Posts Tagged ‘finance’

TSYS CEO and Chair Phil Tomlinson Updates Rotarians on the Fortunes of TSYS

July 8, 2009
Philip Tomlinson, CEO, Chair, TSYS, Columbus, GA  (Courtesy of TSYS, unauthorized usage not permitted)

Philip Tomlinson, CEO, Chair, TSYS, Columbus, GA (Courtesy of TSYS, unauthorized usage not permitted)

TSYS CEO and Chairman of the Board Phil Tomlinson told Columbus Rotarians today that while the company has a lost a big customer, Washington Mutual,  and could lose another one, Bank of America merchant services,  things, over all, are going well.  He did say that TSYS customers are mainly banks and banks are having big problems.  But, he made it clear that TSYS was not in the loan making business.

He admitted that there have been significant credit card abuses by some banks,  but thinks the new regulations being put in place by the Obama administration will cause problems,  mainly an increase in costs. 

He also said credit card companies are an easy target for politicians.

He told me that TSYS has not laid off any employees – he calls them “team members” –  and that the company is working to see that does not happen, and has high hopes that it will not.

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Where to be in a Big National Recession – Columbus, Georgia

January 8, 2009

After Wednesdays’ Rotary Club of Columbus meeting, I buttonholed Mike Gaymon, president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce,  to discuss the shape of the Columbus area economy and what 2009 will bring.  I got the idea from the Rotary  program, which was “The Fearless Financial Forecasters,” three Rotary Club stock brokers who discussed the past year’s performace by the stock market, which was dismal, as you know, and picked some possibly winning stocks for this year.  Their picks made no difference to me because I don’t plan to buy any stocks, anyway.  In times like these, retired folks like me deal mainly in safe investments such as U.S. Treasury Bonds.  But, they did trigger my thoughts about the local economy.

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

You always expect a Chamber of Commerce type to paint a rosy picture, and Mike didn’t let me down, but he also is a realist and balanced his optimism with  sobering thoughts about the recession we are in.  Yes, the home building and selling industry is hurting in our area and will continue to have problems in 2009, just as it will nationally, and the automobile sector is not doing well, which was especially emphasized with the collapse of Bill Heard Chevrolet at the close of 2008.  Car sales are down and not expected to bounce back any time soon.  Gaymon also told me, “Some of the big box stores are hurting in Columbus, not the discount stores like Wal-Mart, but those that are not discount stores, and some may even close.  While some of the Columbus big box stores are doing better than others in the chains, it really doesn’t matter if the chain closes nationally.”

Even with all that, though,  2009 promises to be a very good year, with the Kia plant at West Point infusing  jobs and spin-off businesses, and AFLAC continuing to do well and adding jobs, and with the build-up at Fort Benning providing a huge stimulus to the Columbus area economy.

“We will continue to feel the effect of the national recession, but the recession in Columbus will be much less than the rest of the Southeast and the country.  Fort Benning is spending $2 billion dollars on new construction, getting ready for the infusion of new troops. The post provides a monthly payroll of $110 million, and a monthly payroll for contractors of $210 million. That’s $330 million every month, with a lot of it going directly into the Columbus economy. And that is going to increase dramatically over the next two years.”

This boils down to the encouraging fact that Columbus, Georgia is a very good place to be during economic downturns like the huge one the country is now experiencing.

Synovus Looks at Government Offer to Buy Shares

October 15, 2008

   While the nation’s nine largest banks have signed an agreement to sell shares in their banks to the government, smaller banks will also be a part of the action. Richard Anthony, Chairman and CEO of Synovus told me today that his company is “looking at” the offer.

Richard Anthony, Chairman and CEO, Synovus

Richard Anthony, Chairman and CEO, Synovus

  “Do you need it?” I asked,.

  “Well, not right now, but, looking to the future, we can never not be interested in capital sources.”

   He likes the idea of the government buying equity as opposed to pouring tax dollars into toxic mortgage securities, which is what it appeared would happen when Congress first agreed to the $700 billion banking bailout. 

  “So the government is going to have some ownership in banks,” I said.

  “Well, yes, but it will not be voting stock. It will be preferred stock.”

Stephen A. Melton, CB&T President and CEO

Stephen A. Melton, CB&T President and CEO

   And how has this financial crisis affected business at Synovus’ Columbus Bank and Trust Company? President and CEO Stephen Melton says business is slower, but it’s not because CB&T has changed or tightened its loan policy. That hasn’t changed, he said. “We are making fewer loans simply because demand is lower.”   

  Anthony said that the biggest problem is in the housing industry. He said that once that gets back up and running again things will get better. He was inducted into the Rotary Club of Columbus as a new member today.

Sign of Our Times

October 13, 2008
Sign in front of SunTrust branch at Publix on Schomburg Road

Sign in front of SunTrust branch at Publix on Schomburg Road

   All of the virtures in this sign were something that we took for granted for as long as I can remember.  But then, I don’t remember anything like the crisis of confidence in financial institutions that we are experiencing now.

Child of the Great Depression

October 9, 2008

  The Great Depression food line on the cover of this week’s Time magazine brought back memories of my childhood. I was a “child of the Great Depression.”  I wrote about it in my memoir The Newsman, and an excerpt about that will follow.

Library of Congress)

Pres. Herbert Hoover was blamed for the Great Depression (Photo: Library of Congress)

    First, though, I’ll comment briefly on the Time article that tells us how history can help us avoid it happening again.

  Fortunately, our Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke studied the Great Depression of the 1930’s intensively. Most economists agree that the federal government did just the opposite of what it should have done when credit seized up during the Great Depression.  It “made a bad situation worse by reducing credit to the banking system,”  writes Niall Ferguson in his Time article “The End of Prosperity?” He has pumped more than $1 trillion into the financial system over the past 13 months.

  And Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is doing the same thing with his $700 billion bailout of financial institutions, on top of what he has already spent on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, AIG, etc.

  It appears this is a case of some key people in government paying attention to the lessons of history. Will it work? Maybe, but things are expected to get worse before they get better.

  Now, here is that excerpt from The Newsman that I promised.

Excerpt from The Newsman

 Our house was not only small, it was crowded with me, my mother, father, sister, and brother, and, from time to time, out-of-work relatives. After all, we were in the grips of the Great Depression, which everyone in my family said was caused by Republican President Herbert Hoover. Later, I learned more about Hoover and that he really was a good, compassionate man, and that Coolidge and a lot of other people like him, Republicans and Democrats, had more to do with causing the Depression than Hoover. Back then about the only thing worse for whites in the South than a Damn Yankee was a Damn Yankee Republican. Now, as you know, the situation has reversed. Race was and is a potent political issue.

 

  My father, like everyone else in the South, except for a few “post office Republicans,” was a Democrat. A “post office Republican” was a person in Dixie who admitted to being a Republican in order to be appointed a postmaster when a Republican president was elected. That didn’t happen for the first twenty-two years of my life.

 

 The only president I had known for my first fifteen years was Franklin D. Roosevelt, special in our area because he made Warm Springs his second home. He was a good Democrat, according to my mother, and Republicans were bad rich people who cared only about their wealth. I picked up all of that valuable information about Republicans from my mother. My father wasn’t as vocal about national politics, concentrating mainly on state races. He was a Talmadge man to the core. My mama was vocal about politics, national and local, and didn’t hesitate to let all within earshot know her views right then and there. Usually, she would do it in such a way that she would have even those who disagreed with her laughing.

 

  Daddy was one of the few men in our extended family who had a job for a number of years in the early thirties. When relatives came to visit with suitcases in hand, they stayed for a while. Since there was no welfare, families had to look out for their own.

 

  One Christmas, after my mother and father had stretched their budget thin by seeing that all of the visiting kids got something from Santa Claus, they discovered they had forgotten guess who. On Christmas Eve they left me in the care of my brother and sister, and, along with other last minute chores, started looking for something for four-year-old-me.

 

  The Stores had already closed, but they found a barber shop open that had a cardboard toy circus for sale. They were late punching out colorful flat sheet of cardboard and folding them into a circus bandwagon, lion cages, elephants and other circus paraphernalia. When I wandered sleepily into the living room on Christmas morning, I was greeted by a huge circus that was spread out all over the floor. It took my breath away. I had never seen such magnificence before. It was probably the most exciting Christmas morning I ever experienced. It might not have cost much, but what does a four-year-old know or care about costs?  

(The Newsman can be purchased at Barnes and Noble in Columbus and online at Xlibris.com.)

Why No Bailout for Bill Heard Chevrolet?

September 28, 2008

  The government’s bailout of the banking industry raises some interesting questions. The biggest one is where does it all end? If we grant 700-billion-dollars to bailout the Wall Street investment banks, and 25-billion-dollars to save American car makers, why shouldn’t we bailout Bill Heard Chevrolet?

  After all, all Mr. Big Volume was doing is the same thing that the mega-banks were doing. As an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story says, “Like the Wall Street investment bankers who grabbed up securities backed by risky subprime home mortgages, Heard apparently staked too much on people who couldn’t pay what they owed.”

  Another interesting question is where does this bailout business end?  And what is the lesson it sends?  Is it that risk is taken out of doing business because the taxpayer will make up the difference when the business fails?

  Don’t be ridiculous, you might say, the government can’t do that for everybody. In that case, is it fair to do it for some and not others, and who decides which ones are insured against failure by the taxpayer?  And that tax payer, by the way, will be our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their children, because the government will raise the money not by raising taxes now, but by borrowing it from China and other countries willing to take the risk.  The only alternative to that, if taxes are not raised, is for the government to print money. That causes runaway inflation which is another disaster.  

  What a mess.

  Just look at what the successful deregulators have done. They have put us right back where we were in 1929 when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression followed.  As the 60’s anti-war protest song went, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

 

 

Wall Street’s Financial Earthquake Shakes All of Us

September 24, 2008

  Now I am beginning to really understand why people who have experienced an earthquake say, “It’s terrifying because you have absolutely no control over the situation.” It appears the only thing you can do is crawl under a desk or table or something and hope nothing strong enough to crush it falls on it. 

  That’s the way I am feeling about what’s happening on Wall Street and in Washington. Taxpayers are about to be saddled with $700 billion plus to bail out financial institutions. There is nothing I can do about it as I watch it being railroaded speedily through Congress.

  Though this blog is mainly locally oriented, I have to talk about this mess. It is local in that it effects everyone in this area. It has me very frustrated and angry.

  You and I are having to pay for the insane greed on Wall Street and almost eight years of deregulation in Washington that brought about this disaster.

  The original Bush administration’s bill prevents any court review of anything the Treasury Department does after the $700 billion is handed over to them.  Thankfully some members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are throwing up red flags on this one.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Dem. OH)

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Dem. OH)

  I like Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s idea.

 “Since the bailout will cost each and every American about $2,300, tomorrow I will offer legislation to create a United States Mutual Trust Fund, which will take control of $700 billion in stock assets, at market value and not higher, convert those assets to shares, and distribute $2,300 worth of shares to new individual savings accounts in the name of each and every American,” Kucinich said in a statement that was published on the Truthout site.

  It went on to say, “The Wall Street financial disaster is an opportunity to create a genuine ownership society. If Congress invests $700 billion in the market, then the American people must get something of real value for their investment.”

   And why not? If we are being asked to put up $700 billion dollars, why shouldn’t we get something for our money. It won’t happen though. The Bush administration won’t even go along with the idea of including a stipulation in the bill that would prohibit the reckless CEO’s who are largely responsible for this debacle from getting multi-million dollar golden parachutes. In other words, they’ll get millions while others suffer from their actions.

  Yes, the financial earth is shaking, and there is nothing I can do about it but look for something to get under to prevent from being  hit by falling Wall Street debris.  My only hope is that Congress will provide that shelter.

The Fruits of Ignoring the Economic Lessons of the Past

September 18, 2008

    Now we are staring the big green monster in the eye and seeing what Mr. Greed can do to us…again. Mr. Greed has been very successful in transferring billions of our tax dollars into his coffers, and he continues to get away with it.

  He took big lending risks in order to rake in big profits, and he did. Now his risky practices have come a cropper and he is being bailed out with our tax dollars. Some of his mammoth financial institutions are now nationalized, but what does he care? He’s already transferred the billions he has made, including golden parachute millions, into Swiss bank accounts.

  How did this happen? Simple. Deregulation. He was able to change the government’s rules in order to take big chances with other people’s money.

  Yes, history does repeat itself, mainly because some do not take heed of what happened in the past. What happened in 1929 is happening right now. Easy credit and risky loans encouraged consumers to go deeply into debt.  When consumers stopped buying in order to make payments on their loans, demand plumeted, businesses failed, out of work consumers defaulted on debts and financial  institutions went under.

  This Great Depression caused a rebirth of government regulations to prevent this disaster from happening again. But, the deregulators took  power again, and here we go again.

  I said the rebirth of regulations because they really started in earnest in 1906 when Republican President Teddy Roosevelt decided to take on big business, breaking up a lot of monopolies. The pro-monoply crowd regained power and we’ve had a lot of mergers in the last few decades. So, in that area, here we go again, also.

  The powers that  be are now trying to prevent another depression by having the  government step in and bail out the banks and those who insure loans. Let’s hope it works. This didn’t have to happen, though. Poper regulation could have prevented it.

  Santayana and Anonymous got it right when they said:

  “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana 
 

  “History repeats itself  because no one was listening the first time.”
Anonymous