February 27, 2006

Like many financial institutions, technology vendors, suppliers and service firms still are recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The cost of recovery is expected to be billions of dollars, and the timeline for rebuilding remains uncertain, according to a white paper from Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian.

While the true impact of the 2005 hurricane season has yet to be revealed, Experian predicts that suppliers will have to wait patiently for fees while affected banks regain their business-as-usual status. "In some cases, suppliers may be forced to take larger-than- normal write-offs," Experian reports. "If even half of these payables turn out to be written off, there will be a significant impact on cash flow from operations for those suppliers."

Rather than focus on their losses, however, some technology providers proactively helped their banking partners weather the storm. Data replication services provider Hyland Software (Westlake, Ohio), for example, has focused on the well-being of its customers affected by the horrific hurricane season than with the fees it receives for its services.

"Our first priority is people," says Jason King, Hyland's director of financial services. "During the hurricanes, we ... wanted to help our banking customers get their institutions back on their feet," he says. "They had access to our hosted environment free of charge."

When Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold also took a hard hit in its pocketbook. "Typically, our contracts are paid monthly, quarterly or annually," relates Matt Redler, Diebold's director of service operations and planning. "But the storms affected a significant portion of our customer base."

Besides relieving these customers of their contractual obligations, Diebold made efforts to help its banking partners get their ATMs back online for displaced customers. "We immediately shipped 200 refurbished ATMs to different locations in affected regions," Redler says. They were installed in places such as Mobile, Ala., and Biloxi, Miss., he relates. "They were installed in locations like convenience stores," Redler adds. --D.M.A.M.