* Customers: 180 banks
* Founded: 2010 by Craig Fuller, son of trucking magnate Max Fuller
* Revenue growth: 400 percent growth from 2011 to 2012
* Employees: About 150
* Role: Banks pay TransCard to operate their prepaid debit card business for them.
Market: An estimated 100 million Americans who are underserved by traditional banking, or 52 percent of the bankable population
Source: TransCard, news reports
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Craig Fuller, CEO of Chattanooga-based TransCard, has a secret.
Banking is changing, and it's never going to be the same again. At a time when many banks are only able to grow their bottom lines by slashing jobs, hiking fees and cutting expenses, TransCard is going the other way.
Fuller, whose company runs the prepaid debit card line of business for more than 180 banks across the country, announced on Thursday that the company would spend $925,000 to hire 69 new workers in what he says is a growing market outside the mainstream banking world.
"We're talking about reloadable prepaid cards with unlimited access, marketed to unbanked and underbanked customers who do not currently have access to the banking system," he said. "We believe that based on what we've done, we've figured out how to help institutions to go after those demographics."
The key to growth, Fuller said, is the company's ability to reach marginal consumers, such as low-income or non-English-speaking customers, who have remained immune to the lures of a traditional bank account for any one of a variety of reasons. He also avoids the heavy fees that have caused ill will between traditional banks and their customers. TransCard added new lines of business by working with casinos on prepaid cards for gamblers, and has partnered with FamZoo to create prepaid cards that help parents teach their children good spending habits.
"We think we're creating a whole new market, frankly," said Fuller.
Though he won't disclose revenue, the company's top line grew by 400 percent in 2012, he said. In early 2013, the company finalized the purchase of HQ Gift Cards, located in Louisville, Ky., and it is bringing those jobs to Chattanooga. It previously had sold its fuel card division to U.S. Bank in July 2012.
"This is a good opportunity to build some real financial technology jobs here in Chattanooga," he said.
Bill Hagerty, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Tennessee's pro-business climate helped make Chattanooga an attractive place for TransCard to expand.
"Under Craig Fuller's visionary guidance, TransCard has become part of the great entrepreneurial DNA of this state," Hagerty said. "Craig and his team have built a world-class technology company, and we are proud that they call Tennessee home."
Transcard's network of 180 banks, or 3 percent of the total market, has expanded dramatically from the company's single bank customer it held in 2011. In April of this year alone, the company signed up more than 55 new bank customers. The banks pay the company to run their prepaid debit operations at the Chattanooga headquarters that it leases from U.S. Xpress, Fuller added.
"Cash and checks are being eliminated at a mind-boggling pace," he said. "When we think about the future of banking, we think about mobile technology, NFC and EMV chip-related payment technology. We're talking about a future where everybody has access to bank accounts."
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6315.