Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What does Warren Buffett know about the future of the USPS?

In his quarterly filing of investment holdings, Warren Buffett announced a new investment by Berkshire Hathaway in a competitor to the Postal Service.  That competitor is Fiserv. (FISV)   With this investment, Berkshire Hathaway becomes the 6th largest investor in the company.

Fiserv is not a household name . However, many of the services that it now offers were originally developed by a company called Checkfree that it purchased a number of years ago.   Fiserv has expanded those services and has continued to see its volume and revenue grow as consumers shift away from payments by mail.   Fiserv's clients include a full range of companies that send bills and receive payments including banks, other financial institutions, retailers, health clubs, and utilities.   Fiserv's services that compete with the Postal Service can be found on its page describing its biller solutions.  These solutions include:

  • On-demand bill pay – agent, Web and IVR
  • E-lockbox and remittance processing
  • Walk-in bill pay – more than 20,000 locations nationwide
  • Electronic bill pay (EBP) at your site
  • Electronic bill pay (EBP) beyond your site
  • Bill delivery – print and mail
  • Bill delivery – paperless billing
  • Targeted messaging – transpromotional, direct mail, e-mail or in-statement
Fiserv actually markets its services as solutions for what it calls the postal sector.   Its website touts its postal sector service as follows:

As e-mail and e-documents continue to flourish, they challenge the amount of physical mail being delivered. Fiserv can help you bridge the gap between physical mail and the electronic world. Whether you offer purely physical mail services, run a hybrid mail center and are looking to add electronic functionality to your existing service or are seeking to enhance your postal banking service, Fiserv has the solution for you.

With Fiserv, you can extend electronic delivery and payment capabilities to your customers, enhance your trusted client relationship, provide a centralized e-document repository and strengthen your brand and the value of your e-post portal.


mark said...

Sirs, I do not believe that Buffet knows more about the USP, what he sees is the opportunity to fill a gap that the USPS is not smart enough, fast enough or talented enough to take advantage of. It would be a natural for the Post Office, and indeed has been bantered about; but like the Post Offices own employee suggestion program is vastly underserved by it's creators. The USPS just cannot cope managerially as it's talent has been diluted by politics.

Anonymous said...

USPS isn't allowed to innovate (beyond selling greeting cards in PO lobbies, that is - I guess it's such a small percentage of sales for drug stores, WalMart, etc., that it isn't worth their while to complain "USPS is stealing our business"). Any real innovation, that would make a real buck, is not allowed.

USPS is a government service, not a for-profit business. Congressional interference, mandated health care pre-payment, the money-losing universal service obligation, lobbying from anyone with an interest, etc.; it's all a political game. You can't compare USPS to any for-profit business; they operate under entirely different rules.

Anonymous said...

USPS was the first to offer bills by email. I signed up as soon as it was offered. It only lasted about 3 years and is now known as Check Free. It still works wonderfully but I wish the Postal Service could have received the credit for being the first to offer it and did it the best. I tried my other banks but they were a dismal failure at it. THey have improved now after all these years but we did a beautiful job at the very beginning.

Anonymous said...

Don't you realize that Fiserv is also one of the largest producers of FCM in the country? Buffett is wise enough to know that not all mail wil be digital, and is investing in a company that has a solid footing in the physical mail world.

Anonymous said...

Never happen. He knows that the PO is top heavy. Just like with Perot in the early 90's, once it is let out that they need to cut management drastically, the will cut him loose. Ask EDS.