When trying to wrap your mind around Insight Ecosystems, it might help to think of Acxiom Corp. – only on a smaller scale.
It makes perfect sense, considering that CEO Keith Henkel was the CTO of Acxiom's database marketing business. He also was responsible for Acxiom's core data integration technologies.
All told, Henkel has 24 years of experience in the financial services industry.
Before Acxiom, he was a managing director at Alltel Information Services (now Fidelity Information Services). He started his career at Systematics Inc.
So what is different about Henkel's solo venture, Insight Ecosystems, a Little Rock company started in 2004?
Henkel built the company around software he developed called Banker's Insight. The software allows small and mid-sized banks to access all the same information about their customers and business performance as the larger institutions – and at a more affordable price than larger financial service providers.
"Larger companies tend to spend tens of millions of dollars on a conglomeration of systems and their IT departments can spend millions putting them all together," Henkel said. "It's not very integrated and takes a lot of technical expertise to maintain."
So he decided to find a solution to an emerging pattern of "haves and have-nots" by developing a Web-based function that companies can outsource without having to create a separate IT department.
In September, Bank of the Ozarks was the first to embrace the concept by implementing Banker's Insight.
"They're big enough to have a lot of customers and a lot of data but they're not big enough to afford somebody like an Acxiom," Henkel said.
Banker's Insight has just begun to provide the bank performance management, data analysis and marketing capabilities. It also delivers bank executives and branch officers business intelligence capabilities for efficient and more profitable decision making.
The bank says it also is benefiting from detailed customer and household profiles that include demographics to identify who is most likely to buy which products and why, and to market relevant products and services to established customers.
"Adopting new business intelligence is a critical element of our growth and profitability plan," said Susan Blair, Bank of the Ozarks' executive vice president and marketing director.
"Banker's Insight allows us to understand and monitor current performance while planning future marketing strategies. This solution is a win-win tool that gives our bankers the ability to accurately match products to the customers who will benefit most from them."
In the process of implementing his technology, Henkel signed on with Innovate Arkansas in March. IA is a program of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and is operated by Winrock International. It provides free services to help new and existing businesses commercialize new technologies.
Henkel had been working with consultant Mike Smith Jr., who works as an advisor for IA, for several years prior.
"Mike helped me a lot with venture funding – how to approach venture capitalists – and with business planning," Henkel said.
And Smith said he thinks Henkel has found a lucrative niche market.
"Keith is one of those rare combinations in an entrepreneur: He has good business sense and he's very creative," Smith said. "I won't say that there aren't challenges to building his business. But when you look for a leading, innovative technology with strong management, he's really strong in terms of his business sense, as well as having created this software that I think is probably the cutting edge for internal bank analysis. He has a great combination for his business."
Henkel hopes to sign on 40 to 50 customers and employ 60 to 80 people in the next four years.
(Click here for a list of new patents awarded to Arkansans.)