One4All’s new owner sees bright future for the company

Blackhawk looking at expanding brand further in Britain and rolling it out elsewhere

Blackhawk’s chief executive, Talbott Roche: ‘We are busy looking at where we can take One4All next.’

Blackhawk’s chief executive, Talbott Roche: ‘We are busy looking at where we can take One4All next.’

 

It may only be a few months since US fintech giant Blackhawk Network acquired the company behind the One4All multi-store gift cards, but the new owner already has big plans for the Irish business.

These include expanding the brand further in Britain and potentially rolling it out across continental Europe and the US.

Speaking to The Irish Times on a recent visit to Dublin, Blackhawk chief executive Talbott Roche said she had been impressed by One4All’s success in encouraging multiple retailers to feature on one gift card, something that is unheard of in most markets.

“One4All is a great brand and the team have done amazing work in getting competitors to co-exist so well because you really couldn’t do that in most places,” said Ms Roche.

Blackhawk, a global financial technology specialist with revenues of more than $2.2 billion (€1.96 billion) with its headquarters in California, acquired One4All’s parent Gift Voucher Shop from shareholders that included State-owned An Post in a €100 million deal late last year.

Ms Roche said the acquisition expanded Blackhawk’s footprint in the Republic, where it previously had only a limited presence through its relationship with retailers such as Tesco.

Competitors

She also stressed she believes Blackhawk can learn a lot from the success One4All has had in getting competitors to appear side by side.

“I think that while it might not work on a national level in say the US, it could do so in local markets, like we could potentially have say a San Francisco One4All card that has all the local businesses onboard,” said Ms Roche.

Right now the focus is on integrating the One4All brand into the wider Blackhawk family. Given that this is the 21st acquisition the company has made, Ms Roche doesn’t anticipate too many issues.

“We obviously want to maintain effective relationships with existing distribution partners and maximise those sales first, but we are also busy looking at where we can take One4All next,” she said.

“We’ve spent most of our time in the business to consumer [B2C] space whereas One4All has made great inroads in convincing companies to use it for rewards and incentives so I think there is some good learning possible on both sides.

“I especially think we can do more in terms of improving the One4All digital offering to make it more attractive to consumers and that is something we’re really excited about doing,” Ms Roche added.

Blackhawk began as a subsidiary of Safeway in the early 2000s as the supermarket chain sought to respond to Walmart. At that time the gift card sector was relatively small allowing the company to take a considerable lead in the sector. It started selling gift cards in Safeway stores but rapidly expanded over the years and is now active in 26 countries with a product range that includes egifts, reloadable prepaid debit cards, rebate cards, cash-based payment products and prepaid telecom cards. Among the products it currently distributes are iTunes gift cards and Starbucks loyalty cards.

Expansion

Ms Roche, who is also a board member of video game group Electronic Arts (EA), was one of the company’s first employees and has overseen its expansion into multiple markets and segments.

Safeway spun out Blackhawk via a $230 million stock market flotation in 2013. However, the company went private again last year when Silver Lake and New York-based hedge fund P2 Capital acquired it in an all-cash $3.5 billion deal.

“It is great being a public company and especially in the US market right now you can be rewarded for very predictable growth being one. But I think there are a lot of private investors who are excited about putting money to work with management teams that want to drive more disruptive growth and not necessarily force them to be on a constant 90-day treadmill,” said Ms Roche.

“We had investors who were willing to pay a good price for the assets and we are intent on continuing to grow but a little less predictability so we can double our earnings in a shorter period of time.”

Ms Roche added that integrating companies such as One4All into a single global company platform, would take about $80 million dollars in expense out of the business.

“It’s easier to do that when you’re private,” she said.

Looking ahead, Blackhawk expects to continue to focus on gift cards but also expects to expand beyond this and is currently eyeing opportunities in areas such as gaming as well as rewards and loyalty offerings.

“Our aim is to continue expanding internationally with plans to open in one or two new markets every year. We’ll also be stepping up in terms of offerings as well,” Ms Roche said.