Changing Times for Membership IT Suppliers

09 Mar 2020

By: David Hart

Change / Consultancy / CRM / E AND H / Membership Associations / Procurement

What might it mean for the sector?

Over the last 15 months or so the ClearCourse partnership have bought up many of the well-known names in Membership and NFP IT, and several of our clients and colleagues in our network are asking what this means for them. 

Companies including MillerTech, APT, NetXtra, Trillium, Silverbear, Protech, and recently the events and consultancy company Hart Square, have all joined the ClearCourse stable.  What does this mean for membership bodies who have systems provided by these companies, and for those looking for new systems?

Our clients’ experience so far has been that it has meant little change operationally, with minimal impact for customers.  The potential for additional investment in some of these products can only be good for users of their systems and for the market more widely.  We are seeing some of the potential benefits already, with Silverbear taking on the support for former TSG Tribe customers last year, and the investment in improved direct debit technology.

The two obvious questions, and ones we are frequently being asked, are what will the impact on competition be for associations looking to procure new systems, and what are the longer-term implications?

Whilst at the moment ClearCourse suppliers appear to be continuing to compete with each other, and Hart Square have said that they will still offer ‘impartial’ advice to clients, a membership organisation undertaking appropriate due diligence in compiling a tender list of potential suppliers would need to consider any potential competitive implications.  We don’t see this as a major issue though, as there is still a wide range of longer-established suppliers, and some very good new suppliers coming through, who can ensure that any potential procurement has a wide choice whatever the size of your organisation or your digital strategy.

The longer-term implications for the ClearCourse companies and their customers feel less clear at the moment.  Aquiline, the New York and London based private equity company who established ClearCourse, will need to see a significant return on their investment.  How will they do it?  Aquiline’s website says their aim is to ‘drive increased growth and profitability through, capital investment, monetization of embedded payments, and operational support’ – but what does this mean in practice?  Investment, growth and profitability are all potentially good for customers and the sector more widely, but how will it be achieved?  Will they look to rationalise systems and platforms, grow through innovation, or will the returns they need come through monetisation of payment services?

We don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but in the short term the ClearCourse intervention seems to have delivered some benefits, although we should remain aware of the potential implications and keep a watching brief on developments.  As for the longer term – it feels to me that it probably is just wait and see.

If you would like independent advice on your membership IT procurement strategy, or about ensuring your tender list offers the best potential suppliers for you, please contact me at david.hart@eandhlimited.com.

David Hart – Director E AND H

March 2020