Vantiv isn’t a household word, but if you’ve used a credit or debit card at Kroger, Macy’s or LaRosa’s, you’ve been one of its customers.

The company, spun off from Fifth Third Bancorp in 2009, is an electronic payment processor that handles transactions for credit and debit card issuing financial institutions and merchants accepting them for payment.

Last year, Vantiv processed more than 15 billion individual transactions, up 19 percent from the prior year, for its clients that include 1,350 financial institutions and eight of the 25 largest retailers. Those transactions represented more than half a trillion dollars in goods and services.

Vantiv—the name is meant to suggest advantage and speed—is the third largest merchant acquirer of debit and credit cards nationally behind Atlanta-based First Data Corp. and Bank of America, according to the Nilson Report, a trade publication. And Vantiv is the single largest processor of PIN-activated debit cards.

Pretty impressive. Still, Charles Drucker, Vantiv Inc.’s president and CEO, concedes: “I don’t think generally a lot of people on the streets of Cincinnati know the company’s profile yet.”

Not that he’s worried about that.

“More and more people are hearing about us,” he says.

Vantiv has been one of the region’s fastest growing companies since its initial public stock offering in March 2012, the first by a Cincinnati company in seven years.

Fueled by transaction growth last year, net revenues topped $1 billion and net income grew 37 percent to $57.6 million, or 47 cents a share. This year, Vantiv expects net revenues to grow at least 18 percent to between $1.21 billion and $1.23 billion and net income to reach between 60 and 63 cents a share.

Since the IPO, Vantiv’s stock price has risen to about $27 a share, up more than 50 percent from the $17—a-share initial price.

That financial performance led Forbes to rank Vantiv 20th on its top 25 technology companies in June.

Employment has grown to about 2,800, including about 1,400 in Greater Cincinnati. That’s more than double the 1,100 the company employed in 2009 when Boston-based equity firm Advent International acquired 51 percent of Fifth Third Processing.

The growth is evident at the company’s 205,000-square-foot corporate office off Governors Hill Drive in Symmes Township where employee parking is at a premium. Besides its corporate functions, Vantiv operates a three-shift customer call center and software development in the building.

The company declines to comment specifically on reports it is looking for additional space.

Spokesman Andrew Ciafardini says: “We’re considering our needs and reconfiguring space accordingly.”

“As a fast-growing company, you always want to look at how you accommodate growth,” adds Drucker. “Space is part of it and we’re working with officials to make sure we have good pools of workers to attract and bring more jobs.”

Drucker, 50, is a hands-on CEO who likes to drop in on meetings and find out what employees are thinking.

“I want an empowering culture where people feel they’re empowered to think outside the box and make decisions that serve the customers,” he says.

A native of the Rockways in Queens, New York, Drucker, who joined Fifth Third as executive vice president of its payment processing business in 2004, has over 25 years in the industry.

“I fell into the credit card area with my first job. I was filming documents and putting them on microfiche. I learned the business from the ground up,” he says.

“I love this business because it reinvents itself. It makes you excited to come to work each day,” Drucker says.

A key element in Vantiv’s success is what it calls its “single, proprietary technology platform.”

Vantiv’s competitors, many of whom have grown through acquisitions over the years, have accumulated multiple platforms to process transactions.

Vantiv’s single platform handles both sides of the processing transaction: the merchant side when a customer makes a purchase and the financial institution side when the payment is authorized and accounts settled. It’s more efficient and less costly to support, Vantiv says.

“All our clients can connect to it in one spot,” Drucker says. “And when we bring a product out everybody gets it day one because it’s on our platform. It’s a pretty powerful tool.”

That capability is something Vantiv inherited from Fifth Third Payment Processing, which had a 40-year history in the business dating back to the 1970s with the launch of the Jeanie ATM network.

“It’s part of the discipline from Fifth Third,” says Drucker. “They’re a good, efficient company. When they bought things they consolidated them under one platform. It was that discipline that’s with us today and positions us well in the market.”

Like a college football player stepping up to the NFL on Sundays, Vantiv is taking the skills developed as part of Fifth Third to a national stage.

It’s broadening and deepening its capabilities. It has tripled its sales staff to more than 450, moved into regions beyond Fifth Third’s footprint in the Midwest and South and is acquiring new technical expertise.

Late last year, Vantiv paid $361 million for privately held Litle & Co., a leading supplier of electronic commerce processing software in Lowell, Mass.

Electronic commerce is growing twice as fast as traditional point-of-sale purchases, and Litle has developed best-in-class technology, known as payments intelligence, to help merchants deal with transactions where the credit or debit card isn’t physically present, says Drucker.

In July, Vantiv announced the acquisition of Arizona-based Element Payment Services Inc., a payments processor that works with independent software vendors developing products for small and mid-sized merchants and new markets such as rental payments, vending machines, gaming, entertainment and health care.

One example of how Vantiv is extending its reach is a partnership with NCR Corp. to offer Vantiv Mobile, a new app for iPads to handle transactions, offer additional functions like coupons to good customers, track inventory and other features.

Innovation in payment processing is creating opportunities and challenges.

“The thing that keeps me up most at night is the pace of change in the industry,” Drucker says. “It’s moving fast and as a leader you have to evaluate and pick where things are going. It’s been a lot of hard work, and the people around me have done a great job. We think we have a lot more runway to go.”