Spokane Journal of Business

Alliance Data grows in Coeur d’Alene

Company looks to add 140 workers this year

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-—Mike McLean
Alliance Data’s Derrek Thomas says he expects the Coeur d’Alene center will have 750 workers by year-end.
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-—Mike McLean
Alliance Data’s Coeur d’Alene operation is located in a three-story, 45,000-square-foot office building, shown above, in the former Coldwater Creek complex, at 745 W. Hanley. T he building originally was designed to house Coldwater Creek’s information technology department.
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Alliance Data Systems Corp., based in Plano, Texas, says it’s continuing to see strong growth in its Card Services division, both in Coeur Alene and companywide.

Derrek Thomas, senior director of operations based at the Alliance Data’s Coeur d’Alene Center, at 745 W. Hanley, says the two-building complex now has 610 Coeur d’Alene-based employees, up from 430 employees a year ago.

The company is hiring incrementally, and Thomas says he anticipates Alliance Data will grow its Coeur d’Alene staff to 750 employees by year-end, which could put it among Kootenai County’s top five largest employers.

Looking ahead to 2018 and beyond, he says, “I anticipate that we’ll probably set all in at about 800 to 850 employees.”

Alliance Data’s Columbus, Ohio-based Card Services division, which operates the Coeur d’Alene center, provides client and customer services for private-label and co-branded credit cards. The division also creates programs to drive sales, engage cardholders, and encourage brand loyalty.

Some of Alliance Data’s retail clients include Ulta Beauty, Ann Taylor, Children’s Place, and Lane Bryant.

Despite relatively low unemployment in Kootenai County, Alliance Data still has strong interest from potential recruits, Thomas asserts.

“We differentiate ourselves with the benefits offering we have,” Thomas says. “Our pay is strong for the area. When you bake in benefits, we’re up to $45,000 to $50,000 a year for entry-level positions—that’s average.”

Benefits include health insurance options, a 401(k) program, an onsite gym, tuition reimbursement, and subsidized healthy-eating options in the cafeteria.

Employee turnover at the Coeur d’Alene center is low for the industry, Thomas says.

“We look at every single employee we have here working on the phone as our most cherished commodity,” he says, adding, “Our decisions are centered around treating them as such. It not only reduces turnover, but also translates into great customer service.”

About 70 employees of the Coeur d’Alene center work from home, up from 25 a year ago.

“We’re looking to expand the work-from-home program to 100-plus by the end of 2017,” Thomas says. “Some people really like to work from home. It provides a benefit to them and to the organization, because we can only seat so many.”

The Coeur d’Alene complex still has some room for staff growth but will soon reach its combined capacity of 700 employees, he asserts.

“We’re largely going to be growing through our work-at-home program,” he says. “As the program expands, it will open up on-site seating.”

Thomas says Alliance Data is impressed with the Coeur d’Alene-area workforce.

“The great story here is we opened in 2014 and brought in 180 brand new associates that year, and they were performing at or above levels that we’ve seen from centers that have been open for 15 or more years in our organization,” he says. “We’ve found people here communicate well. They have a strong work ethic and an independent streak. They take a lot of pride in the work we do.”

The Coeur d’Alene center also is involved in community philanthropy, including running in-house campaigns to benefit United Way of Kootenai County, the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls food banks, St. Vincent DePaul, Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho, and Family Promise of North Idaho, Thomas says.

Alliance Data is made up of three business divisions; Card Services, Epsilon, and LoyaltyOne. Epsilon is a marketing agency that manages some of the largest databases used by Fortune 1000 companies. LoyaltyOne operates international loyalty and rewards programs.

Alliance Data’s total revenue for the quarter ended June 30 was $1.82 billion, an increase of 4 percent compared with the year-earlier period.

Net income was $138 million, down 2 percent compared with 2016 second-quarter earnings.

Card Services, however, showed the strongest growth, with 2017 second quarter revenue totaling $306 million, an increase of 13 percent compared with the year-earlier quarter.

Thomas says Card Services has seen double-digit growth for 22 straight quarters.

“We have an internal goal of $20 billion in accounts receivable by 2020,” he says. “We’re well on our way toward making that. We’ve had positive growth for a number of years, and I don’t see it slowing down.”

Thomas says Alliance Data’s Card Services has partnerships with 200 client retailers.

“Last year, we launched 22 new programs across 11 new brand partners,” he says. “If you walk through a mall and look left and right, a lot of names you see are brands that we support.”

The retail industry is very much alive, he asserts, although it must adapt with the times.

“The card program is more important than ever to our clients,” Thomas says. “We’re a key component as they’re changing their strategies to meet customers’ needs.”

Some brand partners see 40 percent to 60 percent of their sales on their cards, Thomas claims.

“Loyalty and rewards-based programs and great service continues to drive that usage,” he asserts.

Thomas says Alliance Data’s Card Services is serving 50 million active card members.

“So, one in five American adults has one of our cards,” he says.

Companywide, the Card Services division has 8,100 employees in 15 locations, up from 6,200 a year ago.

Earlier this year, Alliance Data opened a new Card Services center in San Antonio, Texas, and plans to open another next year in Salt Lake City.

Those centers combined can accommodate 1,400 employees when fully staffed over the next three to four years, Thomas says.

Alliance Data opened its Coeur d’Alene center three years ago in a three-story, 45,000-square-foot office building in the former Coldwater Creek complex, at 745 W. Hanley.

The building originally was designed to house the information technology department for Coldwater Creek, the Sandpoint-based women’s apparel retailer.

“They never occupied it, so we were the first ones here,” Thomas says. “We moved in, and we were going to be neighbors.”

Coldwater Creek, which operated a call center in an adjacent 75,000-square-foot, two-story building also had planned to be a brand partner with Alliance Data’s Card Services division.

“We were in the process of bringing them on,” Thomas says.

But the retailer, which had been teetering on the edge a fiscal abyss for a number of years, succumbed to bankruptcy that same year and vacated all of its facilities, including the Coeur d’Alene call center. 

Alliance Data last year expanded its Coeur d’Alene center into the next-door building.

Mike McLean
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Reporter Mike McLean covers real estate and construction at the Journal of Business. A multipurpose fisherman and vintage record album aficionado, Mike has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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