Now 30 Years In, Software Sellers Rejoin the Fray Together Again
Having failed at retirement, John Landis figured he might as well engage again in what he calls the “intellectual challenge” of creating, selling and supporting a new core processing system for credit unions.
Ed Perry, meanwhile, had worked with many of the hundreds of credit unions running the software Landis had originated, so why not join in?
Landis developed the Galaxy system in the late 1970s (it later went to Fiserv Inc.) and then the Symitar platform in the mid-1980s before he and his partners sold that company to Jack Henry & Associates in 2000.
Not being into golf or other stereotypical retirement pursuits, he said, Landis has spent the past several years developing what’s now the KeyStone core processing system and Corelation Inc., the San Diego company that surrounds it.
Landis is the new company’s chairman. Its president, Theresa Benavidez, is an original Symitar employee who went on to a long career as a senior executive for Fiserv before retiring herself and then joining Landis.
Carl Barlow, a 20-year software architect at Symitar, has come aboard as Corelation’s director of systems architecture, and now comes Perry, who stayed retired all of about two months before joining Landis and team this fall as business development executive.
Perry said he first sold a Landis-designed core processing system in 1981 to a Texas credit union he said is still using it. He retired in July and joined Corelation in September, saying he’d rather face today’s adventures in business air travel than the honey-do list of long-made promises at home.
“Well, it’s kind of like with John,” Perry said. “My wife wasn’t real comfortable with me sitting around the house all the time, and when Theresa invited me to join them, well, you only get a couple chances in life, opportunities like this, so I figured this was a great one for me.”
While hitting the road and the runways again selling the new system “is fun and exciting, and a whole new, clean slate for me,” Perry said, he and Landis agreed that things have changed some since 1985.
Landis points to the technology. “I last built a new platform on a 16-bit machine with 256k of memory and 20-meg hard drive,” he said. “Now CPU speeds are 12,000 times what they were then, memory is about 32 times as great and disk space about 30 times.”
Green screens are nearly extinct and so are many of the limitations of what a core processing system can do. “In fact, we didn’t even call them core processing systems then,” Landis said. “They were just the system.”
Perry, meanwhile, points to the people. “It used to be that the first person out of the room when we did a sales presentation was the manager, the CEO,” he said. “Not anymore. A lot of those folks have retired, and now everybody has iPads and iPhones, and they sit in on the meetings and can talk processes and technology and languages and networks.”
He also doesn’t expect meals on flights anymore–“I just bag my own lunch”–and still enjoys the travel and going to trade shows and seeing people in the industry he’s known for years.
“I’m a good bit older than John [who’s 56] and a lot of the folks I see at the credit unions, and it’s been a lot of fun seeing people I knew as loan officers and the like coming up through the ranks,” said Perry, who’s 70.
Landis, meanwhile, said, “I used to feel a little nervous back in the old days when I was so much younger than the CEOs and CIOs, who were mostly called managers and computer operators then, but now I’m right there in the wheelhouse with them.”
He added with a chuckle, “And maybe I’m old enough now that they really can trust their data processing to me.”
The software they’re selling–and competing with–has also come a long way, with 360-degree member views, electronic banking and open architecture to accommodate other third-party software and services that weren’t even on drawing boards when Landis and Perry first met up.
And the business itself has more time to mature. “We haven’t had to take short cuts. And it’s not like before, where there times we had to maybe bite off more than we could comfortably chew because we had to,” Landis said.
The first KeyStone customer–the $93 million Harbor FCU in Carson, Calif.–has gone live on the platform, three more have signed on and others are listening, Landis said. Several of those first clients have long relationships with the software and people behind Corelation and KeyStone, but with Perry aboard and on the road, Landis said, the company expects to expand.
Landis also said he’s confident in KeyStone and Corelation and in the credit union industry.
“With all the consolidation, it’s a much more competitive environment than it used to be,” he said. “But you have to hope that’s a good thing, and that credit unions will bring in more members in the long run. I really do think they have to remember their roots and stick together in order to succeed down the road.”
As evidence of his confidence, Landis points to his son, a former schoolteacher who’s now director of education for Corelation, training clients on the use of their sophisticated new system.
“I would never have brought Rob into the business if I thought it was a short-term career for him,” Landis said. “I really see this, and hope he sees it that way, too. That it’s an industry he can stay in for the long haul and make his mark on it.”