With an agreement to acquire Harland Financial Services for $1.2 billion, Toronto-based financial technology company Davis + Henderson, aka D + H, has transformed itself into a player in the United States’ financial services scene.
The deal is expected to close in three to four weeks, said D + H USA president Bill Neville.
D + H serves some 1,700 banks and credit unions across North America. With its business hub in Canada, however, it has comparatively less recognition in the United States.
Harland has around 5,400 credit union and bank clients in the United States. Its UltraData and Phoenix core systems power some 385 credit unions, according to Callahan & Associates, with most on UltraData (381) and a few others on Phoenix.
Neville, in an interview about the acquisition, said D + H proceeded with the deal in order to grow quickly in the United States financial technology market.
Neville added, “We will invest in UltraData and Phoenix. Both are strong, both are impressive.”
After the deal closes, D + H revenues will be roughly the same size as Jack Henry, whose Symitar group sells cores to credit unions, said Brad Smith, CEO of Austin, Texas-based consulting firm Abound Resources.
By D + H’s count, after the deal closes and accounting for shared relationships, it will serve 6,200 financial institutions.
“D + H is a strong company in lending technology. They have an integrated commercial–consumer mortgage loan origination system that is much higher tech than Harland’s Credit Quest and Decision Pro,” Smith said.
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Cornerstone Advisors partner Steve Williams said in an interview that the deal was ambitious on D + H’s part, but, he added, that D + H saw the value of entering the U.S. market.
Another partner at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cornerstone Advisors, Terence Roche, stressed that Harland brings many revenue sources to D + H, that the deal is not simply about lending products or core systems. But that in fact Harland comes with a range of products and services that will likely help D + H establish itself quickly in the US market, said Roche.
“Core is important,” said Roche, “but what this will be about is integrating a range of products with the core and offering smooth delivery.”
He added that a key to making the acquisition work for D + H is its ability to win credibility for the Phoenix core among credit unions. “Harland had been moving too slowly on that,” he said. He elaborated that as credit unions grow they outgrow cores such as UltraData and so a success key becomes migrating existing customers over to the more robust core. Harland had been attempting to sell along those lines but, suggested Roche, more successes are needed and D + H will have to move faster.
He added that, in his mind, the opportunity is there for D +H.
Most credit unions, he elaborated, are hungry for an option that is not Fiserv or Jack Henry and this gives D + H a chance to prosper. “D + H has to inject credibility into Phoenix. They have to try harder, to be Avis.”
“There is an opportunity for a disruptor,” he said.
As for the question, did Harland need to sell, in the spirit that, according to most experts, Open Solutions needed to sell when it was acquired by Fiserv in January, the Cornerstone Advisors experts were united in indicating that there were not similar pressures in this case.
Roche also indicated that there probably were limited potential buyers for Harland. “Fiserv, Jack Henry and FIS would not have been interested,” he said.
A question raised by some observers revolves around D + H’s ability to finance the acquisition. It does not have the $1.2 billion on its balance sheet, so it is going to capital markets to raise funding.
Abound Resources’ Smith says this reminds him of Open Solution, which found itself in an increasingly cash poor vein that, said observers, limited its ability to develop and service its cores.
Added Smith, “ if they’re tight on cash, I don’t see how they’re going to fund” the upgrades that will be needed in Phoenix.
Cornerstone Advisors’ Williams pointed to the solid revenue base D + H is acquiring in Harland. He indicated there were good reasons to believe D + H will be able to create the profitable beachhead it hopes to have in the U.S.