Provider selection in the context of strategic bank management requirements
With approximately 2,500 employees and EUR 36 bn of total assets, Deutsche Apotheker- und Ärztebank eG (apoBank) is Germany’s largest primary cooperative bank. Its main focus is on the financial requirements of health care professionals. These requirements are mostly handled using GAD IT systems. Due to the merger of the two cooperative IT providers GAD and Fiducia and the future exclusive use of Fiducia’s agree21, a migration is required. For this reason and against the background of increasing regulatory and customer requirements, apoBank initiated a market sounding in 2015. zeb supported this nine-month provider selection process in close coordination with apoBank’s management team.
For apoBank, the planned migration is a truly herculean task. Focus topics such as IT infrastructure, securities strategy, IFRS and digitalization have a huge impact on the entire bank and its strategic orientation. As part of the selection process, solution offers were identified and then assessed both in qualitative and commercial terms.
The project approach was divided into two phases.
The request for information phase (RFI) aimed at narrowing the preselected group of five providers down to two. In the subsequent request for proposal phase (RFP), the focus was on selecting the right partner based on a comprehensive and binding proposal. Both project phases were oriented on the zeb standard approach for provider selection processes (see figure). The tried and tested dimensions “Strategic partnership”, “Functional and technical target image”, “Governance and organization”, “Migration” and “Costs/risks” cover the entire range of bank functions, the technical infrastructure required and issues regarding the cooperation with the provider. In addition, the provider’s strategic orientation, a possible exertion of influence on the provider’s development focus points by the bank, but also explicit costs and risks of the provider’s solution and the project were reviewed. Migration planning and the preparation of the future contract documents complete the process. To safeguard apoBank’s interests and assess the provider’s fit, depending on the project’s progress, approx. 1,200 requirements across all dimensions were checked with the providers.
In the RFI phase, the focus was primarily on assessing the general fit and financeability of the solutions offered. Here, the providers had the option to submit a proposal based on detailed apoBank requirements. The providers were given support for preparing their proposals by means of a Q&A phase, the early presentation of selected focal topics (yellow pad sessions), direct feedback on initial solution approaches and final proposal presentations to apoBank’s board of directors.
In the RFP phase, the two remaining providers were then thoroughly vetted. On the one hand, the focus was on a qualitative assessment (business functionality, technology, etc.) by means of approx. 50 workshops per provider. On the other hand, the contractual conditions including costs were negotiated and largely degree fixed.
apoBank’s particular business model and thus the existence of specific products and processes which will have to continue to be supported by the IT department (e.g. IRBA, business start-ups) represent challenges the new IT solution will have to meet. To reduce complexity and costs, apoBank applies the “bank follows IT” principle to the envisaged migration. This means that standard processes and functionalities of the provider’s solution are to be used and deviations from the standard only implemented for differentiating, apoBank-specific requirements.
With zeb’s support, it was possible to keep to the time frame of approximately nine months defined by apoBank for the successful selection of a possible future provider. The project included both a comprehensive analysis of all apoBank requirements and a detailed review of the future cooperation as well as the corresponding costs.
outlook and conclusion
During the entire intensive selection phase, especially the following factors proved to be critical for success:
- Provision of an extensive and proven set of methods as well as profound market and provider knowledge
- Intensive involvement of the respective apoBank departments at an early stage
- Close and impartial support for providers in the generation of the best possible proposal
- Joint focus of apoBank and zeb on achieving the project goals
These success factors were also crucial in the subsequent pre-project phase with the selected provider. This phase aimed at finalizing the contract using detailed concepts to be developed along the aforementioned dimensions. At apoBank’s request, the successful and open cooperation with zeb will be continued.