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Treasury Technology

ION Talks Product Plans, RFP Process

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September 21, 2018

Company discusses plans for all acquisitions in webinar; all products to be supported

E-commerceION Treasury said all its acquisitions will get equal treatment when it comes to support. The company stated its case in a webinar, where it also discussed the difficulties and frustrations companies have with treasury management system request for proposals or RFPs.

That the company has come forward to reveal its plans should come as some relief to many treasurers wondering about their TMSs in the wake of the company’s acquisitions of many of them.

“All our TMS products are fully supported and receive robust and sustained product investment, with their dedicated teams of subject matter experts,” said Alex Triplett, global head of product development at ION, who with Michael Kolman, head of business development at ION, participated in the webinar, which was hosted and moderated by NeuGroup. “However, our Treasury products roll up into ION Treasury, which provides the benefits of scale and collaboration across sales and account management, best practices in professional services and development, and ultimately a combination of scale and speed unmatched by others.”

ION first bought into the treasury systems market back in 2011 when it acquired Wallstreet Systems, now Wallstreet Suite (WSS). Along with WSS, its stable of brands now include Treasura, City Financials, IT2, ITS, Reval, and more recently, Openlink. ION has been very quiet about these acquisitions, which has left many treasurers wondering where these products stand in terms of support and their future.

Asked why it has kept such a low-profile in the treasury space until now, both Mr. Triplett and Michael Kolman, co-COO of ION, said they wanted to get the message out that the seven products they own all serve a purpose, with each system directed at companies with specific needs when it comes to TMS.

“We love Treasury,” Mr. Triplett said. “We think it’s an incredibly interesting area, historically underserved and underappreciated and we think treasury will continually become a more strategic part of the corporation.” He added that since its acquisition of Wall Street Systems, the company has spent “7 years investing a significant amount of time and money both organically and via over $1.5 billion in acquisitions in building the franchise.”

And now it can offer a variety of solutions for a variety of needs. “We have a diverse set of customers in terms of size, location, industry and they have varying priorities,” Mr. Kolman said. This makes it challenging for ION, however, “it gives us perspective that allows us to be advisors, so we are well-positioned to answer the most popular question asked: ‘what do other companies do?’”

Mr. Kolman went on to explain that because companies’ needs change over time, ION has started to see this play out with customers moving from one product to another. “We fully endorse such a move and in fact make it a point to visit our customers, see how they are using our products, refresh our understanding of their priorities, and recommend how new versions or even if there are alternative solutions to consider,” he said.

The benefit for the customers, Mr. Kolman added is that clients have no counterparty risk in moving from one of ION’s systems to another, and the move can come at a lower cost, and less time and effort given the same vendor is on both sides ensuring product collaboration, data integrity and premium customer experience.

As for the RFP process, ION and its team have been looking to make it more efficient. While across NeuGroups most companies said they are satisfied with their RFP process, nonetheless many think it takes too long, often to select “that no one is surprised by,” as one peer group member put it.

“It seems like there should be a more effective and efficient way of getting through the selection process,” said Mr. Kolman. “Take a search that we do in our everyday lives. Let’s pretend we are planning a trip to New York City. There are 114 hotels in midtown Manhattan. Could you imagine searching on Expedia and filtering amenities for only hotels that included a king size bed, clean bathroom, non-smoking, and a TV? We’d still have 114 hotels in our narrowed search assuming all had availability. We ultimately wind up then searching based on more discerning criteria such as location, price, brand, and then choose based on highest rated – what other people say.”

The problem in most RFP is that lengthy list of criteria: managing the requirements with spreadsheets or word documents can be extremely labor intensive and prone to error. From there it’s usually all downhill, with distraction after distraction cause by missed deadlines, missing files, and solutions that were overpromised in the first place. “We don’t like being distracted internally any more than [treasurers] do,” Mr. Triplett said. As a result, ION has chosen to use a short form vendor bake-off approach that addresses a company’s 5-10 must-have items. “Features that will truly distinguish what you need.”

This ION does by following a simple roadmap of sorts:
 

  • Determine the top criteria most important to your business. What are the make or break deciding factors?
  • Engage with the vendors before the RFP process about your top 5-10 criteria. You may be able to eliminate a few this way and narrow down your search.
  • Customize your RFP so that it really reflects your actual business needs. Don’t just use the AFP or consultant template verbatim.

Added Mr. Kolman, “If it is possible to narrow your initial search to 5 or so basic criteria, it could be a win-win for everyone and an opportunity to apply the cost savings into parts of the TMS project that have greater yield.”

 

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