Stop Worrying About Interest Rates: Here's Why

Stop worrying about interest rates. Seriously. Your attention should be elsewhere.

Matt Koppenheffer
Matt Koppenheffer
Apr 10, 2014 at 7:33AM

Source: Global Payments

There are a lot of investors very concerned about interest rates. Hank Boughner is not. And I think he's right.

Boughner is the head of Corporate Development and Mergers & Acquisitions at Global Payments (NYSE:GPN) and I listened to him speak at the payment technology conference, Transact 2014. 

In a panel on M&A opportunities in the payments industry, the panel members were asked about changes in the interest rate environment and how that would impact what they're looking to acquire and how much they're willing to pay.

"Growth will trump a lot of other issues," was Boughner's response.

Let's unpack that
Boughner was referring specifically to Global Payments and the transactions that he's looking at for the company.

Global Payments is a payment processor and merchant acquirer. That means the company is the enabler of credit card transactions for businesses. In the hugely important behind-the-scenes processing that happens between the time that a customer swipes a Visa (NYSE:V) or MasterCard (NYSE:MA) credit card, processors link the Visa/MasterCard networks to the business and to the banks that actually fund the transaction.

Source: Global Payments

So when Boughner talks about growth "trumping" other issues when it comes to making acquisitions, he's saying that he's not focused on the Federal Reserve and the day-to-day wiggles in interest rates. Instead, he's looking for smaller merchant acquirers and processors that have a head of steam in adding businesses customers, that have compelling technology, that have an established foothold in an industry niche.

In other words, he's focusing on finding businesses that are succeeding, not on interest rates.

To your bottom line
We -- Foolish investors -- should be thinking along the same lines as Boughner. 

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Is Janet Yellen really going to hold growth back?

Interest rates are going to fluctuate. But trying to predict what's going to happen with rates in the near term is darn near impossible.

For proof of that, look no further than year-to-date 2014. With the Federal Reserve tapering its bond-buying programs, the broad expectation has been that interest rates would rise. They haven't. In fact, the 10-year Treasury started the year at 3%, and it's now at 2.69%.

This thought process -- focusing on business operations rather than rates and other macro trends -- works for thinking about Global Payments as an investment. It's grown its bottom line around 14% per year over the past decade. If you're considering investing in that company, do you worry about interest rate fluctuations? Or do you spend more time considering what continued growth in overseas e-commerce and credit/debit card payments could mean for Global Payments?

On the other end of the payment process, the same could be said for Visa and MasterCard. Do you focus on interest rates? Or the fact that, say, MasterCard's profit has more than doubled since 2009 and it's continuing to grow its global presence?

To me, it's really that simple: Understand what the impact of a changing interest rate environment means to your investments, but let business quality, not unpredictable rate movements, drive your investing process.