Fiserv-RU-N Program for Inclusive Innovation, will establish a research and incubation space on the Rutgers-Newark campus for the university community and local businesses. The program will also provide annual scholarships for undergraduates over five years and support career modules to prepare students for internships and jobs.
Fiserv will provide $5.15 million in total funding for the Program for Inclusive Innovation to create the on-campus center and support 40 annual scholarships of $2,500 each, including 10 for military veterans attending Rutgers-Newark and 10 for Rutgers Business School students, with a priority given to those studying finance and information technology. The company will also support career modules to prepare students for internships and jobs, including positions within Fiserv.
The Fiserv-RU-N Program for Inclusive Innovation established a research and incubation space on campus for the university community and local businesses. The program will also provide annual scholarships for undergraduates over five years and support career modules to prepare students for internships and jobs.
“We’re creating an unprecedented partnership right here in Newark,” Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said when the partnership was announced. “Its nerve center will be a collaborative innovation lab right on Washington Street where we can set new standards for the fintech industry, where experienced professionals work side by side with university researchers and professionals of tomorrow from Newark, Greater Newark, and beyond, leveraging diversity, creating better, smarter solutions by bringing people from many backgrounds together to tackle problems.”
That partnership is just one leg of a tripartite effort to identify and develop a diverse talent pool in the state. The other two legs – the Back 2 Business grant program and the Financial Future Techies – each held events in recent weeks highlighting Fiserv’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The Back 2 Business program is a $50 million nationwide effort to help fund businesses owned by minorities, women and other diverse individuals. In December, Fiserv made its first three awards in New Jersey during a ceremony at its Berkeley Heights campus. The winners – mobile bakery Cupcake Carriage, health snack provider Quick Fit Bites and mechanized food preparation company RoboBurger – each received $10,000.
“The Back 2 Business program started as part of the response to COVID, as Fiserv’s – and [CEO Frank Bisignano’s] vision of saying the small business owner is really the backbone of our community and our business and we need to help them and empower them during this really challenging time,” recalled Will Karczewski, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Clover Network Inc., Fiserv’s small and medium-sized business payment processing system. “Fiserv looked at minority-owned that were deserving of a $10,000 grant … to help them maybe purchase more inventory, expand their footprint, help them develop new technology to help deliver food a different way or take orders a different way.”
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The recipients were among the several hundred thousand businesses active on the Clover network, according to Karczewski. “We’ve done this in multiple cities across the country,” he added. “It’s been a privilege to be able to see these small businesses thrive and how much the grant helped fuel their innovation.”
The winners also make connections with other diverse business owners and gain access to Clover’s resources. They become part of a community that provides a referral network and functions as something of a virtual incubator.
“We have programs … that will teach them functions and ways of running their business both with using Clover and just other tips to help them continue to grow their business,” Karczewski said. “We work with these grant recipients to unlock the power of Clover and the software.” The system not only processes sales, but also helps with filing taxes, managing inventory, and online order integration to help expand sales.
Fiserv also sponsored a holiday fair with about 40 small businesses at the Berkeley Heights office. The event helped deepen the sense of community for the business and allowed Clover engineers to interact with the individuals using their system. “It was this wonderful, mind-melding moment where they were able to connect at such a deep and intimate level with these small business owners and I think it’s given our engineers and our innovation folks another way to think about what they need to do next with the product,” Karczewski said of the event.
The company’s contacts with potential technology leaders start well before they get to college. Fiserv’s Fin Future Techies program brings middle-school age students to Berkeley Heights for classes and exercises designed to introduce them to the world of financial technology. “The kids had questions from ‘I want to create a startup and how do I take that company public’ all the way to ‘what happens when a phone gets taken and somebody tries to use an app on the phone to make a transaction, what does Fiserv do in that ecosystem,’” said Matt Wilcox, who leads the company’s digital payment solutions business, the unit that deals with all non-card payment systems.
“It was incredible,” Wilcox added. “I wish I could have had a program like that when I was that age. You can tell their thought process and where they’re at [with] an understanding of this ecosystem is much more advanced than say, you and I, at that age.”
In fact, the students – from the Berkeley Heights and Watchung school districts – were chosen from a pool of more than 100 applicants who had to “demonstrate their interest in STEAM, their passion around learning more about STEAM and their commitment to being a part of this particular program … the applications were all remarkable,” according to Linda Wellbrock, Fiserv’s vice president of community relations and strategic partnerships. Some applications included PowerPoint presentations and videos and one composed songs about technology.
The pilot program runs from January to March. The 12-week course includes segments on payment systems, cybersecurity, data visualization, data diving, machine learning and artificial intelligence. At the end, the students will work with Fiserv engineers to build fintech products and earn a leadership certificate in STEAM. Fiserv plans to expand the Fin Future Techies to other parts of the country, likely starting with Atlanta.
“I came home and gave the presentation to my kids,” Wilcox related. “The next day, my daughter had developed a PowerPoint presentation and said, ‘do you think this would have worked in the application process’ — they just have a knowledge about them at a certain age that’s just pretty incredible. The future is bright for us because of the talent we’re going to have, and the future is bright for New Jersey given what I saw.”
And securing that future for Fiserv is part of the plan. “Tech talent is still difficult, there is still on an overall basis a supply and demand imbalance,” Anthony Marino, Fiserv’s chief human resources officer told NJBIZ. “We think we’ve tapped into an incredible reservoir of digital talent through our partnerships with universities. … We feel fortunate to have a strong program at the early career level.”