Many community banks and credit unions continue to struggle with how to improve their bottom line without taking dramatic cost-cutting measures. Instead of playing defense by reducing staff or cutting services, start playing offense by finding savings in your vendor contract negotiations. Not only will you likely find additional funds, you can improve the quality of the service you receive — and you can do so without changing vendors.
Re-negotiating benefits both large and small institutions
Whether you have one vendor or dozens, an expert in vendor pricing and services can walk you through the process of determining what level of savings you should expect from re-negotiating your service contracts. What’s more, simply changing the verbiage in a contract can ensure that you’ll receive the services you need today, as well as what you anticipate needing down the road.
When done correctly, re-negotiating a contract can be a “win-win” for you and your vendors; you get better service at a better price and your vendors keep a satisfied customer. However, if there are issues related to poor service or slow response to requests for support, getting the vendor’s attention during negotiations can lead to solutions for unsatisfactory treatment that can mend conflicts in the relationship with your institution.
Depending on the type of service, most contract terms run between three and seven years. The best time to review contracts is before they renew or extend automatically — approximately 18 to 24 months prior to the expiration dates. It is during this timeframe that the most substantial savings can be negotiated. By starting this early, you may even benefit from immediate, retroactive savings. However, it’s also a case of better late than never when it comes to uncovering hidden savings.
What you don’t know could cost you
Over the past few years, there has been a substantial decrease in technology costs. However, your service provider is under no obligation to pass along those savings to you … especially if you have never asked for a review of contract pricing and terms.
An expert in contract review can determine if there are savings and possible incentive opportunities available with your current vendor. This includes reviewing every line item of your service agreements and providing feedback on pricing, service, support, and conditions related to proposals, contracts and agreements. For contracts such as debit card processing — which can include between 50 to 60 line items — this can require a substantial time commitment from your staff, taking them away from important strategic initiatives or service issues.
With the results from such a comprehensive review, you’ll be able to make an informed decision to not only secure better pricing, but also to lock in more favorable terms that fit your budgetary needs. If your current vendor presents less than ideal costs or terms, a professional negotiator can often help you obtain a better deal. And, if necessary, they can even help identify other potential service providers that might be a better fit for your needs.
Check your contracts when making service changes
Increasing consumer demand for faster, more convenient services — along with new standards on credit and debit card technology — have created a more urgent need for community banks and credit unions to upgrade product offerings and reduce the risk of fraud on electronic transactions. Unfortunately, staying on top of the latest technology can involve substantial costs — especially if you are working under service contract terms that were established years ago.
If you’re planning to make changes to your existing service delivery offerings, it is also the perfect opportunity to make sure your current contracts for core processing, Internet banking and debit/credit card branding provide the most favorable terms at the lowest possible costs.
Make a point to review contracts following a merger or acquisition
In the event of a merger, contract negotiations present an important opportunity for obtaining improved efficiencies and streamlined service. The issues related to mergers are complex, and in some instances, far-reaching. Whenever two organizations combine, the service redundancy factor is not only overwhelming but expensive. The acquiring institution now has two core processors, two ATM and card processors, two credit reporting processors, and on and on. And, early termination of vendor contracts usually results in costly penalties.
Ultimately, senior management must decide which of the multiple platforms to select and absorb the costs associated with terminating a vendor. Oftentimes, however, leaders are consumed by the tremendous amount of details associated with the merger and remain unaware of the potential savings available by renegotiating existing contracts. In some cases, they simply ignore this seemingly cumbersome issue.
A better solution? Creating a competitive environment to determine which vendor is willing to absorb any termination costs to retain the business. Establishing a competitive field will help to either eliminate the penalties or negotiate to have the winning vendor pay for them. And having the support of an objective third-party negotiator can help you get the best results from this situation.
Depending on the transaction volume and other factors, the savings from reviewing vendor contracts could reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Focus time and resources to your best advantage
Let’s face it, monitoring and managing service contracts can be confusing. That’s especially true if staff is without the strong expertise to measure current costs against what options are available in the marketplace or the skillful knowledge to negotiate better terms.
If your service agreements are coming up for renewal in the next 18-24 months, there’s no better time to enlist the help of a professional contract reviewer to identify potential savings and better service offerings for your account holders.
Satisfaction should be guaranteed
Whether you have existing contracts that haven’t been reviewed for years or you’re simply looking for a way to get the most value on your service contracts, you should seek outside help from a partner that offers a guarantee on their fee structure. By doing so, if their help does not result in lower costs, you should not be charged a fee. That way, the only way your bank or credit union can lose is by neglecting to take advantage of this cost-saving opportunity.
To learn more about uncovering savings opportunities by negotiating your service contracts, contact Kelly Flynn at Kelly.Flynn@JMFA.com or call 800-809-2307.