On Wall Street, growth has long been reserved for some of the edgiest, most quickly expanding, and often tech-based companies. Think of any startups founded in the past 20 years that have come to dominate corporate America and daily life through cloud computing, e-commerce, or social media. Yet Wall Street itself upended convention during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the financial sector—including banks, trading shops, and lenders—grew to account for one-third of the companies included in Fortune’s latest 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list.
At the top of this year’s rankings is little-known Atlanticus Holdings. Founded in 1996, the Atlanta-based company, which was previously named CompuCredit, is a self-described “full credit-as-a-service provider” whose business has boomed as of late, thanks in part to its work helping retailers and other companies offer their customers point-of-sale financing. In other words, the company is involved in the “buy now, pay later” space, which has dominated headlines in 2021 and drawn interest from the likes of Square and Goldman Sachs. Over the past three years, Atlanticus has seen its revenues grow 69% on an annual basis, earnings per share jump 114%, and total returns to its investors skyrocket 168% (a list-topping figure).