After 12 years of running a company that is 100% focused on negotiating on behalf of community banks against the Big Three Core IT oligopoly of Fiserv, FIS and Jack Henry, it’s not getting easier. In fact, it’s getting more difficult and more complex each year as these very intelligent suppliers maneuver, juke and jive to maintain market dominance over community banks whom, when doing it alone in a contract renewal negotiation, have little chance of getting a fair deal. The deck remains stacked against the industry even as many organizations finally begin to cry foul. Following the launch of the Golden Contract Coalition in 2016, ABA launched the “Core Platform Committee” in late 2018 turning up the heat publicly against core suppliers and calling out their unfair trade practices.
It continues to escape any common or practical business sense as to why a community bank would agree to voluntarily be locked into a 10-year technology contract. More so, the fact that a 10-year contract even exists (is offered at all) questions the ethical standards of technology suppliers and their commitment to selling services that fairly meet the needs of community banks in exchange for a reasonable profit. 10-year technology contracts are neither reasonable nor assist Banks in meeting any of their business needs. In fact, these contracts are predatory, outrageous and exorbitantly profitable to vendors and not their client “partners”. While all legacy Core IT suppliers would love to handcuff their clients to 10, 15 and 25-year contracts (yes, we’ve seen 25-year deals) one supplier - CSI of Paducah, Kentucky (www.csiweb.com) - appears to lead the charge on lacing their customer base within these contract shackles.
Paladin's CEO, Aaron Silva, recently had the pleasure of appearing on the This Month In Banking podcast by The Kafafian Group. Aaron and the hosts - Sharon J. Lorman, Jeffrey P. Marsico, and Gregg J. Wagner - discussed what the future of banking looks like, industry issues with the Big Three core providers, and the relationship between the two.
In late June, Forbes published an article on FIS’ recent attempt to unilaterally implement a new security surcharge on a “select few” of their clients without their permission (FIS has not stated publicly how many were targeted but GCC estimates there were 250-300 guinea pigs). These fees, costing several tens of thousands of dollars per client, were imposed because FIS stated it had recently improved its security infrastructure to address new threats and that they wanted to “partner” with their clients in sharing this expense. No explanation was provided as to exactly what these threats were or why they decided to deploy this tariff [now] and without the consent of their clients, even though each FIS client had already agreed to a security SLA guarantee in their existing agreements.
According to FIS, this security surcharge was justified, and in exchange they would extend indemnification to include the Banks’ client behavior subject to exclusions and Limits of Liability (LOL) already stated within their agreement. LOL is traditionally woefully inadequate in most standard FIS agreements as it is and so this "benefit" really has no tangible value to a banking franchise. FIS stated that these kinds of security measures are becoming increasingly necessary, as cyber-attacks are growing in popularity and evolving in complexity.
The Wall Street Journal published a story about small banks beginning to rebel against the Big Three Oligopoly ("the BTO") of core IT suppliers Fiserv, FIS and Jack Henry - now commanding more than 90% of market share according to CELENT. I was interviewed extensively by the writers about the ease (or difficulty) of technical access and economic affordability when banks need unfettered access to their data (i.e. for third party fintech partners). While they are starting to provide access, they're doing it in a way that unfairly monetizes your data to their exclusive benefit. Here's how.
Global independent investment banking advisory firm Evercore ISI interviews fintech expert Aaron Silva on all things banking. Listen now to Aaron's predictions for the banking industry: bit.ly/SilvaOnEvercore
I think it may be true. Clint Eastwood has been secretly behind the physical design and layout of most banking and credit union events for years. This theory dawned on me this spring as I attended and spoke at many national and regional events all over the country. Until starting Paladin fs in 2008, I spent most of my career as your typical vendor selling IT services to bankers. Today, I spend all of my time representing bankers in difficult Core IT negotiations with their vendors (Fiserv, FIS, JHA, S1, Q2, etc). Back in the day, attending and exhibiting at events became almost obligatory if you wanted to "get noticed" or hoped for someone to buy your wares. Being stuck behind a booth in the exhibit hall next to three of your competitors with flashier pens, higher-priced golf putters is a difficult and thankless pursuit. The days are long laced with many hours of boredom while your targets attend breakout sessions or play golf. Then, two to three times a day, a stampede of bankers rushes past you to acquire coffee, food or alcohol strategically located at the other end of the hall - that reminded me of the famous 1977 Clint Eastwood movie, The Gauntlet.
In October we highlighted a clear and present danger resulting from the further consolidation of the Core IT vendors. Fewer vendors exist than ever before and the impact to your service level, legal rights and business options are even slimmer if the institution does not make restructuring your relationship and contract a strategic board-level matter. We teamed up with attorney Gary Findley to put on a national web seminar on this very topic that was widely attended by CEOs and CFOs of all sized institutions. With tremendous feedback we have scheduled an encore presentation on December 10th and 11th if you are interested in joining and hearing some proprietary legal and business strategies on how to manage and mitigate this major risks area please attend.
Trekkie fans will understand the reference to the BORG and what it fees like when you don't have many choices. The assimilated Captain Picard provides this famous line, "...from this time forward you will service us." With the recent purchases of OSI by Fiserv and Harland by D+H many bankers believe the line could be rewritten, "...from this time forward ONLY we will service you...And you have nothing to say about it."
As a middle-aged man I ask this same question of myself all the time. Luckily, my wife is nice enough to not bring it up so often as she might otherwise like to - which is good since this is what makes her a great wife...she lies to me (about me). And of course I know what to say when she asks that question about how she looks in those new pants she just bought too.