Peter R. Rancie co-founded TranzactCard in 2021. Though the company is based in Provo, Utah, Peter’s origins trace back to Australia, where he grew up in a neighborhood re-purposed from temporary housing initially built for athletes of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
“If the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step, let’s just say that I’ve done the journey of a 1,000 miles, one step at a time. I can hardly believe myself the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done, so if we’re going tell some part of the story at this time, let the relevant parts stand on their own without any embellishments,” he insists.
From his first job as an elementary school teacher, to his forays into entrepreneurship in banking, financial services, film, media, and resorts, Peter’s professional path is indeed a fascinating journey of a thousand miles. From teacher of seven elementary school students in a one room country schoolhouse, his career eventually spanned multiple continents and an array of industries.
As a 20 year old, Peter’s teaching career began after graduating from what is now known as the Bendigo Campus of LaTrobe University, located in Victoria, Australia. Peter married his beautiful wife Christine in December, 1974, just weeks after both of them graduated. They will be celebrating 50 years of marriage, in December of 2024, and have six accomplished children and thirteen grandchildren. His first teaching assignment was at a school where he was tasked with piloting a new method of instruction called Open Design Schooling.
“It was a school of 300 children and 24 teachers,” Peter says. “We had to figure it out ourselves because it was an experimental design school. It was something of a government foray into formalizing the free-thinking sixties. There were no guidelines, just these big, open areas with no dividing walls. At first, it was a shemozzle (one of his favorite words): clueless teachers, upset parents, and bewildered students, but after two years of trial and error we had morphed the school into something of an education paradise.”
For Peter, teaching was as much a learning experience for him as it was for his pupils. As he learned to navigate the new landscape of the experimental design school, his propensity to “figure things out” became a cornerstone philosophy in shaping what would become a successful and eclectic career.
From the classroom to the finance industry
While Peter had entered the teaching profession thinking it would be his life’s work, it only took him three years to realize that an elementary school classroom wasn’t going to keep his mind engaged for the next forty years. Nor did he enjoy the daily confines of government bureaucracy. Without much forethought, as a 23 year old trained for nothing but the classroom, he exited his career as an educator. After a few years of experimenting with a variety of jobs, a brief and profitable stint selling advertising for the Yellow Pages paved the way for the major leap that would shape the rest of his professional life. Peter joined forces with his brother, Ken, in the world of advertising.
Ken Rancie was running a home-based, one-man, advertising agency and was in desperate need of an employee or partner to share the load. Ken’s wife, Sharon, knowing her husband’s workload and frustration, had asked Peter to help his brother find qualified candidates to interview for the position.
“My first way to help him was to orchestrate interviews,” Peter reflects. “I brought to Ken’s office (his bedroom), every competent executive that I had worked with. The thought that I would step into this role didn’t occur to me.” However, as fate would have it, Peter turned out to be the only feasible candidate.
“After I’d made all these introductions, I concluded that Ken wasn’t going to trust anyone but me. Although I was untrained, unprepared, and blind as a bat business-wise, I jumped in with both feet. Thus began my career in advertising which has brought me everything else over the past 40 years.”
“I learned by doing, making lots of mistakes along the way. I tell my kids, not entirely tongue in cheek, that everything I know now, I learned by doing it the wrong way the first time.”
Peter stepped forward, into an industry far removed from the familiar, predictable classroom setting, linking arms in a marketing agency partnership with his brother. “Eventually, I became something of a media strategist, negotiating a range of lucrative multimillion dollar deals for national television, radio, magazines and newspapers, while initially, all the creative and production to roles fell to Ken,” Peter says. “We spent about 15 years as partners in various iterations of that marketing and advertising world. The way we blended creative ad concepts with paid media, high profile journalists, television and radio programming, and consumer impact, definitely left its mark on the bottom line of our national clients. It got us into offices and boardrooms in Australia’s financial capitals that could hardly have been the dream of a couple of penurious boys brought up hanging around on the streets and practice fields of the former Olympic Village.”
One of their ad agency’s first big wins, though they hardly knew its significance at the time, occurred as they helped develop a quaint, 140-year-old insurance company, OST (Order of Sons of Temperance) Friendly Society into a billion-dollar enterprise.
“When we started with OST, they had about one million dollars in assets,” Peter explains. “Across five years, through all sorts of ambition and trial and error, we helped them grow into a billion-dollar business. More importantly, that’s where we learned the ropes of the massive financial services industry.” After five years, OST was bought out by a larger company and the Rancie brothers had to go find their next big fish.
The success with OST helped propel Peter and Ken to the upper echelons of other financial organizations, including some of Australia’s most notable banking, insurance and funds management giants; along the way, mixing with Australia’s leading media, entertainment, and investment professionals.
Peter shares, “As just one example of many, we developed an investment product and a campaign that allowed Australia’s largest fund manager at the time, AMP, to draw in $150 million per week of cash deposits from the major national banks until the fund was filled. That was a record-breaking migration of consumer deposits from multiple banks to one fund manager.”
As Peter tells it, by creative problem solving, these two West Heidelberg lads eventually pushed out the then world’s largest advertising agency, George Patterson Bates, from the AMP account, and they took over control of that company’s $25 million annual ad spend. They worked with one of Australia’s leading journalists, a 60 Minutes icon, to develop The Investment Report, and syndicated a daily digest, ultimately hundreds of finance stories and financial ideas, to 50 talk-radio stations across Australia. For St. George Bank, a subsidiary of Westpac Bank (one of Australia’s four major banks sitting at number 50 on the World’s Top 100 Banks list), they developed a 13-part mini drama tv series, with a new episode released at a fixed time every week in prime-time national television. The tv mini series was accompanied by 13 high quality booklets, each expanding the drama and adding relevant product news. The booklets were free but they could only be obtained by visiting a branch of the St. George Bank, creating massive new traffic into the branches. Peter commented that while the format was head turning, the real magic of that drama series is that, as a result of his negotiations with them, the national television network paid for most of the airtime out of its own programming budget. He told me that the adventures they had with banks, bankers, fund managers, and media networks are too numerous for a brief bio sketch, but those creative adventures made this pair one of the top 20 fastest growing ad agencies in Australia.
Australia’s top four banks are all in the world’s top one hundred banks. Peter’s acquired ability, from classroom to boardroom, to figure out the nuances and intricacies of the financial world, to develop innovative, product design and marketing solutions within that world, eventually enabled him to navigate beyond the shores of Australia.
“It has been a fascinating journey,” says Peter. “I’m more of an entrepreneur than a banker, but from quite humble beginnings. I’ve had the privilege of strategizing and problem solving with bankers and financial industry professionals all over the globe for almost 40 years. I’m not sure who else might have a similar story? From a quaint old insurance company, to the boardrooms of Australia’s biggest financial institutions, I’ve since been behind the closed doors of some of the huge banks and smaller private banks in Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, London, Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, and New York, with a vast array of negotiations and projects.”
Peter and his brother Ken controlled advertising and marketing expenditures of more than $100 million during their partnership, generating millions of customers and billions of consumer funds transfers between institutions. Curiously, Ken had devised a bank card concept designed to bring more value to bank customers than the typical card rewards available then and now. In 2011, they traveled to the US together to launch this new concept via community banks, considering the USA as an ideal, larger, and more flexible market than Australia. Ken’s health and family circumstances regretfully meant that he couldn’t stay to see the project to its conclusion. Peter stayed, and as he always says, one thing leads to another.
For the past 12 years, Peter’s banking focus has been US community banks. That initial bank card excursion of the Rancies led them to be introduced by a Philadelphia based law firm to Terry K. McEwen, a career banker and bank regulator. Terry had recently been the Director of Banking for the State of New Jersey, a $170 billion stewardship. During that tenure, Terry had also served as chairman of the 50-state committee that re-wrote the mortgage lending rules following the sub-prime lending disaster which triggered America’s 2008 financial catastrophe. This new friendship turned out to be a pivotal relationship in several ways. As a member of the African American minority, Terry’s friendship and experience helped school Peter in cultural nuance, and the woes of the unbanked and underbanked that are still not being addressed by governments or financial institutions, except in a cursory way.
Under Terry’s banner and also independently, Peter has peered into the closets and viewed the skeletons of community banks across the USA, from New York to Philadelphia, Mobile to Atlanta, and Provo to Los Angeles, studying the financial statements, reviewing the actual books, negotiating solutions with owners and executives, and watching the FDIC’s operations at work, first hand.
“I didn’t have more than a generalized knowledge about US banks, especially community banks, when I first met Terry,” says Peter. “But now, after a dozen years and an untold number of analysis sessions and bank visits, I can look at any bank’s quarterly call reports (standard regulatory public disclosures) and understand their strengths and weaknesses, capital ratios, core businesses, profit centers, and even the likely prospects of their success or failure with a high degree of accuracy. More importantly, I’ve learned to help bankers problem-solve in a manner specific to their needs. All of that has come under Terry McEwen’s watch-care,” says Peter.
Based on that experience and his penchant for problem solving, Peter was invited to help redraft the mission statement, define the core principles, and serve on the Policy Board of the United States Bankers Association (USBA — usbankers.org). Unlike his entrepreneurial ventures with Ken, where the focus was so often on large financial institutions, the USBA is designed to help small-to-medium banks increase their profits, find new customer acquisition strategies, and choose new technologies, that will allow them to meet the challenge of competing in a national market dominated by behemoths.
It’s here, in this delicate interplay of global strategies and local needs, that Peter’s work in the banking world expanded to include a more cause-driven, social impact focus, eventually leading him to a new entrepreneurial venture in the financial services industry. This time, though, it wasn’t as an advisor to financial organizations, but rather it was as co-founder of a financial services organization.
Early in 2021, after several years of watching Utah-based e-commerce entrepreneur Richard Smith work, Peter teamed-up with him to co-found TranzactCard, a move that Peter says, represents the culmination of his professional journey of “figuring things out.” A journey that took him from classroom to boardroom, Australia to America, with stops on every continent and all of the world’s major financial centers in between.
Peter is careful to correct the notion that “all is light and sweetness” along this decades long journey. Not every campaign was successful. Not every client relationship worked out. He is prone to quote a statistic from the realm of professional tennis, his own sport of choice, where if you are winning 55% of points played you are number one in the world. Further, many of the more recent sessions in major financial banking centers were not about marketing and business development, they focused on public and private wealth creation strategies, buying and selling of financial instruments, finance law, and financial policies. He notes that he has been exposed to the nasty underbelly of the financial world and escaped, by “grace alone,” the grasping and lures of charlatans and misfits scattered amongst the world of high finance. Ultimately, this is the reason he chose to focus on the much more “purely motivated,” less “systemically corrupted” and “solutions-needy” sector of community banking.
The launch and building of TranzactCard marks the fusion of a lifetime of knowledge and experience.
“I began my journey into the realm of banking and financial services, combined with media savvy creativity through the partnership with Ken, whereas, my useful underpinnings in the subtleties and needs of US community banks was transmitted through association with Terry McEwen. There was, however, still a missing piece; I had some unfinished work. That’s where partnering with Richard Smith completes the picture,” Peter explains.
He goes on to relate that he had watched Richard at work for several years, trying to raise capital to acquire an interest in a bank. He was also trying to acquire or develop innovative bank card technologies to combine with a card rewards concept. The objective was to deliver more than airline miles or tiny cash back percentages. Richard’s concept was to deliver a dollar-for-dollar reward, not just a 1% or 2% reward, utilizing a private e-commerce platform. While theoretically powerful, even inspiring, Richard’s business plan had thus far lacked four key attributes, according to both Peter and Richard: direct access to the FDIC insured banking system, direct access to the Visa or MasterCard transaction rails and interchange fees, adequate capital, and the right partners and management team.
“As I watched Richard, who had been introduced by a mutual friend, try to lift this mountain for more than five years, I finally realized, as with Ken decades ago, it had to be me,” he says.
“I had admired Richard’s vision, courage, passion, and commitment to making life better for ordinary Americans. But after watching a parade of people stir the pot and add nothing, I realized that if we joined forces, it would allow his vision, and my experience and resources, to coalesce into one. The card, the banks, and the viable e-commerce platform became TranzactCard.”
Though TranzactCard is still technically in its pre-launch phase, it is beginning to capture the attention of the U.S. banking community. With nearly 20,000 bank account customers already enrolled, many times more customers than most American banks, TranzactCard’s innovative financial ecosystem is making waves and generating excitement for social impact banking.
Social impact in the Personal and Corporate DNA
Having spent decades raising millions of dollars for worthy causes, including his own foundations and charities, Peter used his experience to carefully design TranzactCard’s social impact structure. The objective was to allow for generational longevity, and permanent protection of its primary beneficiaries — the TranzactCard Members and Digital Branch Offices. The unusual corporate design of TranzactCard emerged from Peter’s business and charitable giving experiences across decades. He established a national foundation in Australia in 1994, recruiting leading members of the political, legal, military, entertainment, sporting, and social regimes to support causes such as help for at-risk youth, and re-connecting families separated by war and migration from across the world. He has sponsored projects for housing, water, and social welfare in Australia, USA, South Africa, East Africa, and Indonesia. Peter has been a decades long supporter of the work of Anasazi Foundation’s nationally recognized work with at-risk youth, among many other initiatives. Despite all that experience, even combined with the aid of many high-profile celebrities, he has witnessed firsthand the perpetually taxing fund-raising needs of charities in their quest for social impact. He was determined that TranzactCard should not have to always be proffering its “begging bowl” to stay funded. TranzactCard was deliberately designed to operate as a for-profit, while being structured as a not-for-profit, all of which was easier said than done and required some difficult legal maneuvering. Co-founders Richard Smith and Peter Rancie agreed from the earliest days of TranzactCard to this design, but it took the expertise of the third board member, Jared Moss, attorney and General Counsel, to legally formalize the trust structure to preserve a social impact legacy for generations. From its inception, positive social impact outcomes have been the focus, strategically and purposefully built into TranzactCard’s very DNA.