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Ingram Micro Gets Creative With New Financing Capabilities For MSPs, VARs

Ingram Micro is responding to customer demands for as-a-service pricing and turning hardware into an operating expense with new financing programs, including a new program to provide up-front financing of hardware and other expenses as-a-service while being transparent to end customers.

 

Ingram Micro Tuesday expanded its channel financing capabilities with new ways to better help its MSP and its SMB channel partners more easily work with clients looking to move away from outright purchases of hardware and software and turn them into operating expenses.

The Irvine, Calif.-based distributor used its Ingram Micro One conference, held this week in Denver, to support its partners with as-a-service models, said Kelly Carter, the company's new chief country financial officer for its Canada business.

Carter, who also works closely with Anthony Mackle, Ingram Micro's U.S. and Latin America chief financial officer to develop new creative financing capabilities, said her company knows the industry is moving towards expanding its embrace of as-a-service pricing.

[Related: Ahead Of The Curve: How Ingram Micro Is Helping Partners Thrive]

"And we're trying to make the work with our partners," she told CRN.

New from Ingram Micro is Managed Services Financing, a way to move business users' hardware purchases to make it a part of the managed services contract, Carter said. The goal, she said, is to finance the upfront costs related to a managed services contract, such as the needed hardware and equipment and the need to pay sales reps, in such a way that it is transparent to business users.

For example, Carter said, a $1 million managed service contract over three years may require $400,000 upfront. Instead of the MSP needing to use its own capital or work with multiple vendors' financial teams to fund that, Ingram Micro, with its Managed Services Financing program, will pay for the costs and then deduct payments from what clients pay to the MSPs, she said.

No separate financing agreement is needed under the program, Carter said.

"This is unique," she said. "No one else is doing this. We're very comfortable with this program, and have put in the extra capital needed to make it work."

While no credit agreement is signed between the end-user client and Ingram Micro, the distributor with work with the MSP to ensure it is comfortable extending the financing, Carter said.

"We are completely hidden from the end-customer," she said. "The end-customers do not know about Ingram Micro. They just enter into an MSP agreement with the partner. Customers don't want to acquire or manage the equipment. They want it to be an expense."

Several MSPs told CRN that the program will be a big help to expanding their managed services business.

KLH, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based MSP, has made hardware a part of its services contract in the past, and still does so with small items, but has found it causes issues with cash flow, said Scott Johnson, the company's chief operating officer and owner.

Ingram Micro's Managed Services Financing offers a scenario where KLH can help provide and manage infrastructure as part of a managed services contract, Johnson told CRN.

"We can use this as a differentiator for our business to maintain or even increase our margins," he said. "I can see this working with all the hardware, including servers and workstations. I honestly don't see where it wouldn't work."

Ingram Micro's Managed Services Financing could be a very useful program, said Mary Moretti, sales manager at Data Integrity, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider and MSP. She told CRN she expects the program would work on a wide range of hardware needed by her company's managed services clients, including notebook PCs.

The Managed Services Financing program will make doing business with customers looking to add managed services a whole lot easier, said Faisal Bhutto, executive vice president for enterprise networking, cloud, and cyber security at Computex Technology Solutions, a Houston-based MSP.

"Customers want IT to be an operational expense," Bhutto told CRN. "They have been wanting a consumption model, and traditionally MSPs have been able to do that for their services. But when it came to hardware, we have to rely on third-party financing or perhaps the OEM's financing arm."

That kind of financing has not been easy, Bhutto said.

"This new program is big," he said. "As we go out to customers looking to bundle hardware with services, we can engage them with whatever the terms are, all behind the scenes. If the customer can see a monthly bill that includes their hardware as well, that will allow us to accelerate our managed services business."

For MSPs with smaller clients looking for as-a-service programs with no hardware attachment, Ingram Micro is expanding its Direct Express program to now include software annuities, Carter said.

"We're using Direct Express to accommodate the payments over time," she said. "And now we're leveraging it for annuity software sales to spread payments out over time."

Direct Express, which until now has been offered in the U.S., will now be available in Canada as well, Carter said.

Johnson said his company offers software, particularly applications from Microsoft, through things like Microsoft's SPLA (service provider licensing agreement) or via traditional leases.

"If Ingram Micro can finance that software through Direct Express as an annuity, it will be appreciated," he said. "The more you can do to help spread payments out for customers, the better you serve those customers."

Ingram Micro this week is also renaming its Ingram Micro Lease-IT! program to Ingram Micro Flexible Payment Solutions, Carter said. The name change reflects the fact that the program is no longer about leasing, but now includes other financing tools such as rentals and as-a-service pricing, she said.

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