Global Strip Reader

ACI Worldwide moves to Miami

ACI Worldwide, the largest electronic money-transfer firm on earth, moves to Miami

By Doreen Hemlock

Back in 1975, when automatic teller machines were new, a startup in Omaha, Nebraska developed a novel software. The product could read the magnetic strips on debit cards and let banks communicate between their ATMs and customer accounts to transfer cash and keep the accounting straight.

That business grew and evolved, and today, software by ACI Worldwide facilitates some $14 trillion in transactions daily – everything from payments between banks and finance companies to purchases by phone, credit card, and online, even transfers through apps like Venmo or CashApp.

Indeed, so many companies are turning to ACI’s software globally that the Nasdaq-listed business has just relocated its global headquarters from Naples to the Miami suburb Coral Gables, largely to be closer to a major international airport and to diverse talent that can work easily across borders.

“We looked at 20 big cities across the United States – New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, the West Coast – and we hired experts to help us,” says Johan Roets, ACI’s chief administrative officer. “In the end, the easiest move for us was to go to the Miami area. It has a great airport, and our people can get stimulation from being in a large, urban ecosystem with other businesses.”

ACI landed late last year in the new Plaza Coral Gables complex with a 30,000-square-foot office with room for 110 employees. It’s already hired 100 people worldwide for jobs that report to the new headquarters, though most work remotely. At least 30 of those hires have been here, including senior staff. Says Roets: “We couldn’t be happier.”

The company had considered Downtown Miami for its new office but opted for the Gables partly to be nearer Miami International Airport, partly because of the ambiance. “The vibe suits our culture. We’re a middle America kind of company – a little more serious, a little quieter, but highly inventive,” says Roets. What’s more, the Plaza Coral Gables soon will feature a Loew’s hotel, making accommodations easy for visiting staff.

The state of Florida and Miami-Dade County approved $360,000 in incentives to facilitate the move, with ACI agreeing to create 182 jobs within several years at its new headquarters. Coral Gables considers the relocation a win, underscoring its allure for corporate offices.

“ACI Worldwide is the type of business that we are focused on recruiting,” says Belkys Perez, acting director of Coral Gables’ economic development office. The city has long sought to attract multinational offices and now hosts at least 100. The list includes spirits giant Bacardi, infrastructure builder MasTec, and luxury jeweler Tiffany, as well as tech ventures Cyxtera Technologies, Appgate, PayCargo, and 8base, to name a few.

Today, ACI does business in more than 80 countries, with its software handling payments for 19 of the world’s 20 largest banks and more than 80,000 merchants. Growth has accelerated since 2020 under the leadership of CEO Odilon Almeida, a Brazilian engineer and former top executive for Western Union. He helped add some 1,000 hires last year to boost company employment beyond 4,000 globally.

In 2021, ACI reported $1.37 billion in revenue, up six percent from the previous year. Profits jumped 76 percent to $128 million, as the company expanded both geographically and in business lines, including peer-to-peer payments through such online channels as PayPal and Zelle. “Our next frontier is real-time payments worldwide,” says Roets, “because we’re famous for building high-volume infrastructure.” It’s a long way from 1975, when a startup then called Applied Communications Inc. first ventured into ATM software.

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