Meca Software's Turnaround

Article excerpt

Remember Meca Software -- the Trumbull, Conn., company that pioneered personal finance management (PFM) software packages in 1982 and then fell to a distant third behind Intuit and Microsoft? Well, they're back. President and CEO Paul Harrison says that Meca is now distributing about 45,000 Managing Your Money PFM packages a month, twice the number of Intuit's Quicken and Microsoft's Money. Harrison did not quarrel with industry estimates that some 350,000 copies of MYM are now in the hands of users. Since 1995, Meca has grown from 82 to 360 employees.

The first move in the turnaround was a dramatic change in its corporate affiliation. After a brief stint (1993-95) as part of H&R Block, Meca was acquired by Bank of America and Nationsbank and became big banking's chosen instrument for stanching the outflow of its customers' loyalty from their banks to Intuit and Microsoft. By that time, some ten million mostly upscale, computer-savvy users had purchased Quicken PC software to balance their bank accounts and keep track of their monthly expenditures and investments. What hurt so much was that users had bought their software from intuit or some retail store. The prevailing wisdom was that if this continued, users would look to software companies, not their banks, as their first source of help in managing their personal finances.

Later, three more banks and an insurance/investment company also became co-owners First Bank System, Fleet Finanancial Group, Royal Bank of Canada, and The New England, now a unit of MetLife). This July, Citibank said it would become Meca's seventh co-owner, regulators willing. Together, the owning banks serve half the retail banking population of 60 million households in North America.

Ommm ... bank branding ... ommm

Meca's new mantra was bank branding. It would develop customized financial-management systems that had the look and feel of the users' banks, not the software company. Meca sold its new PC software to banks, not directly to users. Over 20 months, Harrison changed his company's identity from software retailer to producer of customized toolkits for financial institutions.

Today all of the country's biggest banks either offer or are on the verge of offering Internet banking, and Meca will be an important enabler of the new technologies. training,

The company is now doing projects for ten financial institutions has six active development projects, Harrison says. Meca will sell a bank its new Internet Transaction Server software or run it as a turnkey service for the bank. …