DEAR SYNCHRONY STAKEHOLDERS,
As you read this letter, Brian Doubles is now Synchrony’s President and Chief Executive Officer, and I am in my new position as Executive Chair of Synchrony’s Board of Directors. In his inaugural letter, Brian shares his thoughts on Synchrony’s performance in 2020 and where we are heading this year.
First, though, we thought it would be appropriate for me to take a look at the kind of company we set out to build nearly seven years ago when we went public, the progress we’ve made against our original goal, and what our future may hold.
Last year, in the face of the pandemic and calls for social justice and racial equality, companies of all sizes, including Synchrony, were tested in ways unlike anything we’ve experienced. It was as much a test of company cultures and values as it was of business models and fundamentals.
I am proud to say Synchrony successfully met every challenge with fortitude and compassion. We proved we can weather tough times while transforming our company for the future, relying on our strong values and unique culture. We demonstrated the resilience and flexibility instilled in our company’s DNA from the very beginning.
From the day of our company’s initial public offering—July 31, 2014—we dedicated ourselves to building a great business that was also a great company:
An enterprise that’s both a great business and a great company embodies several distinct characteristics.
One is consistently strong financial results over time. In the six and a half years since our IPO we grew into a Fortune 200 business and increased our purchase volume by 43% (to $139.1 billion), increased receivables by 49% (to $81.9 billion) and increased bank deposits by 106% (to $62.8 billion). During the period from 2014 to 2020, Synchrony ranked first in net earnings growth as compared to our direct peers.1
Financial results alone are not enough. It’s also necessary to consider how those results are achieved. Real value—increasing earnings, happy customers, engaged and thriving employees, game-changing innovations, and most importantly, enduring success—is derived from a company’s values. Values are the behaviors a company cherishes and celebrates, that guide every decision and every activity. They are the heart of an organization, what it believes and how its people perform.
As we prepared to IPO and build Synchrony into a great organization, we wanted to differentiate ourselves by our values—so we chose them carefully. Throughout my career I have seen the positive impact that one can have on partners, customers and employees—just by listening, being empathetic or offering a helping hand. I have also had the opportunity to work with so many great leaders and colleagues who would offer personal support to solve a difficult problem or achieve an important goal. That’s why “caring for others” would become our company’s first core value, defining our commitment to show empathy in all we do. It is the reason many come to work here and stay working here.
Next, we gave a lot of thought to how we wanted to conduct our business. So, we added the values of being “honest”, “passionate” and “responsible.” While also insisting we be “bold” and “driven.”
Living these values every day enabled us to build a special kind of company. A company with a unique culture that is diverse and inclusive, a place where everyone can grow and learn, and be innovative and agile.
Our VisionTo build a future
where every ambition
is within reach.
Our Values Honest
Our Commitments Champion Customers
Act Like an Owner
Relate and Inspire
I have always believed high-performing teams must be as diverse as the people they serve. And the way you build diversity is through inclusion. From the start, our leadership team maintained a laser-like focus on building an inclusive, differentiated, people-first organization. Our workforce in the United States is 44% non-white, including 20% Black and 12% Hispanic. Nearly 60% of our workforce is female. We are proud of these numbers but believe we can do more. Which is why we have launched initiatives like Advancing Diverse Talent to help grow our diverse workforce. We also continue to grow our eight Diversity Networks, which help cultivate a culture of inclusion, with more than 10,000 employees participating.
We believe opportunity isn’t for the few, it’s for everyone. We help our employees develop new skills by taking the long view—identifying jobs we think will be reinvented by technologies like artificial intelligence and training employees to meet what’s next. We offer tuition reimbursement, reskilling certifications and continuous learning programs to lift and empower our people, including our hourly workers. We provide opportunities to learn new skills, grow and move into salaried roles either within Synchrony or outside of our company in fast-growing sectors like healthcare and education.
When we founded Synchrony, we knew we had to invest in the groundbreaking technologies that were reshaping business, so we committed to investing more than a billion dollars in those early years to build the digital foundation and capabilities that helped us to weather the pandemic, and deliver innovative digital technologies for our partners and consumers.
A caring, diverse and inclusive company focused on learning, innovation and adaptability may sound like a boardroom fantasy. But I believe this is exactly the company we built. Others agree. Many external organizations—and our own people—consistently rank Synchrony a top company for employees.2 We are also committed to giving back to our communities with both dollars and volunteerism. We are privileged to work with loyal partners and satisfied customers who value this culture, along with our innovative products and services.
Our response to the pandemic in 2020 was a test case for the great business and company we created. Keeping employees safe and engaged, delivering for our partners, customers and shareholders, and helping our communities—all while keeping our eye on the long-term health of our company—was our greatest test and finest hour. Of course, we did it by leaning on our values and remembering what makes Synchrony unique.
Throughout history, periods of disruption are followed by economic growth; periods of disease by enlightenment. Human beings are natural rebounders—and natural learners. This time will be no different. While we are in the midst of such a disruption now, there is reason for great optimism and hope. I believe we are on the cusp of a period of growth and fairness. Guided by our values and unique culture, Synchrony is committed to leading in this new era, which I believe will be defined by three major trends:
As the virus recedes, I believe there will be pent-up demand. The economy will benefit from the technology engine that both preceded the pandemic and powered through it. Synchrony is ready to meet that moment. During the pandemic, many companies like Synchrony and our partners went further and faster—using digital methods to reach new customers and innovating to offer new products and services. We’ve done the hard work and are ready to meet the coming demand.
Social justice movements became a powerful force in 2020 with demands for racial equality, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, equal access and the right to food and healthcare. I am confident this represents more than a temporary surge in interest and will translate into real action and change. Synchrony has and will continue to play an important role. We have always been committed to a company and a future built on justice and equality for all. Last year, we established a senior-level diversity and inclusion taskforce, led by Brian Doubles, to further advance equality across all areas of the business. Look for even more actions in 2021 and beyond to promote diversity and inclusion as we move from the year of protest and talk to a decade of action and results.
In the period following the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 we saw great innovation and technological advancement. From automobiles and air travel, to television and cinema, to leaps in medicine and healthcare, we saw rapid modernization in most aspects of everyday life. I envision a similar era emerging from this pandemic: an era of rapid innovation powered by digital—in healthcare, transportation, energy, financial services and other industries—that improves lives and spurs growth. Companies around the globe, having already embraced digital transformation to cope with the pandemic, will accelerate these efforts to drive growth and innovation.
These three foundations of our next era—an economic rebound, a decade of social justice action, and an infrastructure renaissance driven by digital—will be led by those companies who have done the hard work to meet these opportunities. That includes delivering on a company’s commitment to all stakeholders—where partners, customers, employees, shareholders and communities increasingly want to associate with businesses who have shared values and have earned their trust through action.
Synchrony has prepared for this future and is poised to help lead this era of growth and fairness.
This company, this team and this culture are why I am so optimistic about the future—both for Synchrony and society.
Brian Doubles, Synchrony’s new president and chief executive officer, is the right person to lead our company into this next chapter.
Brian has been my close partner and confidant in building this great business and even better company. As our chief financial officer and then president, he established our strong financial and capital foundation. He championed both short-term execution and long-term strength. He drove our strategy and business transformation efforts aimed at growth and diversification.
Brian is a complete leader who cares deeply about all of our stakeholders. He is one of the main architects of Synchrony’s unique culture and is committed to preserving and extending it.
This is Brian’s company to run. As for me, I am here to help him in any way he needs. It has been the honor of my life to lead this amazing company; and in my new role as executive chair of the board of directors, I look forward to working with lead independent director Jeffrey Naylor and the Board overseeing the strong corporate governance processes we have in place. I’ll also spend time representing Synchrony externally, supporting and telling the story of all the great initiatives the company is driving.
Before I close, I want to thank Rick Hartnack, the first Chairman of Synchrony’s Board of Directors. Rick’s wise counsel, strong values and decisive leadership have been invaluable. He has left an indelible mark on Synchrony.
To our Synchrony employees: I appreciate you more than you know and more than I can express in words. You are among the best in the industry. I am honored to have had the privilege to work alongside you and to have learned so much from you. Together, we’ve shaped Synchrony into what we set out to build in 2014—a great business and a great company.
To our Board, our partners and customers, the communities we operate in, our shareholders—and everyone who has believed in and supported our vision and mission these past seven years—thank you for your support.
Finally, to Brian Doubles: For the last decade you have been an incredible colleague, partner, leader and friend. Thank you for all you have given to our team and for all you will give in the years ahead. Our company is in excellent hands. I am excited to see the great things you and our Synchrony family accomplish.
1 Direct peers include American Express Company, Capital One Financial Corporation and Discover Financial Services.