VALLEY FORGE, Pa. - The OFX (Open Financial Exchange) standard has done a lot for the financial services industry. Credit union data processor USERS here has taken full advantage of OFX and relies on its OFX transaction server to make a wide variety of products and services from many vendors available to its credit union clients.
"We have a well-developed third-party interface program. When we strike up a new relationship we point to the OFX transaction server as the way to connect to us," said Joe Barry, vice president of marketing for USERS. "It standardizes things. As we extend the server's functionality, it becomes available to all the channels."
There's nothing proprietary about OFX and that's why it's become so widely adapted in the industry. It not only helps core processors like USERS bring more third-party products and services to its credit unions, but helps third parties build to a standard, eliminating the need for a custom interface for each processor.
"One of the things about OFX is it's extensible. You can put in your own proprietary extension. That's allowed for in the protocol and so that's allowed us to extend OFX to provide support for third parties," said John Schooler, vice president of development for USERS.
Home banking is a good example of how the OFX standard allows USERS to bring home banking solutions from many different vendors to its credit union clients.
USERS has its own home banking product, Personal Credit Union (PCU), launched in October of 1998, but Schooler said USERS is not looking to corner its customers into using just its product.
"There's a lot of pressure to be open and allow for best-of-breed choices. That's not how it was done in the old days. With OFX as a non-proprietary standard, we can tell any home banking vendor `sure you can connect to us, here's the published standard, just write to that,' " said Schooler.
Barry said USERS would love to sell its PCU and WebLoan (online lending) product to all of its clients, but to serve credit unions most effectively, openness must rule the day. He said about 75 USERS' CUs utilize PCU with another 30 or 40 in the pipeline. Then there's approximately another 70 USERS' clients utilizing Digital Insight's home banking product and another 40 or so using Concentrex's.
USERS has taken a further step with OFX in its Quicken and Money interfaces that give credit union members some extra functionality.
"A lot of credit unions have implemented home banking and many allow for transfer and downloading of information into Money and Quicken, but the way we've developed the OFX transaction server, allows a direct connect from the desktop," said Barry.
This means instead of having to log into their CU's home banking system, members can simply open Quicken or Money from their desktop and their CU account data will automatically be imported.
But what about the danger of losing the credit union brand recognition? Not a problem, said Schooler. "Quicken has a branding server, so when a member brings up Quicken they actually see the credit union's logo embedded in the screen," said Schooler.
Direct connect means members don't have to bother downloading QIF (Quicken Interchange File) and importing it into Quicken on their own. -