By buying five companies last month, CFI Proservices wrapped up a two- year shopping spree that has expanded the software firm beyond its traditional compliance base.
The Portland, Ore.-based firm has gobbled up nine companies since the summer of 1994 in an effort to offer compatible software products that cover all aspects of banking.
"What we see is that compliance-only solutions aren't adequate to meet bankers' needs," said Matthew Chapman, the company's chairman. "The key to the solution is to have all of the banks' pieces of software be compatible. If you put a lot of disparate parts together, it doesn't work too well."
Now, Mr. Chapman said, his company has all the parts it needs, so its buying spree is over. Some of CFI's competitors said the company risks spreading itself too thin, but Mr. Chapman said his company knows what it's doing.
Investors seem to agree. CFI's stock value has risen from about $9 a share on Feb. 1 to $26 earlier this week, according to Barry Randall, a software industry analyst with Dain Bosworth in Minneapolis.
The company took in $13.4 million when it went public in August 1993, and $10 million of that went to fund much of the company's acquisitions. The stock opened at $9.75 per share and fluctuated in its 18 months, and had dropped to its original value this past winter.
Then, the purchases began, CFI's stock price shot up, and investors cheered.
"In some ways, a software company's management is often more important than the product itself because the software changes so quickly," Mr. Randall said. "But good management can read the changes in the tea leaves and see what's coming. That's what CFI's done."
Compliance will remain CFI's bread and butter. Forays into other technological areas do not mean less money will be spent in researching and developing new compliance products, Mr. Chapman said.
Still, other compliance software firms aren't convinced that CFI has taken the best route to success. John Weitzel, president of St. Cloud, Minn.-based Bankers Systems, said his company has chosen to grow by cooperating with other businesses, rather than consuming them.
"We've looked at it, and we decided we'll partner with people who know electronic banking, and other areas, but not compete with them," said Mr. Weitzel. "We wouldn't particularly want to have to compete with Microsoft, EDS, or Fiserv."
But Mr. Chapman decided he couldn't deliver a seamless system of bank technology unless CFI acquired specialists in other fields.
The wheels have been in motion on his company's expansion plan since 1994 when Mr. Chapman and CFI president Robert P. Chamness decided to diversify. They targeted niches where the firm wasn't active, such as telephone banking, mortgage origination, and credit scoring.
CFI spent $1.1 million in June 1994 for the lending software division of Professional Bank Services, a Louisville-based consulting firm. That September, it bought The Genesys Solutions Group and its telephone banking service in exchange for $4 million in stock. Last year, it purchased Houston-based Texas Southwest Technology Group for $709,000, and Culverin Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, for $4.8 million. The Texas company provided clearing house software products, while Culverin offered products to help tellers by automating transaction processing.
The buying spree ended with a $12.7 million flourish last month.
The company acquired two Atlanta-based firms - OnLine Financial Communications Systems and Coin Banking Systems - for $5.5 million. OnLine developed products that automated the account-opening process, while Coin made loan-application processing software.
CFI purchased Input Creations and its Windows-based mortgage-origination documentation product for $4 million, and then bought The Halcyon Group for $1.8 million and Pathways Software for $1.4 million to obtain their credit- scoring items.
CFI made sure all the new products would be compatible with its software offerings; technicians dissected the programs to examine the computer code directly.
"It may seem sudden, but it's not," said Mr. Chapman. "We've been laying the groundwork for this for some time."
The compliance software industry has also grown in that time. But as CFI continues to expand, its competitors say there will always be room for smaller companies in the compliance industry.
"Because they're big doesn't mean they'll have an advantage," said Ned Brown, managing partner with Financial Modeling Concepts, a New York City- based compliance software firm. "It comes down to price and service, and both big and small companies can do the job."