August 30, 2013

Long-standing low-end specialist, Fern Software, of Ireland, has won an interesting initial deal in North America.  Funded by the Government of Canada, Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) in the province of Ontario provide loans and assistance to small businesses.   There are 61 CFDCs located in rural Ontario, part of a network of 269 across Canada.

The selection process was carried out by Ernst & Young and the first that Fern knew about the opportunity was a call from Toronto, followed by an RFI.  It was an extensive selection process, says Fern Software Founder and CEO, Eamon Scullin, with a lot of presentations, proof of concept studies and reference site visits and calls.

These types of institutions are emerging or gaining greater prominence around the world, as governments seek to unlock credit for small businesses (the average loan size of the Canadian CDFCs is around C$50,000).  Scullin views this type of development agency as an interesting new market for Fern Software, but one which is not too far from the supplier's traditional MFI and credit union sectors.

In Scotland, Fern Software has Social Investment Scotland as a customer, which provides support and loans to charities, community organisations and social enterprises.  With funding from the Scottish Parliament, it went live with Abacus in Q2 2013.  In July 2013, Fern Software also added another government funded entity, Microfinance Ireland, as a customer.  It provides funding to enterprise boards across the country, with this then used for credit for small businesses.  Cut-over is scheduled for October 2013.

Fern Software's system in Canada will be delivered on a hosted basis, which is a new departure for the company, and the project will see it adapt its system for this.  Some of the development work in Canada will be incorporated into a new version of its platform, which will include a new device-independent user interface, improved reporting and a new CRM component.  Fern Software is expecting the new version of its system, which will include all of the existing functionality, to be available in around June 2014.   It will be branded as FaaS (Fern-as-a-Service) Bank and, as the name suggests, there will be an emphasis on hosted delivery.  It will complement the existing, .Net, licence-based version, Abacus.

Another recent development is intended to see the launch of a Shari'ah-compliant version of AbacusFern Software, which is established on most continents, has only fairly recently moved into the Middle East, with projects underway in Oman, Jordan and Yemen.  The latter, via a local partner, is seeing Abacus tailored for Islamic banking.  The name of the client is currently off-the-record.

The company is also hopeful of a breakthrough in Central and Eastern Europe.  It appointed a representative in Moldova in February 2013 and Scullin expects a contract to be signed shortly with a first customer in Georgia.