‘Vendor’ Is Not a Dirty Word

Guest blog by Paul W. Freeman, Indiana Bankers Association

My business card reads, “Executive Vice President–Members Services.” What does that title mean? A large portion of my job is to serve as the principal liaison between the IBA and the hundreds (if not thousands) of vendors offering products and services to the banking industry. This responsibility includes the recruitment and retention of associate member; the sale of trade show space, advertising and sponsorships; and the management of our Preferred Service Provider (PSP) relationships.

So who am I serving, the vendors or the bankers? I hope that the answer is both, with a priority being placed on the bankers. I do what I do for two reasons.

The first reason is financial. The vendor community contributes significant financial support to the IBA. Approximately 40 percent of the IBA budget falls under the category of “vendor money.” Through the payment of dues, the purchase of trade show space, sponsorships and advertising, and revenue-sharing by PSPs, the vendor community supports the mission of the IBA. Is this support a charitable contribution? No, it is a business investment, and it is my job to provide our associate members with a positive ROI through access and exposure. Associate members invest in the IBA because it is good for business. To paraphrase John Dillinger, a vendor joins the IBA, because that is where the bankers are.

The second reason is a belief that the vendor community truly contributes to the collective benefit of the Association. Advertisers in the Hoosier Banker pay the bills, but they also contribute to the content of the magazine. One purpose of Hoosier Banker is to communicate best practices, which vendors reinforce by displaying information about the latest in products and services through advertisements. Exhibitors at the Mega Conference pay the bills, but they also contribute to the value of the conference. There are as many new ideas residing in the exhibit hall as in the classroom.

This sense of collective benefit is very much evident in our selection of a Preferred Service Provider. The PSP designation is much more than a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” It represents IBA’s efforts to create a collective benefit for our members. What is it that we can provide collectively better than any of our members can obtain individually? The collective buying power of the IBA Group Insurance Trust and our Office Depot discount program are prime examples. Title Center of Indiana and ABA Insurance Services likewise serve as cooperative ownership models that would not have existed without the collectiveness of the Association.

Yes, the money is important. The IBA collects more in PSP royalties than we do in bank membership dues. Without this support, your bank dues would double. Vendors provide approximately 50 percent of the funding for the Mega Conference and Annual Convention. Without this support, your registration fees would double.

But the real value of vendor relationships goes beyond the money. Our associate members contribute to the quality of the IBA. They speak at conferences, share ideas through our magazine and serve on committees. They provide the products and services that you need to serve your customers and provide a return to your stockholders.

Please keep these thoughts in mind the next time you get a phone call from “just” another vendor.

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