Your Financial Future
The wobbly legs of the financial sector are difficult to ignore. In 2007, financial companies became constant bearers of bad tidings. Although the sector is generally exempt from such news, announcements of layoffs have streamed from the newswire throughout the year. According to Reuters, 2007 has seen the financial sector contributing heavily to a second-half upswing in unemployment. Among other companies, the following announced downsizing: Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, Citigroup and HSBC—mostly due to the year’s much-reported bursting of the real estate bubble.
Considering the undeniable instability of the financial industry, Print Professional asked industry suppliers about this unpredictable marketplace to find out which products can keep suppliers secure in their own financial futures.
Larry Willman, product manager at Wilmer in Coldwater, Ohio, has dealt with printing and forms for 25 years, having worked with Wilmer, Eastman Kodak and Standard Register. Steve Clarke, national account manager, central region, for General Financial Supply (GFS), a division of Ennis located in Nevada, Iowa, has worked in the forms industry for 20 years, and joined the GFS team in 2006. Both financial market specialists surprisingly affirm the vitality of the industry—regardless of layoffs permeating the nightly news.
PP: When did your company start serving the financial sector? What led to the decision to do so?
Willman: [In] 1926, we started servicing the financial sector with manual business checks and forms to fulfill a demand in the small-business marketplace.
Clarke: [GFS] has served the financial community since 1962. Early on, GFS recognized the need for high-quality MICR documents that would function in the banks’ high-speed MICR environments. Quality MICR documents were crucial to attaining desired read rates with a minimum of downtime.
PP: How is the financial products portion of your business [faring] this year?
Clarke: The financial products sold by GFS continue to grow with sales this year, surpassing last year’s efforts. In addition, the number of traditional forms distributors ... beginning to sell financial forms has increased over the past several years, too.
Willman: Very well. We continue to grow this sector of our business with our Standard [and] Standard Plus lines of software-compatible checks and forms, deposit tickets and security bags. Pressure-seal mailers [have also shown growth in the financial sector]. With this product, businesses can reduce stocking envelopes [and] labor time of mail processing while increasing productivity.
PP: What do you see as the industry’s most in-demand product?
Willman: Software-compatible checks and forms continue to be in demand. ... Customers are looking for secure checks, checks printed on security paper [containing] chemical stain, UV fibers, watermark and TonerFuse, [and] not just MOCR bond paper. They are also asking for layered security features such as thermochromic ink, coin-reactive ink and micro-printing.
Clarke: The most in-demand products are image-compatible documents that are Check 21-compliant. Since the federal government made all electronic images of documents negotiable, there has been an ongoing effort by banks to take advantage of the increased processing speeds and reduction in personnel associated with optically read forms.
PP: What other products are most in demand this year?
Clarke: The other products gaining in popularity include [GFS’s] holiday line of currency, drive-up teller envelopes and receipts, along with gift card holders and envelopes. ... GFS has also introduced Uncompromised Check Solutions, a complete line of Check 21-compatible laser checks containing a variety of security features. … The Uncompromised Check Solutions line utilizes thermochromic printing in each of its products, along with features such as holograms and foils. [The line also] incorporates chemical protection, visible fibers, invisible fibers, security background and either a true fourdrinier or artificial watermark.
Willman: Pressure-seal mailers and related folding [and] sealing equipment [are popular]. [These products] can be printed, folded, sealed and mailed, saving businesses precious labor time versus the conventional mailing process using envelopes. Applications for pressure-seal mailers include payroll and accounts payable checks.
PP: How has the financial market changed for distributors over the last year?
Clarke: Banks continue to merge, and within this process, new community banks are also chartered as experienced individuals develop new banking entities. These conversions and new bank openings create a good opportunity for distributors with supplier partners experienced in this area of the sales process.
PP: There have been a lot of changes to the size, success and/or ownership of financial companies in the last year. Has this affected the distribution of products?
Willman: No. Wilmer sells checks and other related financial products. When companies merge, change ownership, etc., normally [it] translates into the demand for new check-related supplies and products.
PP: How can financial distributors keep up in a market that is constantly in flux?
Clarke: Distributors can bring nontraditional bank products … to those in charge of marketing with the banks. … With a foot in the door providing these products, the forms distributor can build trust and earn opportunities for the more technical internal bank documents.
Willman: They can talk and work with their manufacturing companies, either by contacting [them] directly or reading their newsletters or website material.
PP: Does the financial sector require promotional products? What kinds of promotional products are the most popular?
Willman: [In Wilmer’s case], presentation folders [are the most popular]. Organizations can provide their clients [with] information about their products, projects and portfolios.
Clarke: Promotional products are in high demand with the financial sector, as banks look to appeal to their local communities. Apparel and ad specialty items, which promote good will on behalf of the banks, are often utilized by bank marketing personnel. Unique giveaways, such as dog biscuits for customers who bank via the drive-up teller with family dog[s] on board, is one example of banks relating to their customer[s] through the use of promotional products.
PP: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Willman: One of my biggest concerns has to do with businesses putting themselves at risk [by] trying to reduce their expenses by purchasing cheap checks. Some of these checks are printed on MOCR bond paper with little or no security features either built into the paper or layered on during the printing process. ...[T]he need to control expenses [is understandable], however, check fraud continues to rise. Businesses must continue to protect their checks with the best defenses possible.