For traditional financial printers, you’re still only as good as your ‘Comp’

I recently covered the demise of the Inhouse model for traditional financial printers here at hittingthesweetspot.

For those financial printers still clinging to the Inhouse model where clients come in and work their documents in printers’ offices in various cities around the country, their composition teams’ prowess, skill and efficiency dictate how satisfied those few remaining clients who utilize financial printers this way, are.

Clients who still come in-house are those who haven’t moved their composition functions under their own roofs. What these customers seek is what they always have: quick turns on the page edits they funnel to compositors and proofreaders, by way of financial printing customer service representatives.

I’m sure it will soon be considered derogatory to refer to a company as “traditional”; it implies they’re not modern. When it comes to financial printers, this is not an unapt characterization.

As traditional printers outsourced the bulk of their composition functions, they felt going forward the speed of their respective networks would provide capable or “good enough” service for Inhouse clients, compared to having on site composition resources.

This philosophy has seen both RR Donnelley and Merrill Corporation through recent times until WebFilings came along.

Traditional financial printers like Donnelley and Merrill’s culture and philosophy has gotten left behind by companies that realize it’s now about the Cloud and its software–and not the inexpensive (read cheap) composition and XBRL labor that those companies who offshore, have implemented.

We really need to understand that the Cloud and utilizing collaborative software where many people can work on documents simultaneously, is what the future looks like.

I would suggest that any company employing traditional financial printers beyond their IPO is leaving money on the table.

Let me explain.

Financial printers charge huge, and I mean huge, premiums for their composition services.

Unlike commercial printers where a project is bid or estimated for what it takes to complete it in its entirety, financial printers often charge their clients by the page. Yes, you heard me correctly–by the page.

For most of the 20th century and up until about 2008 when WebFilings was founded, companies often had little or no choice on how to get public and stay there, in terms of who their financial printer would be: you had the big three of Bowne, RR Donnelley and Merrill Corporation. Sure, you could use a law firm specializing in securities work to do your EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) for you if you were not that big or wanted to save some money.

But, the big three were always there to serve and oftentimes mystify you with their invoices for services rendered.

The big three grew arrogant and smug over time with their knowledge that theirs was the only game, if not way, in town. Their attitude speaks similarly to after questioning something when I was in the Navy (and being told), “This is the way it’s always been done!”

How dare you suggest we need to innovate or ultimately have the boot rendered to our collective derrieres?

You want to know who grows and who doesn’t?

It’s pretty easy.

Those companies that innovate and recognize trends just before they become common, accepted ways of conducting business are those that succeed.

It’s about the software, too, especially in this economy.

Donnelley and Merrill do not consider themselves software companies.

WebFilings’ CEO Matthew Rizai believes first and foremost they are a software company.

His company developed what’s proving to be wildly popular, cloud-based financial reporting software enabling companies to perform their own registration and compliance document filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

To me, it would seem any company that doesn’t seriously consider a “self-service” solution for this sensitive work is leaving piles of dollars on the table.

As WebFilings’ client base continues to grow exponentially, Donnelley and Merrill are starting to get it.

The problem for traditional financial printers, however, is what it has always been: they are slow to change and adapt to customer service preferences; if something works for the competition, though, they try to introduce something similar to appeal to these clients.

It remains to be seen, however, with the huge time commitment cycles required for software development, whether or not they will get to the table on time.

Go modern (and quickly), or go home.



3 replies »

  1. Bob, Love the insite….. I grew up the financial industry and now I am part of a company looking to change the business model. FGS has some amazing products to help clients streamline the process and help them cut cost. We are gaining market share for a reason.

    Keep an eye out for us, I will be opening our Midtown NYC office soon.

    All the best,

    Jason Deron


    • Appreciate the kind words, Jason.

      Although some are sad over traditional financial printing’s decline, I, for one, like you, am excited at the prospect of new opportunities for both talented people and emerging companies in the marketplace!

      I will be giving FGS a closer look.

      Best of luck, Jason, and thanks for reading!



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