an attitude adjustment. The compliance software firm's move-the-merchandise mentality has been altered by a new investor-driven financial commitment to research and development. Despite its successful track record, the firm's management said it needed to make a switch. "Our investors have a very strong commitment to technology," said Hal Andrews, vice president for strategic business development at Bankers Systems. "They carry that through by devoting a substantial amount of money to the development of products. "That's one of the biggest differences between life here now and a year ago." In January, Bankers Systems was purchased by BancBoston Capital and the investment group of Goldner, Hawn, Johnson & Morrison Inc., Minneapolis, for an undisclosed amount. Bankers Systems, based in St. Cloud, Minn., had been owned by the Clemens family for 43 years. Van Hawn, a partner with Goldner Hawn, said Bankers Systems had been driven more by sales than by research before the buyout. That, he said, was because the founder was a former salesman whose focus was on "next quarter's profits" rather than investing in research in hopes of generating greater returns later. The move from family owned to investor driven meant there had to be a transition period for the compliance-software leader, Mr. Hawn said. The new investors made the change easier by maintaining nearly all of the top management and policymakers, including president John P. Weitzel. Aided by that continuity, the switch has proved successful and lucrative so far, he said. "The Clemens family looked to the company to provide their living, and we don't," Mr. Hawn said. Because of that and an initial capital gain on the investment, he added, investors take less money out of the company than the previous owners. Most of the surplus funds have gone to researching, developing, testing, and marketing the Rembrandt system, said Donald Newman, Bankers Systems' vice president of marketing. Company officials said the new software will allow banks to link parts of the loan origination process, such as pricing and credit evaluation. It will be compatible with Windows 95 software. Mr. Newman said the new loan origination software program has been in the design stages for about two years. It will be field-tested in March or April, and should be on the market by late summer. AllTel Information Services, Little Rock, has agreed to integrate Rembrandt into its branch automation service. Several of Bankers Systems customers said the company's service representatives had recently told them about the new devotion to product development, specifically involving Rembrandt. Some customers said the change was needed, but they added that they wished Bankers Systems was "a little more on the cutting edge." "They're really trying to improve from the technological standpoint," said Curt Michelson, senior vice president and credit administrator with South Valley National Bank, Morgan Hill, Calif., a Bankers Systems customer. "They have mentioned that they're trying hard to set up new links with other lenders and suppliers." Bankers Systems' competitors are betting the fallout from the takeover will go beyond a shift in focus to directly affect top personnel. A source at a competitor said venture capital companies generally allow an acquired company about a year to meet goals set at the time of the buyout before making wholesale changes. Such changes are likely soon, he speculated, including the ouster of Mr. Weitzel. Robin Smith, president of Formation Technologies, Denver, another of the firm's competitors, said bank subsidiaries that have bought service providers have lost interest quickly. "Traditionally, companies have not benefited tremendously from an acquisition by a bank," Mr. Smith said.
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