Fiserv considers moving its headquarters

Brookfield officials working to retain financial services firm

The Fiserv headquarters in Brookfield.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:57 pm

Brookfield-based Fiserv Inc. is considering moving its headquarters out of Brookfield.

The Fiserv headquarters in Brookfield.
The Fiserv headquarters in Brookfield.

The Fortune 500 financial services technology developer is considering proposals from several real estate developers to develop a new headquarters in the metropolitan Milwaukee area, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Several developers have made proposals to Fiserv for new headquarters developments in the metro Milwaukee area, that source said.

Also, a Milwaukee commercial real estate source said an RFP was issued a few weeks ago seeking proposals for Fiserv’s headquarters, and the company is looking for 125,000 square feet.

“We continually evaluate our real estate portfolio across 18 countries and more than 120 locations worldwide to ensure that our workplace provides the best possible environment for our colleagues and our business,” said Fiserv spokeswoman Britt Zarling. “This evaluation is now extending to our corporate headquarters in Brookfield. During the next few months, we’ll be looking at how we might evolve our headquarters environment in alignment with our broader workplace strategy, brand and associate experience. We are in the very early stages of our exploration.”

Meanwhile, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said he and other city officials “are working hard to retain Fiserv in Brookfield.”

Ponto would not comment further on Fiserv.

Brookfield’s work to retain the company could involve an incentive package similar to the one provided to Milwaukee Tool when it was considering its $35 million Brookfield headquarters expansion last year. Ultimately, the city of Brookfield provided a $6 million tax increment financing district and the state agreed to provide up to $18 million in state income tax credits tied to job creation and capital investment over the next six years as an incentive. Milwaukee Tool is currently building the 200,000-square-foot, four-story office building on its campus at 13135 W. Lisbon Road in Brookfield.

Ponto said the Milwaukee Tool incentive package has worked out well, and the company has been broadening its expansion plans in Brookfield as the project progresses.

“We worked closely with Milwaukee Tool to provide an attractive incentive package and to facilitate an aggressive schedule of approvals for construction,” Ponto said. “We think that what’s happened at Milwaukee Tool, since they started construction of their new building, it’s been very successful and the fact is they’ve come in for some expansion of some of the outbuildings and they’re recladding some of the existing structures that they had to make a very effective business campus.”

Fiserv will consider renovations to its existing Brookfield headquarters, Zarling said.

Fiserv had $5.5 billion in revenue in 2016 and has about 23,000 employees at 120 global offices. Fewer than 4 percent of the company’s employees are in Brookfield.

It’s possible the company could consider moving its headquarters out of state. About 1,600 of Fiserv’s employees were in Alpharetta, Georgia as of 2016, which makes it the third-largest employer in that market and one of the company’s largest operations. Fiserv last year acquired Atlanta-based Online Banking Solutions Inc., adding another 40 employees in that metro area.

Peter Tokar III, economic development director for Alpharetta, declined to comment on whether Fiserv is considering moving its headquarters there.

“My hunch is, a company of this size, with a large presence like they have in Georgia, is not just looking in our area, but in several other states,” the Milwaukee commercial real estate source said.

“We have not made a commitment to any state to locate our headquarters, including Georgia,” said Zarling.

Mark Maley, spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said the public-private entity doesn’t comment on pending or potential incentive packages until a deal is complete.

Pat O’Brien, a spokesman for regional economic development organization Milwaukee 7, also declined to disclose whether M7 is involved in negotiations with Fiserv.

M7 serves as a sort of project manager for companies considering a relocation, connecting them to sources of incentives and talent, O’Brien said.

“Fiserv, as a driver industry, one that exports goods and services outside the region, is one we would focus on in terms of keeping them in the region and helping them in any way possible,” O’Brien said. “We are very interested in the outcome and we’ll help wherever we can.”

“Our legacy is in the greater Milwaukee area and we are very open to any conversations and actions that would ultimately benefit our associates, clients and shareholders,” Zarling said.

Joel Lee, president of Milwaukee-based Van Buren Management Inc., one of the largest commercial property owners in downtown Milwaukee, said he spoke with a representative from Fiserv about three years ago about his site, a parking lot, just east of the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Architect Matt Rinka has designed an office building for the site, southeast of Mason Street and Jefferson Street, to be called Washington Square, but it has never been built.

Lee said he also talked to BMO Harris about the Washington Square project. BMO later decided to work with development firm Irgens, which plans to build a new 25-story office tower for BMO next to its current downtown building on Water Street.

Fiserv could decide to move its headquarters to downtown Milwaukee. Several suburban firms have moved their offices to downtown in recent years. But sites in Brookfield and other suburban communities could also be considered.

“I’m not sure (Fiserv) has any idea yet where they want to be,” Lee said. “They are a suburban tenant. There is a balance of how many lives they want to disrupt. They have (employees) who live in Lake Country who don’t want to make the commute (downtown) and sometimes that is more important than how much money the city wants to throw at them.”

Lee said for a large tenant like Fiserv, there will be a myriad of opportunities and communities could offer competing incentive packages to try to attract the company.

“It’s likely going to be like Kohl’s, they’ll ask for the moon and the city will give it to them because they are not going to want to blow it again – this time it’s all tech jobs,” Lee said. “And Brookfield will do everything it can to keep them.”

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.