2006 3rd Quarter:

The Liberty Acquisition—One Year Later

A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Steve Albright, President, Liberty


Steve Albright

Now that it’s been more than a year since Harland acquired Liberty, our clients are seeing for themselves the benefits and great potential of our combined organization.

In fact, the adage that comes to mind is "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." It’s a saying that is particularly relevant in the business world, where complementary and sometimes even competing entities—think Disney and Pixar—may join forces to form a stronger company with the potential to offer greater value to clients and shareholders.

This acquisition was unique for us and for our clients from day one. Over the past seven years, Harland has made fourteen other acquisitions—some to drive out costs and others to expand our product offering. However, the goal in acquiring Liberty was different, in that we wanted to penetrate the credit union market in a more significant way. Our goal was to preserve the Liberty brand and service model and to build upon the complementary strengths of each organization. I’m pleased to report that we’ve not only met that goal, but we’re well on our way toward achieving more.

Sharing Best Practices

Since the June 2005 acquisition, which made Liberty an operating unit within Harland’s largest division, we’ve worked tirelessly to forge a joint enterprise that’s better positioned to meet the challenges facing financial institutions. While Liberty has maintained its unique identity and business model, employees at Harland and Liberty have spent the past year sharing best practices and learning from one another. Much of this has, by design, taken place behind the scenes, so as not to disrupt our clients’ daily operations. Yet these changes have packed a big wallop in terms of what we can now offer.

One example is Liberty’s switch to a state-of-the-art digital printing platform, thanks to Harland’s considerable prior investment and expertise in this area. Credit unions that previously relied on offset printing are now enjoying a host of new enhancements such as improved print verification, order certification and added Check 21 measurements. And, Liberty’s clients will now have the ability to more effectively market their products and services to members with an innovative solution that, prior to the acquisition, was only available to Harland clients.

Set to expand to Liberty this fall, HarlandImpactSM turns each check order into a marketing opportunity by enabling financial institutions to insert product offers—for say, a home equity loan or line of credit—into the check package. The solution leverages Harland’s digital technology and StraticsTM predictive models to insert marketing messages or product offers that are highly targeted, delivering specific messages at the individual account level. The solution is easily deployed via Harland’s network of digital printing facilities across the United States. Impact is one of several digital print-enabled solutions Liberty clients will enjoy.

On the flip side, the Harland team has been busy working with Liberty to leverage some of its processes for the benefit of Harland clients. For example, Liberty’s frontend system for capturing, entering and billing orders enables members to simply go to Liberty’s web site and order checks and accessories (either consumer or business), view the status of an order or just surf the extensive online catalog—in English or Spanish. We expect that over time, clients of Harland and Liberty will each be able to take advantage of capabilities not previously available.

Liberty also brings to the table its highly respected customer service model. Harland has pledged to further strengthen Liberty’s reputation for exceptional quality and customer service, which is why we’ve placed considerable focus in the areas of sales, service and marketing, and upgraded the telephone systems within Liberty’s four regional customer service centers. Similarly, Liberty’s unique product lines—gift cards, stored value cards and educational services (courses and onsite training for financial institution employees, mystery shopping services and consumer education)—further expand the offerings of Harland, making us a more attractive strategic partner for financial institutions in this highly competitive market.

Delivering the Best of Both Worlds

Indeed, we well understand that a key issue facing all financial institutions is growth—not just the quest to attract new consumers, but the challenge of retaining existing customers and members and increasing the number of services they use. Our extensive market research has shown us that financial institutions recognize they must rely ever more heavily upon marketing—both externally to new prospects and internally to current consumers—as a primary tool in this endeavor, and that’s yet another way that Harland and Liberty are meeting our clients’ needs.

Much as the entertainment conglomerate, Disney, and the animation company, Pixar, build upon one another’s strengths, so do Harland and Liberty, creating greater economies of scale. Liberty gains access to Harland’s rich trove of research, its digital printing expertise and its wealth of financial solutions. Harland, in turn, can tap into Liberty’s two decade’s worth of service, innovation and dedication to credit unions.

Moving forward, Harland and Liberty each will continue to serve the unique needs of our respective clients. Harland, the company, remains focused on helping financial institutions improve account performance. Liberty, our leading brand in serving credit unions, is exclusively focused on this segment, delivering the best solutions possible. The exceptional products and services that financial institutions have come to expect from Harland and Liberty will not change and, in fact, will be expanded upon in the months to come. Yet we remain committed to learning from one another and to bringing clients the best of both worlds. As a financial solutions company, we are better positioned than ever before to become an invaluable strategic partner to our clients, certainly much more than the mere sum of our parts.