Letter from CEO
This annual report marks an important milestone. On July 31, 2019, we celebrated five years since our IPO. I am pleased to report that Synchrony continued our history of strong performance while executing our strategy to grow and diversify our business.
In 2019, we renewed more than 50 existing relationships and signed 30 new business partnerships across our platforms. We diversified our partner base, adding new digital programs, including Venmo, a social payment service, and in early 2020, announcing a new partnership with Verizon. In Payment Solutions, we drove growth through our approximately 160,000 small and medium-sized merchant locations and increased our consumer reach by broadening our Synchrony Home and Synchrony Car Care programs. In CareCredit, we expanded our health and wellness offerings beyond individual doctor’s offices to health systems and networks. We also extended our reach beyond the vet’s office, expanding from “vet to pet” through our acquisition of Pets Best, which offers pet insurance and wellness plans for dogs and cats. It gives pet owners new ways to pay for pet care.
During this milestone year, we also launched our new rallying cry—Changing What’s Possible. It underscores our 2019 accomplishments, and signals where we are going as a business. It defines what we do and how we do it. The “what” is helping people and businesses reach their ambitions. The “how” is providing our business partners with the right payment tools and technology to give customers the buying power they need. With our substantial investment in new products, mobile technology, digital innovation, data analytics and our people, we are Changing What’s Possible—for our customers, our partners, our employees, and you, our shareholders.
Building on experience—expanding our partnerships
Our capabilities and track record are rooted in more than 85 years of industry knowledge, experience and leadership. Today, we combine that heritage with digital technologies and innovative new approaches to deliver results to our partners and satisfaction to our customers. Our vast experience in consumer credit and ability to forge strong, trusted partnerships have driven organic growth in our existing programs and have made us a winning choice for fast-growing companies in new markets.
We are increasingly becoming a partner of choice for digitally driven companies who take a tech-forward approach to consumer experience. In 2019, we completed the conversion of the $7.6 billion PayPal portfolio, lengthened our agreement with them and became the exclusive issuer of Venmo’s first consumer credit card. In addition, Verizon chose us to launch their first consumer credit card.
Partnerships with these digitally driven companies, combined with our existing relationships, are key to our strategy of driving diversification and future growth for Synchrony. The investments we will make in 2020 to develop new digital innovations and technologies for these programs can be utilized by our partners across all of Synchrony’s platforms, creating additional value for Synchrony’s partners and our shareholders for years to come.
Diversifying with new products and markets
In 2019, we expanded our Payment Solutions and CareCredit platforms. Both command leadership positions in their respective markets and represent continuing growth opportunities for Synchrony.
Payment Solutions surpassed $20 billion in loan receivables in 2019. This platform provides consumer financing through small and medium-sized merchants. It allows consumers to finance major purchases when shopping at national or local stores for big-ticket items like jewelry, furniture, tires, sporting goods and more. Our products and technology help our partners drive sales by offering consumers instant access to credit and extended financing at the time of purchase—whether in-store, online or via mobile.
As part of our diversification strategy, we launched the Synchrony HOME card in 2019, offering consumers financing at more than 1.3 million home-related retail locations nationwide. We also completed a major expansion of Synchrony’s Car Care card. Now, it offers enhanced financing at a network of more than 730,000 car repair, maintenance, gas and other auto-related merchant locations.
We also launched Synchrony Small Business Solutions, a comprehensive Payment Solutions program aimed at increasing our engagement with small and medium-sized business partners. The program gives new partners the training and business-building tools they need to succeed—resources many small businesses cannot build or acquire on their own.
CareCredit is a leading provider of consumer financing for healthcare expenses not covered by insurance. Offered nationwide through more than 240,000 locations, CareCredit helps people afford health, wellness, personal and veterinary care. In 2019, cardholder balances surpassed $10 billion. Also in 2019, CareCredit expanded into national health systems like Lehigh Valley Physician Group and St. Luke’s University Health Network. These large networks integrate our CareCredit program into their payment platforms as an option for patients. It’s a logical extension of our business, one that offers many long-term opportunities.
In addition to helping people stay healthier, CareCredit is doing the same for their pets. Today, approximately 85% of eligible veterinary practices have enrolled with CareCredit. In 2019, we acquired Pets Best, a pioneer in the fast-growing pet health insurance market. Pets Best is a natural complement to our popular veterinary financing programs, offering a comprehensive suite of options to help people afford the care they want for the pets they love.
Our focus on diversification and growth in these areas continues to position our company for long-term success, while helping our smaller partners and healthcare providers enhance and grow their businesses today.
Enhancing our customer experience
Today, consumers expect a buying experience that’s personalized, effortless and fast. Teams across Synchrony are busy creating experiences that do just that—delighting consumers and helping our partners grow. We are helping our partners build positive user experiences at every touchpoint. Our unique digital infrastructure lets their customers easily apply for credit, make purchases and access account information digitally, from any device, at any time.
We believe the future of our business and that of our partners is tied to Synchrony’s ability to anticipate what customers need and deliver it in a personalized, secure way. This requires deep insight into consumer behavior and preferences that can only be gained by analyzing massive amounts of data—our own, as well as from partners and third parties. Following strict privacy and security protocols, we use our findings to accelerate decision making. For example, we are ready to help customers even before they enter our partners’ stores because of improvements we have made in building credit risk profiles. We can approve credit line increases in seconds, whether customers are at home, in the store’s parking lot or at the point of purchase. This leads to more satisfied customers, and ultimately, to more profits for Synchrony and our partners.
Living our values
Honest. Passionate. Caring. Responsible. Bold. Driven.
We have worked hard to build a successful company—and a caring one too. We have achieved both, thanks in large measure to our company’s values and the strong culture they underpin. It is this strength that powers our leadership in diversity and inclusion, our focus on innovation and our intense spirit of volunteerism and community engagement.
In 2019, Synchrony again put caring into action—extending a helping hand to the communities in which we live and work. In total, more than 6,500 Synchrony volunteers donated nearly 50,000 hours of their time to give back to our communities. Our strong culture is the force behind our global diversity networks. More than 10,000 employees now participate in these eight groups. They play a vital role in promoting diversity, inclusion and belonging throughout the company. In addition, Synchrony continues to create an environment where employees can be themselves, have their voices heard and thrive. I’m proud to say in 2019, Synchrony was once again named one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® and was certified as a Great Place to Work.®
In 2019, we continued to concentrate on employee development and enrichment. We invested in training and development to ensure our people have the skills that matter in the digital economy. We also implemented new work methods across the company that foster speed and collaboration. To support continuing education, we expanded our tuition reimbursement programs to cover degrees in education and healthcare, responding to increasing demand for these skills in the communities in which we operate. Since 2015, we have paid out more than $12 million in tuition reimbursement to employees.
We have also increased starting salaries for our hourly workers in the U.S. to at least $15 an hour and made our employees owners of the company with a special stock award as part of our five-year IPO anniversary celebration.
These and other employee programs reflect Synchrony’s continued commitment to create an inclusive, fair and caring workplace and a workforce dedicated to the success of our partners, customers and our company. You can read about our diversity and inclusion programs, and how Synchrony and our employees are giving back in our 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility Report available at synchronyannualreport.com.
During the five years since our IPO, Synchrony has made substantial investments in technology, data analytics, marketing, credit decisioning and talent development. In the year ahead, we will continue investing in the technology and systems that enable us to build industry-leading partner programs. To deliver, we’ve fast-tracked how we work. We’ve expanded our cross-functional, team-based Agile approach beyond our software development teams. Using these methods, we are driving new levels of speed—adopting a continuous, iterative approach to our work across Synchrony.
We continue to deliver on our strategy to drive Synchrony’s growth and diversification. We will continue to expand our current partnerships and add new ones; continue to extend Payment Solutions and CareCredit into new markets; continue to enhance the customer experiences we offer; and continue to keep our balance sheet strong.
To the entire Synchrony team, thank you. You’ve helped make 2019 a year we can all be proud of. In addition to being our most valued asset, as we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our IPO on July 31, 2019, you also became shareholders.
I also want to thank our board of directors for their contributions and dedication to Synchrony’s success. In 2019, we welcomed two new independent directors to our board, Ellen Zane and Fernando Aguirre. By every measure—expertise, experience, ideas, ethnicity and gender—Synchrony continues to have one of the most diverse boards of any public company. You can read more from Synchrony’s board of directors in our first annual letter to Synchrony shareholders within this report.
To our partners, customers and communities, our deep appreciation for your help in making 2019 another standout year.
And to you, our shareholders: A sincere thank you for investing and believing in us. Your continued support keeps us moving forward.
Without question, we are proud of the progress Synchrony has made over the last five-plus years. The diversification of our business, our thinking and our people are evident in all facets of our company and our work. But in everything we do, we never stop asking ourselves how we can do it better.
That’s what Changing What’s Possible is all about.
Chief Executive Officer