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Helping banks get their house in order

Helping banks get their house in order

Helping banks get their house in order
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Helping banks get their house in order

By: Trish Dromey

Convincing banks that they need software to manage their loan books won’t be difficult, although it might be a challenge to persuade them to spend money on one.

Dublin company Ergo has ambitious global plans for Deal Manager, a loan management platform which was launched by its subsidiary company Fenergo earlier this year.

“If we can demonstrate a return on investment then banks will spend. Banks around the globe are saying we have to control loans”, said Ergo Chief executive officer John Purdy, who expects Fenergo to generate €25 million worth of international business within five years.

Since 2008 €3m has been invested in developing the new software including €1m from Ergo and €2m from the European Investment Bank through AIB and Enterprise Ireland.

The development of the new software was prompted by the banking crisis in 2008. Up to this point Ergo has specialised in print management services, providing IT services to businesses deploying Microsoft solutions and doing some work on developing lending software for banks in Ireland.

The banking crisis forced Ergo to reassess its strategy. Realising that there were few products on the market that allowed banks to manage lending effectively and comprehensively, Ergo set about developing one.
The Deal Manager covers loan pre-approval, collateral management, document management, fees management and revaluation of assets.

Since launching Deal Manager, Ergo’s subsidiary Fenergo has opened sales offices in Sydney and London. The business has six clients, including some tier-one banks. Four of these customers are in Ireland and three in Britain. The business expects to generate a turnover of €4.5 million this year.

Ergo has been in existence since 1993 when it was set up to manufacture computer components by John Purdy and his business partner Tim Sheehy, who has since retired. Started in Mr Purdy’s home it moved into the area of maintenance and supply of printer equipment. In 1998 it became one of the first companies in Ireland to get involved in providing managed print services.

In 2000 the company which believes in reassessing its business proposition on an ongoing basis, became a Microsoft solutions provider. This part of the business now accounts for 60% of turnover and Ergo was earlier this year named as Irish Microsoft Partner of the year for 2010.

Now achieving a turnover of €20 million and employs staff of 125, Ergo has begun to expand its managed print services outside Ireland and is also looking at providing IT services in Britain.

“Customers for print managed services include Penneys which has 60 stores in Ireland, and a sister company in the UK with 200 and one in Europe with 40 stores,” he said. That part of the business accounts for 40% of turnover with 20% of it coming from customers outside of Ireland.

As well as prompting Ergo to develop new software for the banks, the changed economic climate has also brought about significant changes in the firm’s existing business. “We have moved away from being a provider of equipment to being a provider of services”, he said.

That shift reflects a changing business environment where companies are replacing equipment less often, but are willing to spend money on services that help improve efficiency and cut costs, he said IT departments are looking to ensure that they add value and want to see a return on investment within six months, he adds.

While turnover has declined since 2008, Ergo has improved profits by the switch from supplying equipment to providing services. For the financial year ending in March 2009 sales fell from €25m to €21m but net profits increased by 45% to €1.3m.

During 2009, new work taken on by Ergo included contracts for print management services for Bord Bia and Dolmen Securities while the company was engaged by the Irish Nationwide society to develop a system for regulatory reporting. AIB capital markets sought Ergo’s services to improve its risk-rating analysis.

Overall the company is optimistic. It is currently recruiting with a view to employing 20 additional staff. As part of its expansion it moved to a new premises at East Point Business Park. The combined turnover of Ergo and Fenergo should hit €50m within five years with staff levels growing from 125 to 200.

Given the scope for the loan management solution globally Mr Purdy expects the company will have 50 customers internationally.

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