A Publication of WTVP

The Peoria-based firm is positioned to continue its recent growth through a merger with the top ATM provider in the country.

You may not have heard of Welch ATM, but if you’ve used an automated teller machine at Walgreens, Circle K, Hucks or just about any other convenient location in town, you have almost certainly used one of its ATMs… and not just locally. Welch operates more than 26,000 ATMs throughout the United States, making them the third-largest ATM operator in the country.

The company’s phenomenal growth has happened very quickly. Just over three years ago, Welch ATM was one of many small, independent sales organizations placing cash dispensers throughout the U.S. In 2011, the Welch ATM network totaled a little over 2,500 ATMs. CEO Jeff Hewitt attributes this growth to a not-so-unique idea: excellent customer service. “Our company philosophy is ‘We take customer satisfaction personally,’” he says, “and we do. We make sure customer communication occurs with real people who are easy to contact and quick to respond.”

Growing the Team
The Welch ATM sales office is maintained three hours southwest of Peoria, in Chesterfield, Missouri. “Our organization prides itself on flexibility,” says Adam Hobelmann, senior vice president, “allowing our knowledgeable, well-trained staff to work directly with banks, credit unions and retailers to build comprehensive ATM programs that fit their needs and provide excellent convenience for their customers and members.”

But customer service doesn’t stop with the sales group. Welch ATM’s operations team, headed by company president Brad Cummins and located locally in downtown Peoria, provides a fully-staffed help desk and project management team to ensure that installations, maintenance and core operations are best in class. “We guarantee a high level of ATM uptime that exceeds industry standards because we have built—and continue to build—a team that can deliver on that promise,” says Cummins.

“Two years ago, we didn’t have a usable website,” Hobelmann notes. “Now we are continually growing our sales and operations teams. We are working to make sure our customers are well informed with a full website, regular blog posts, informative white papers and e-books, monthly e-newsletters, an interactive location map and social media initiatives… whatever we can provide to help our customers be more successful with their marketing and ATM efforts.”

An Idea Company
After a 16-year career with NCR, Welch ATM CEO Jeff Hewitt identified a unique opportunity unfolding in the recently-deregulated ATM industry. Automated teller machines were moving from bank properties to off-site convenient retail establishments, as customers wanted access to their cash right where they shopped. Hewitt began to fulfill his vision of a customer-centric financial technology company through a partnership with a Peoria-based cash services company.

A little over 10 years later, Welch ATM has become one of the largest ATM operations companies in the world, with a management team boasting over 100 years of experience in the financial technology industry. The company has grown both organically as well as through the acquisition of Kahuna ATM Solutions, an Illinois company that partners with independent ATM sales operations, and the Maryland-based technology development firm, CodeGreen. Welch handles more than 70 million transactions and dispenses nearly $5 billion annually.

“We’re still growing,” Hewitt says, “adding dozens of new customers a month. And we’re not just ATMs anymore. Now we’re investing in new technologies… providing innovative marketing and customer convenience options to financial institutions and retailers. We are transforming into an idea company.”

The Combined Portfolio
But Welch is headed towards even bigger things than simple expansion into innovative technologies—it’s about to catapult from the industry’s number three spot straight to number one. According to a July announcement, the company is slated to merge operations with the top ATM provider in the United States, Houston-based Cardtronics, sometime late in the third quarter.

“Welch ATM and Cardtronics have complementary customer bases that, once integrated, will be the foundation of an even stronger combined company,” Cummins says. “We will be positioned to accelerate revenue growth, enhance cost synergies, achieve higher profitability and create additional value for our customers.”

Cardtronics is a publicly-traded ATM company with a global network of 83,600 cash machines deployed and operating in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico and Germany. It operates ATMs in several large national retailers, including Target, Costco and 7-Eleven, as well as many other independent merchants and hospitality and travel hubs. The company reported 561.5 million cash withdrawal transactions and $55.7 billion in cash dispensed in 2013.

Together, Cardtronics and Welch ATM’s portfolios will exceed 109,000 ATMs, with over 90,000 retail locations in the United States. This includes a total of over 5,000 Walgreens and 3,100 Rite Aid pharmacy ATMs. With machines positioned in these prominent retail locations, where cash is most frequently used, the combined company is positioned to benefit with sustained and growing transaction benefits by making cash access so convenient.

Pending regulatory approval of the deal, Welch ATM will move forward under the Cardtronics name. “But,” Hobelmann is quick to note, “our commitment to our customers remains the same. We will continue to offer the best customer service, information and programs possible.”

While the pending transaction will move the company headquarters to Houston, Texas, the Peoria office will remain a fixture in company operations, and Cummins notes that the Peoria team continues to be excited about the future. “This combination will not only boost our standing in the industry, it also provides us with significant local growth opportunity due to additional ATM volume. We will see more job creation… and more benefit for the Peoria community.” iBi

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