EUGENE, Ore. -- Innovation with a credit union focus just keeps happening at Northwest Community Credit Union, driven by the experienced hands at its CUSO, iTechNorthwest.
The latest is the successful launch of an online voting system whose first user was Northwest Community CU itself. About 350 to 400 people voted in the board election that wrapped up last month, a good number considering there was no controversy or contest involved in the elections themselves, says Dennis Powell, president of iTechNorthwest and executive vice president and CFO of the parent credit union.
Called CastMyVote.net, the solution can be hosted by the credit union or iTechNorthwest and is regulatory compliant and customizable. At Northwest Community, voters must enter their member IDs and the last four digits of their phone numbers as a password. A random confirmation code is used to thwart Internet bots.
"We had a huge need for a product like this since we have so many branches. In the past, it was a challenge to provide a consistent process throughout," says the $554 million CU's board chairman, Barbara Blackmore. "We've seen an increase in participation because it's so easy and takes only a few seconds."
The tech CUSO cut its teeth by marketing Boardroom Web, a collaborative solution now in place at about 30 credit unions. It was developed by Extreme Arts & Sciences and bought by the credit union when that organization sold its portal solution and client base to Passageways LLC, a tech CUSO of Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union in Indiana.
Powell says that development team led by Otto Radke now is at work for iTechNorthwest, working on new solutions that include account opening and loan application and decisioning tools, a tracking tool for collection teams and a title-tracking program.
Already in place is a product called FlashCapture, a digital signage solution that puts marketing content on screens in lobbies and other locations, typically used to offer products to members, including repossessed vehicles. Another product was a suggestion tracking program built by request for Watermark Credit Union in Seattle. Powell and his team now are working on an account-opening solution with CUTEK, a credit union consultancy and developer based in California.
Powell and his small team have dual roles at the credit union, but have just hired a full-time business development manager to help market the CUSO's offerings. "We're credit union-centric. We can define and build products our clients want around whatever parameters they would like. We're also not specific to the core processor," Powell says. "Our credit union is an XP Systems shop planning to convert to an OSI platform later this year. That won't matter to iTechNorthwest."
That flexibility and innovative spirit are what appealed to CUTEK President Ron Murray and his partners, who specialize in Symitar applications and have expanded to ancillary offerings and consulting engagements.
"The partnership has begun with the account opening piece, and we're really having fun together," Murray says. "I knew Otto and his colleagues from previous lives of ours and when we got a request from a credit union to put together an account opening system, we knew they were the right people to bring in the additional expertise we needed."
Murray says he already has shown off some of iTechNorthwest's work, including the FlashCapture and the Boardroom Web solutions, at Symitar regional meetings and met encouraging reaction.
"We're a nice merger of credit union and development experience, able to see those holes and agile enough to plug them instead of trying to concentrate on one area or product," Murray says of the new partnership. "And we can help develop these services at a lower cost, because a lot of times credit unions already have pieces of what they need, like Chex Systems and credit bureau access when you're talking about account opening."
"With mergers and everything else going on, it can be hard for credit unions to keep up with the fast pace of technology," he says. "That's especially true for smaller credit unions, from the sheer standpoint of affordability. We like to offer them those services at a substantial discount over what they're going to find out there in the market." --firstname.lastname@example.org