ION Investment Group and Aspect Enterprise Solutions – What’s The Deal?

Last week, we had a conversation with Aspect Enterprise Solutions (Aspect) CEO, Steve Hughes and SVP of Marketing, Brigette Gebhard, with the main topic of conversation being the recently announced acquisition of Aspect by ION. Aspect has bucked a general market downturn and has been one of the CTRM success stories in recent months and years, benefitting from the trend towards greater adoption of CTRM in the cloud and the need to reduce IT costs. In fact, Ms. Gebhard provided us with a long list of new signings and expansions over the last quarter or two to emphasize just how well their sales team is doing. Many of these deals were described as ‘good-sized’ with well-known names in the industry, with a few of those deals that could rightly be termed of “significant size”. Ms. Gebhard noted that they see no sluggishness in their markets and have a record sales pipeline on tap for Q4. She indicated that 3 or 4 of the new deals had closed in the last 3 weeks alone and the company was routinely competing with the largest 2-3 vendors in the market – and winning more than their fair share. Adding to their success stories, she also noted that they have been the recipient of numerous industry awards this year, mirroring the company’s success in the marketplace.

In one of several of our conversations with Mr. Hughes over the last year, he informed us under confidentiality that Aspect was in early discussion with any number of prospective investors who might be helpful in funding future growth and potential acquisitions; so the fact that Aspect has now announced a deal has come of little surprise to us. What was perhaps a surprise was the fact that it was ION. The team told us that that the transaction could really be seen as a recapitalization that will ensure Aspect can continue to grow and execute their strategic plans in the same manner it has for the last several years.  Mr. Hughes told us that Aspect had seen a huge amount of inbound investor inquiries over the last 12 months, with the company founders and its Board finally settling on what they viewed as a superior offer from ION.

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Of course, we voiced our concerns over ION’s reputation in the market after its acquisition of Triple Point, at the time the #2 vendor and one that had virtually disappeared from the marketplace soon after the deal closed – leaving many users unhappy in the main and buyers lacking confidence in any vendor’s viability (Note: there are indications that Triple Point will soon reemerge in the market with a new product…we’ll keep you up to date on that as we learn more in the coming weeks or months).  In response, Mr. Hughes noted that there has been a track record of poorly executed acquisitions in the CTRM space in recent years and that both Aspect and ION had learned from these. He said ION’s plan is to ensure that the management team and company’s business strategies will remain intact. He assured us that he and his leadership team were going nowhere and were committed to continuing to execute their plan and furthering their reputation for efficient delivery and support.

The agreement comes into effect early next year (January 2), and between now and then the two companies will be working on finalizing the integration plan. In essence, other than working out potential channel conflicts with Triple Point, Aspect will continue to be Aspect, and ION will be the investor and strategic backer that gives Aspect the ability to execute faster and potentially make acquisitions of its own. Mr. Hughes promised us more details in a few weeks and we will be sure to catch up with him then.

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