The technology alliance forged between Swiss Bank Corp. and Perot Systems Corp., though considered unusual by some industry observers, is expected to benefit both organizations.
The partnership, to close by yearend pending regulatory approvals, gives Swiss Bank a 24.9% ownership stake in the computer services company in exchange for an undisclosed amount of cash and a $250 million-a-year contract under which Perot will run the bank's data processing operations.
The ownership position will give Swiss Bank more control over the management of its computing operations than a classic outsourcing arrangement could provide, analysts said.
Indeed, officials at Swiss Bank and Perot Systems do not consider the contract to be an outsourcing agreement at all, but rather a way to cement a much broader relationship.
"We wanted a partnership that offered the best of both worlds," said Peter A. Wuffli, chief financial officer of $191 billion-asset Swiss Bank.
Under terms of the deal, approximately 700 technology employees from the bank's Warburg division will form the core of a new technology unit the companies expect to establish.
This unit would support the Swiss Bank outsourcing arrangement and also market its services to other financial institutions.
Dallas-based Perot Systems will also help Swiss Bank to move to a standard computing platform throughout its organization.
Viewed alongside other outsourcing contracts, the arrangement was called atypical by analysts, who noted that outsourcing companies and banks usually maintain strict vendor-customer relationships.
James Burns, chief operating officer of Swiss Bank, North America, explained the relationship reflects the importance technology plays in the support of the bank's three major lines of business: private banking, domestic banking, and investment banking through the bank's Warburg division.
In reviewing its alternatives for strengthening its technology capabilities, the bank decided that having an ownership stake in a technology firm would enable it to more fully participate in the management of its resources, Mr. Burns said.
"We did not consider outsourcing with a large vendor, such as Electronic Data Systems Corp., because we did not want to be one of among 1,000 clients," added Mr. Wuffli. "Information technology is too important to be outsourced."
Analysts consider the deal, which will enable Perot Systems to nearly double the $300 million in revenue it garnered last year, to be a boon to a company that has little penetration in the banking market.
Despite identifying banks as targets for its services, Perot has struck only two major deals with U.S. banks, according to data from Computer Based Solutions Inc. in New Orleans.
One major contract Perot Systems had with NationsBank Corp. was scaled back in April, when the bank announced it had resumed control of two major data centers Perot had been managing. Perot Systems will continue to provide technical consulting and operations support for the North Carolina bank.
It appears that Perot has renewed its interest in the banking industry with the Swiss Bank deal, but some analysts wonder if the company has the bank technology experience to succeed against the likes of EDS, Alltel Information Services Inc., and Fiserv Inc.
Like other deals Perot Systems has made with financial institutions, "the company didn't necessarily get (this contract) on the strength of its banking expertise," said M. Arthur Gillis, a consultant and president of Computer Based Solutions.
Mr. Gillis said that the Dallas company landed its deal with NationsBank predominantly because of the friendship between company founder H. Ross Perot and the bank's chairman, Hugh L. McColl Jr.
And, he said, the fact Perot Systems was willing to offer Swiss Bank an arrangement other outsourcing companies would not provide greatly influenced the bank's decision.
To Mr. Gillis, questions persist as to whether Perot Systems can do the job.
Bill Bradway, a technology analyst with Tower Group, Wellesley, Mass., took a milder position with regard to Perot Systems' experience in the banking industry. Dwindling opportunities in bank outsourcing and continued strong competition from established providers may have contributed to the company's inability to build a strong client base in banking, he said.
The Swiss Bank deal clearly puts Perot Systems in a position to prove its mettle, he said, adding: "The next 12 to 18 months will give them the opportunity to demonstrate their competency."
John King, the Perot Systems vice president who is to be president of the new division, said the experience gained from Swiss Bank will significantly increase the depth of Perot Systems' skills.
Mr. King said he will look to leverage Perot Systems' marketing capabilities to gain new customers and expand globally.