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October 13, 2020TSG Press

Executive Interview Series: TSG Senior Associate, Ray Sobczyk

The Executive Interview Series provides readers with exclusive insights from movers and shakers in the payments industry. The Payments Industry is under continuous transformation, as such this series provides diverse perspectives on everything from strategy to payments technology and to the future of the industry.

In this interview, TSG’s Market Intelligence team-member Alex Ferguson sat down with TSG Senior Associate Ray Sobczyk to learn more about his experiences in the payments industry and his work with TSG’s Buy/Sell team.


Background: Raymond Sobczyk joined the company in 2006 and has led the firm’s Strategic Acquisition engagements. In this role he has prepared value assessments, supported due diligence efforts, and advised buyers, sellers, and investors on over one hundred potential transactions in the merchant acquiring and processing industry. Sobczyk has over forty-five years of financial management experience in the Payment Industry, having held several senior management positions at First Data Corp including First Data Resources CFO, SVP Finance-M&A, SVP Finance- Merchant Services, and Government Solutions CFO. Sobczyk also has extensive experience in designing and implementing performance measures for processing and acquiring portfolio businesses.

Q: TSG’s Alex Ferguson
How did you get into the payments industry?

A: Ray Sobczyk
I started my career at First Data when I was a senior in college at a time when the bankcard payments industry was still in its infancy. At that time, transactions were paper-based and settlement between the banks were conducted by initiating drafts into the FED bank to bank. First Data was the first 3rd Party, for- profit company in the industry with total revenue in 1974 of $3 million.  I was surprised that my first assignment was to add amounts from pages of green-bar fanfold reports to arrive at summarized data. I became very proficient with a 10-key adding machine (not a calculator) taking hours to complete a task that the computer could have performed in a nano-second. Data processing was in its infancy as well!

My early experience at First Data provided me the opportunity to work with an entrepreneurial management team that was on a mission to become the best and largest card processor in the country. Working with this team, I grew in my knowledge of the industry but more importantly I lead the organizations performance measurement and unit costing/pricing initiatives. First Data grew exponentially riding the card account and transaction growth in the industry in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, client additions and acquisitions, and diversification into other industries. By the end of the century annual revenues had grown to over $3 Billion. With this growth I saw significant changes in corporate structure and corporate culture.

My experience of over 30 years at First Data, starting at the very bottom of the ladder in financial roles and growing to senior financial roles in Financial Management and Acquisitions has provided me with a unique perspective in my role at TSG.

Q: Alex Ferguson
What is your role in a typical strategic acquisition engagement at TSG?

A: Ray Sobczyk
In my role at TSG I direct the financial analysis and performance assessment related to targeted processing businesses. This work is provided at the request of a prospective seller, buyer, or investor in the business. My role is to provide these stakeholders with the historical analysis, discuss key findings, and provide a value estimate of the entity.

Q: Alex Ferguson
How many valuations of payments portfolios do you think you have done in your career?

A: Ray Sobczyk
In the last 14 years with TSG, I have provided this analysis for over 150 entities/merchant portfolios. I work with other specialists at TSG to provide the client with a full breath of analysis and findings to arm them with critical decision-making information. One of my colleagues, Bob Schmitz, assists in the analysis, having developed an efficient methodology to prepare an attrition and growth analysis as well as other key performance metrics. 

Q: Alex Ferguson
What do you enjoy the most about working on strategic acquisition engagements?

A: Ray Sobczyk
I really enjoy working on the valuation projects with our clients. Learning about each company, understanding their specific business model and translating that into a business value. Every company is unique and requires specific understanding and judgment.

Q: Alex Ferguson
What sets TSG apart in its handling of buy/sell engagements?

A: Ray Sobczyk
TSG is uniquely positioned to provide valuation and assessment services from two key aspects. First, TSG specializes in acquiring portfolios and has a pool of content specialists like no other valuation service company. We can go deep in every aspect of a payments company, from technology, risk, sales, operations, and financial. My specialty is financial. TSG has developed a service called AIM (Acquiring Industry Metrics) that includes a database containing activity and financial information with over four million merchant accounts. This platform is used by clients to benchmark profitability and growth performance. The service provides TSG the ability to benchmark merchant portfolios performance as a part of our valuation services.

Q: Alex Ferguson
You have been at TSG pretty much since the beginning.  How has the company changed over the years?

A: Ray Sobczyk
TSG has certainly grown in terms of associates and expertise since its inception. In conjunction with this, TSG offers a broader set of services available to its clients. It now is a full-service consulting group that can tackle any request from the acquiring sector of the industry.

Q: Alex Ferguson
Describe your biggest contribution to the payments industry thus far.

A: Ray Sobczyk
I think the biggest contribution I have made to the payments industry is the development of a methodology to measure and compare the growth in a merchant portfolio in a simple and understandable way. I devised the concept in the late nineties as a team leader while at First Data focused on portfolio performance measures as a way to compare the growth of the First Data Bank Alliances. With this concept I lead a performance measurement team at First Data and leveraged this experience to develop the attrition and growth metrics employed by the TSG AIM platform. The results of this analysis provide the portfolio manager with a clear understanding of how the portfolio compares to the industry norm.

Q: Alex Ferguson
Tell me about your iconic hat.

A: Ray Sobczyk
By watching old movies, I observed that hats were a men’s attire staple up until the nineteen sixties. I also have seen photos of my dad and his generation wearing fedoras during that period.  With this background I stopped in a hat store on a whim near Covent Garden in London 15 years ago. I purchased a fedora and liked the feel and have worn a hat regularly since that day. As I travel, I seek out hat shops and make selections to add to my collection. I seldom leave home without one.

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