Hikvision Hires Ex-Samsung / Panasonic Exec

By John Honovich, Published May 18, 2015, 12:00am EDT

Hikvision's expansion continues, with the mega Chinese manufacturer now hiring one of the most well known and well tenured American sales executives.

In this note, we break down what Hikvision is looking to do here, how Frank De Fina will fit and what challenges Hikvision faces in this expansion.

De Fina Background

De Fina [link no longer available] is well known for his 4 year runs as President of Panasonic Systems and later EVP of Samsung Techwin Americas. Most recently he spent less than a year at analytic specialist Sightlogix.

Hikvision Role

Hikvision says that De Fina will run Strategic Sales and be one of three North American sales directors (including Eastern and Western regional directors), reporting to Hikvision USA President Jeffrey He [link no longer available].

Unlike De Fina's previous roles where he was in charge of the 'Americas', De Fina will have a more limited / focused role at Hikvision.

Hikvision High-End Expansion

Hikvision has been on a tear over the past few years, as shown in their Top Manufacturers Gaining Ground performance.

However, most of their success has been on the low end of the market and heavily with non-enterprise integrators (dealers such as "Magical Home Theaters", "Adams Electrical Services, & General Home Systems," etc.)

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'Strategic Sales' represents Hikvision's push into larger commercial / industrial integrators, national accounts, etc. De Fina should be an asset here given that he has positive relationships with many of the bigger integrators / 'accounts' that Samsung wants to move into.

Challenges for Hikvision At the High-End

The high-end will not be as easy as the low end for Hikvision. From what we have seen to date, Hikvision has not done well with this segment, who has more demanding requirements and complex projects, where lowest price is not as critical.

With larger buyers, including government entities and government funded projects, the lack of a known brand (Hikvision is not a mainstream brand yet in North America) and the company's partial ownership by Chinese government entities are a negative. This will be more closely considered at the higher end than the low end.

Compounding this is Hikvision's security problems. Hikvision reported new / improved firmware in March but we still have no confirmation from them that it is released. Given one of Hikvision's domestic government customers were hacked, does a sensible US government customer want to take that risk?

Though Hikvision has some higher end cameras at lower prices, they are certainly not a leader in that market, in terms of overall feature sets or variety of models offered.

None of this means Hikvision will fall here, but it will clearly be harder for Hikvision to sweep through the high end as it has been doing in the low end over the past few years.

De Fina Benefits

Despite Hikvision's overall massive size (~$2.8 billion in 2014 revenue) and rapid American expansion ($100+ million in 2014), the company still lacks connections with the 'old guard' of the industry. By virtue of De Fina's previous terms at Panasonic and Samsung, he brings some validation to those people. Moreover, his personal connections / relationships should help make some of them more comfortable with doing business with Hikvision.

Additionally, De Fina is the very best at getting the American trade magazines to say positive things about him and his companies. He has spent years feeding the impoverished trade magazine editors and they have rewarded him with glowing coverage (see: The Most Misleading Announcement of ASIS 2014). To date, Hikvision has had very modest recognition in the American trade magazines. De Fina's appointment should help get the trade magazines to think more and more positively about the company.

Impact on Sightlogix

Finally, De Fina's short, sub-year, stint at Sightlogix was somewhat surprising. However, Sightlogix offered a gracious endorsement of De Fina's term to IPVM:

"Frank accomplished his mission by making a lot of positive changes to our classic product sales organization and we will benefit from his processes and the structure going forward.  Accordingly, we expect solid incremental growth in this part of our business as we expand our partnerships and focus much of our attention towards launching our new SightWrap Services.  It was a true pleasure working with Frank and I expect he will have great success at Hikvision."

UPDATE: Frank De Fina passed away July 2015.

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