IBM to make $4 billion in financing available through channel

Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for small and medium business at IBM

Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for small and medium business at IBM

IBM has announced plans to make $4 billion (U.S.) in financing available to their business partners’ customers worldwide.

Last year, the company did a $1 billion round of financing, focused at the small business customer, and it ran through that money – expected initially to last at least 18 months – in less than a year. This second round is happening because “there is truly need,” said Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for small and medium business at IBM.

“We absolutely know that when you look at the marketplace, whether it’s SMB or enterprise of any size, they all look at technology and the deployment of technology-based solutions as a means of driving growth,” Abrams said. “But the capital required to acquire that technology is one of their big challenges.”

The financing program is available in 50 countries around the world (including Canada) and Abrams said Big Blue expects fully two-thirds of the available funding to be delivered outside the U.S.

While its previous campaign was limited to SMB customers, this time around, Big Blue is opening the door to any business of any size, with financing beginning at $5,000, and without any pre-defined ceilings. Given the broader focus, Abrams said he expects the $4 billion being put on the table to be gone in 12-18 months, although there is no expiration date on the funding, and it sounds like there’s more where it came from.

“If we move through it faster than that, we’ll bring more money to the marketplace,” he said.

The financing is available to any member of IBM’s PartnerWorld program – which currently numbers some 120,000 partners worldwide. The first round of $1 billion was spread out over some 7,000 customers, Abrams said. And with more money available to more customers, the company is taking steps to make it easier for its partners to hook customers up with financing. Big Blue is introducing new mobile apps for iOS and Android devices that will allow partners to qualify and apply for funding in “less than five minutes,” according to Abrams.

“We’re changing the way we give access to capital because our partners are telling us this is how they’re interacting with their customers,” he said.

Given its recent courting of managed service providers, it comes as no surprise that IBM is also making this financing pool available to MSPs looking to build out their own data centres and “add robustness to their offerings,” as Abrams puts it. In that case, he said, partners will be welcomed to act as their own customers, effectively, and take on the financing for themselves. But in all other situations, customers must purchase their solutions through a third-party IBM partner.

Based on the experience going through the first round of the funding, Abrams said that partners who were successful in taking advantage of the offering were those who were solutions-focused, and led with the business advantage of a given solution. Partners who understood the customer’s pain points first, crafted the solution second, and then brought financing in “as the clincher” tended to optimize their advantage as opposed to partners who “went in there and asked a customer if they wanted to finance a piece of software or a piece of hardware.”

Partners are a critical part of the equation for the financing deal, Abrams said, because the company’s research shows that customers are looking for technology solutions, but are also looking for “expertise and knowledge on how to integrate it into our business, and migrate to cloud-based solutions.”