Cashing in on the financial services industry
By Tara Seals
As markets go, the financial vertical
has a lot to offer a communications salesperson. Besides a deep technological
need for ever-evolving solutions and applications, banking and financial firms
require professional and consulting services, often have multiple locations and
tend to be very loyal. And sales organizations are cashing in with a tailored
approach to meeting their needs.
In general, industry-based target markets offer good
opportunities for salespeople willing to hone their expertise in a certain
field, says IT sales consultant Andrew Neitlich. In a telephone survey of 50
communications professionals he discovered a trend: Companies that focus narrowly on their market make more money
than those that stay broad and diverse. Focusing allows salespeople to reduce
marketing expenses, develop whole solution sales and build a reputation as
market specialists, which can be of great use in gaining referrals.
The most lucrative IT professionals have established a
narrow focus and are intent on serving a specific target market, says
Neitlich. They also go out of their way to dominate that market by
establishing trust, relationships and credibility. Less successful firms are
less focused and offer diverse services and features. They also tend to seek
quick, transactional sales.
The financial market is no exception: Customer service and relationship-building is critical.
In the financial industry, they want everything right away
and you have to be responsive, explains Michael Bottalico, head of Qwest
Communications International Inc. dealer Telecom Network Solutions Inc. We
pitch consistent and reliable support over the long term and providing all that
value on-site. They dont have the time to look at a monthly or quarterly
bill review, they dont have time to look at their invoices or call the sales
team. Sometimes we even have voice mail or e-mail accounts on the larger
accounts, and were part of their network infrastructure. Its grunt work, but just by being on-site you get business.
As a value-added service, Telecom Network offers regular
network inventories, order entry, verification and tracking, and it sends all
order notifications proactively. Similarly, Cindy Ried, a consultant with
Evolving Solution, sells financial institutions on the basis of being a one-stop
shop for support. I offer every major local carrier out there, so what I do
is ask them how theyre getting orders today do they have to call the LECs
and order the phone lines and T1s and rely on their local rep from each carrier?
she says. Most often [the answer is] yes, and most often they say its
cumbersome, very hard to get to the right person with the information. They need someone who knows the special packages and the
features for each of the areas, and 1-800- Verizon isnt going to offer that
Expertise also is key in winning these accounts. Steve Gareleck, president of PartnerTEL Inc., says the deals
are knowledge-based solution selling, without exception. Most of the agents
in the markets dont really understand that, and they dont understand what
their customers need, so they need training, he says. Its worth spending the money to hire guys who
have 10 or 15 years in the financial services industry that was our
approach, and now were closing these deals. Before, we werent.
Part of that expertise lies in understanding underlying
business needs. PartnerTEL has developed platforms to give financial services
companies a telecom manager to manage their infrastructure and telephony.
These are tool sets for customers that differentiate us when were
competing for that business with an RFP, says Gareleck. You have to give
them a lot of value these days; theyre much more cost-conscious.
Analyst firm In-Stat/MDR reports banks demand faster, more
reliable, more secure access to internal and external information. Also, rigid
service-level requirements and network availability are crucial to banking
needs, particularly when it comes to security. However, this industry is very
focused on total cost of operation and demands a proven return on investment,
partially due to the tremendous pressure on capital and operating expenses,
says Amy Cravens, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR. While financial
institutions are working toward better communication networks, this goal is
being pursued in an extremely cost-sensitive light. Because of the impact on
banks and trading firms from the economic downturn, their approach to technology spending has
These financial institutions want to do more with less, and
any vendor that can help them do that, they want to talk to, says Jim Leach,
vice president of marketing at SAVVIS Communications Inc. There are two
parts. If theres a vendor out there that can help with generating revenue,
growing the top line and doing more, then great. Or if they can help banks run
their businesses in the same way and save 20 percent, then thats great too.
Solutions that bolster customer service, such as database
integration, unified messaging, interactive voice response systems or contact
centers are hot tickets. Managing customer interactions well translates into
additional revenue for banks, explains John Gaillard, vice president of sales
and business development for value-added distributor Catalyst Telecom. Financial
services organizations are trying to expand their customer relationships, so
instead of doing business with a customer around one type of product say,
checking, investments or trust funds you want to do business on all your
Thus, a bank wants the customer to use its services any way
that he or she wishes and to be able to have access to information seamlessly,
whether via self-service on an ATM, walking into a branch office or online
Theyre looking at how to integrate technology to help
them engage a better customer relationship and be able to build on that, says
Anthony Daley, senior vice president and general manager for the Americas at
value-added distributor Westcon Group North America Inc. If I call into the
branch to talk about my loan, the person knows they have access to information
anywhere. So even if I dont reach a loan officer, the person Im talking to
could still pull up those records and at least give me the information on where
I stand on the loan.
For instance, Cisco Systems Inc. has launched its Branch Bank
of the Future initiative, designed to address the fact that while customers have
adopted Internet banking systems, they still express a need and desire for the
traditional bank branch. Most importantly, retail customers now expect to have
all the information and features they have begun to be comfortable with through
the Internet banking channel to be available at the bank branch. Retail banks
are faced with updating the branches; Cisco says converging voice, video and
data allows retail banks to integrate and deliver diverse customer information.
Ciscos tailored solutions include IP telephony, customer care, IP ATMs and
kiosks, content delivery networks, video surveillance, wireless LANs and
customer service applications.
Banks also focus on maintaining viability in a crowded market.
A small bank wants to look like a big bank, thats very important,
explains Gaillard.Theres almost more of an opportunity in local community
banks, because their customers are looking at the technology trends that are
happening with the larger banks and they want the same thing ATM, online
bill pay, access to bank accounts around the world. Whether its telephony,
data networking, databasing, VPNs, secured access, there are sales opportunities
around that, because the small to midsize banks understand they have to offer
the same services, in the same manner, that the larger banks do if theyre
going to compete long-term.
Efficiency is another byword for financial services firms, and
outsourced services can fit the need. SAVVIS, which counts Morgan Stanley and the NASDAQ as clients,
offers a carrier-neutral, private, core communications infrastructure that
financial institutions use to run their applications and to access a portfolio
of voice and data services. For instance, where a banks legacy networks might
not support the latest contact center solution, it can sign on with SAVVIS to
use its network to support and deliver the application at a fraction of the cost
of upgrading the banks entire backbone.
The key concept is that the customer plugs into the SAVVIS
infrastructure and all of the network, hosting and data services are available
to them, says Leach. Its hard for traditional IT folks to grasp that
because theyre used to going out and buying their own computers and storage
devices and routers and network circuits and engineers and putting that all
together themselves. Why not plug into SAVVIS for all those capabilities, and
the financial institution can then focus in on what differentiates them in the
marketplace, and thats usually the applications, customer- facing electronic
banking, service-oriented call center, back-office like straight-through
processing, or things responding to new legislation such as the Patriot Act or
the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Gaillard says streamlining deployment and technology is
another motivator for banks. Theyre considering standards compliance and the updating of
older solutions to newer technologies, and there are ever-evolving B2B
relationships, from payment systems integration and online bill paying, so how
do you do that? he explains.
Connections between the institutions and banks themselves, as
well as connections between information dealers such as Reuters and the stock
exchanges and mutual funds brokers, are part of what differentiates the
financial vertical from, say, the medical sector or retail.
The killer application in the financial services space is
the community. If you approach and look at the business drivers and the
challenges and opportunities in the financial services space, with that approach
youre much more apt to close the deal, says Gareleck. If you look at
the financial institution as a community, when youre talking to one
institution, a lot depends on how they interact with other institutions, and
quite often they want to communicate with each other over a private network,
according to all the regulations its got to have a high level of security.
In-Stat, incidentally, forecasts security solution shipments in the financial
realm to grow healthily through 2007.
Bottom line, its a consultative sell, says Gaillard.
We believe in solving a business need thats where the CIOs and the
CTOs are spending money. Today, technology needs to solve a business need or the
banks are not going to spend the money on it.
One Banks Story: A Case Study
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., is the
First and foremost, its existing network vendor was no longer going to
The organization also was looking to support a 60 percent growth factor.
Our goal was to meet increasing demand for bandwidth with limited support,
In supporting the rapid growth of the Desert Schools e-commerce demands,
They found Calence Inc. in nearby Tempe, Ariz., a Cisco Systems Inc. gold
Calences partnership with Cisco was key in our choosing them for this
The staff at Calence and Desert Schools teamed up to review the credit unions
Our existing system had a single T1 line for data and one for voice,
Calence wanted to use the Cisco Inverse Multiplexing Across ATM (IMA)
Now we had to rebuild the airplane while flying it! says Patrick Dirck, who was a consulting director for Calence during the
Post-deployment, Desert Schools has installed kiosks that offer the credit
Desert Schools overall goal was to do more with less, and with the new
Courtesy of Cisco Systems Inc. Used with permission.
|Andrew Neitlich www.itprosuccess.com
Catalyst Telecom www.catalysttelecom.com
Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Evolving Solution www.evolvingsolution.com
PartnerTEL Inc. www.partnertel.com
Qwest Communications International Inc. www.qwest.com
SAVVIS Communications Inc. www.savvis.net
Telecom Network Solutions Inc. www.tnsdata.com
Westcon Group North America Inc. www.westcon.com
Calence Inc. www.calence.com
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