Friday, November 18, 2011

A Loss for Milwaukee


George Dalton, co-founder of industry giant Fiserv Inc., has died of natural causes, following months of health problems. He was 83.

He founded the company with Leslie Muma in 1984. Fiserv, based in Brookfield, is one of the world's largest data processor for financial institutions.

Dalton was especially known for his role in acquisitions, bringing other strong firms into Fiserv. By the time he stepped down as chairman in 2000, the firm had some 10,000 clients, 14,000 employees and revenue of $1.4 billion.

Dalton began in "Data Processing" at the Marine National Exchange Bank, and when John Kelly, Dave Herzer, and Ron Frary left MNXB to found the Midland National Bank, Dalton came along and started Midland Data Processing, which was the IT support for the Bank.  Over the next dozen years, Midland Data became a very large service bureau in its own right with the development of a package of savings-and-loan IT services for savings, checking, and mortgage loans. 

Midland Data Processing did not disappear when the Midland Bank foundered; rather, it became an independent entity, eventually becoming FiServ.

It is noteworthy that FiServ, M&I Data, and Deluxe Data--the three largest bank-IT service bureaus (with Deluxe serving as 'the switch' for TYME/debit cards) were all in Milwaukee.

Dalton was, as the newsbrief indicates, an enormously likeable man who liked everybody.  He also developed a lot of young talents.

He's a legend.

In the Good Old Days, "online" (real-time) processing was hot.  Naturally, Dalton's boyzzz had a package for that, but there was one problem:  repeaters.  Repeaters were absolutely necessary for online processing, but weren't being built nearly fast enough for the demand, which was off-the-charts.

So when Dalton traveled to the usual business conventions, he'd scour the closets of banks in whatever town he was in, looking for "spare and lonely" repeaters--which found their way into the Midland Data Processing network.  (The check was in the mail, of course.)

A legend.


Badger Catholic said...

What does "data processing" mean? Financial transactions?

Dad29 said...

You're kidding, right?

In the Good Old Days, computers actually cost money. A LOT of money. So only a few places actually had computers.

Often, they were called "service bureaus" b/c they handled payroll-processing, G/L processing, and (in this instance) bank transaction-processing, in batch-mode.

Online/real-time wasn't really a factor until the early 1970's.

You kids these days....

Badger Catholic said...

It's so good of you old cranks to educate us young whippersnapper, LOL!

GOR said...

You missed one, Dad. Back in the early 70s then First Wisconsin National Bank (FWNB, later Firstar and now US Bank) had a larger DP processing business than M&I, Marine or Midland. Headquartered in Milwaukee with satellite DP collection centers in Madison, Eau Claire and Clintonville, it serviced hundreds of banks throughout Wisconsin, the UP, eastern Minnesota, Chicago and northern IL.

It also had a large payroll processing business for commercial customers (both the Brewers and Packers were clients at that time!), which at its height processed payrolls for over 2000 clients. While Fiserv and M&I later went national, First Wis decided not to, despite inquiries from east and west coast banks. After assorted reorgs and acquisitions – not to mention the advent of cheaper inhouse and PC-based systems - the Correspondent Bank Processing business became less attractive and was progressively eliminated.

Different times! And yes, Dalton was an institution. RIP