Kanbay positions itself as thought leader to reach financial firms

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Jean Cholka says that to succeed in marketing IT services and software to financial companies, you need to understand your clients' business as well as or better than they do.

Cholka oversees all sales and marketing functions for Kanbay International, a Rosemont, Ill.-based IT systems integrator with 14 offices located in North America, Asia and Australia. The company works with clients that want to move their IT services from onshore or near shore to offshore centers, as well as others that simply want to outsource their in-house IT departments, said Cholka, VP-client services at Kanbay.

Kanbay counts as major clients financial giants Morgan Stanley and Household International, which each have owned an equity interest in the company since 2000. Last July, Kanbay issued an IPO. The stock initially traded at $13.00 a share and as of early this month was at $23.00 a share. Revenue for the 2004 fiscal year reached $182.6 million, a whopping 70% increase over the previous year. Net income totaled $27.4 million, an increase of 140% over 2003.

In 2004, Kanbay added 19 new clients in total, including seven "Platinum" clients, Cholka said. Platinum clients generate greater than $5 million of annual revenue or have the ability to reach that threshold within their first two years as clients, she said.

Since the IPO last year, Kanbay has put together an integrated marketing strategy that combines public relations, industry analyst relations, investor relations and traditional advertising to build the brand in the financial services industry. "In the U.S., we've been very successful with media relations targeting trade publications as well as sponsorships of financial services events," Cholka said. "We've also seen significant traction from industry analyst relations."

One of the centerpieces for Kanbay's marketing efforts is a monthly newsletter called "Executive Connections," aimed at some 4,000 clients and prospects. "This news-letter, which IT managers can sign up for on our Web site, has been an invaluable tool for building strong relationships with current clients and educating prospects about Kanbay's capabilities and domain and technology expertise," Cholka said.

Additionally, the company publishes an ongoing series of white papers addressing specific trends and issues in the financial services industry, such as compliance, credit fraud and corporate governance. "A great deal of our marketing is spent building up our reputation as thought leaders at the juxtaposition of technology and finance," Cholka said.

"While good IT service can tear down walls, if you don't share the same domain expertise as your clients-if you try to give them the same cookie cutter service you give clients in other domains-you won't be able to anticipate their needs and the relationship will hit major roadblocks," Cholka said.

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