The Benefits of Integration: Service, Cost, Member Benefits
In the past, credit unions were content to use their core systems to handle transaction processing. If they needed a different service, like ATM or online banking, they simply added that provider as a standalone unit. In time, credit union operations began looking like abstract paintings--with a splash of this provider here, another over there--and a core system that was itself an island in this mass of technological chaos.
Today, credit unions are looking for more from their core system providers; and expecting their core systems to have the capacity to manage the entire customer relationship. The teller solution is a vital part of the core, whereas 15 years ago it was not. The same is true for document management; Internet Banking and electronic fund transfers. More and more, credit unions are looking to their core providers to bring a comprehensive solution to the table, with the integrated components they need to bring a full complement of products and services to their members. This strategy not only saves time and frustration, but also streamlines the workflow within their organizations.
Credit unions with disparate systems find themselves spending a lot of time on the phone. When something isn't working, they volley the issue from provider to provider to identify the actual root of the problem. By having a single point-of-contact through one trusted provider, credit unions can release the burden of managing multiple third-party vendors and get back to the business of banking. They make one call, and the problem is resolved. Large providers are responding by either creating products to meet market demand or acquiring best-of-breed companies that have already created a premier application or function, integrating this with the existing offering, then rolling it out to their members and target markets.
With these new expectations, the actual relationship between credit unions and core providers has changed as well. Credit union leaders want to work hand-in-glove with their solution providers to effectively meet their objectives. When they purchase a core system, they are also buying into the company who delivers it. More and more often, credit union executives are inviting their core providers to strategic planning meetings, so they can gain a better understanding of the credit union's goals and more insight into their immediate and long-term needs. It's now a true partnership, with the core processor researching and presenting options, and taking an active role in supporting their credit union's growth and success.
While credit unions are looking for more from their core providers, they don't want to be limited in their choice of products and services. Core providers are responding by creating open systems, with industry-standard .NET Web services that any third-party provider can write to, enabling these products to seamlessly integrate with the core system. When seeking this technology, however, credit unions need to ensure the middleware functions above the business layers, to ensure all transactions flow through the business rules predefined in the credit union's core system, as well as keeping this data secure and compliant. Exchanging data from the application, and using industry standard formats and communication methods, provides a simplified approach to data exchange--and a faster, more cost-effective alternative to hours of customized programming.
By replacing the mass of disparate systems with a streamlined, integrated operation, credit unions save valuable resources, time and money. They not only automate processes, but, because data only has to be entered once, they eliminate redundancies and re-keying. As a result, the staff can work more efficiently and accurately.
But, the benefits of integration extend well beyond a credit union's internal operations. The true value of integration is the impact it has on the member service. Not only does an integrated environment enable the staff to focus less on data entry and more on member service, it gives every member a seamless service experience. When a member makes a deposit at a branch, an inquiry at the ATM or checks his account balance online, he wants all the information to be accurate and up-to-date. Integration enables credit unions to ensure that real-time information is available on demand and consistent across all of their delivery channels.
It also enables credit unions to bring new products to the market faster--and more successfully. For example, a credit union with a non-integrated Internet banking solution would gather the member data, which would be re-keyed and sent to the prospective member for funding. An integrated Internet solution would allow this data to be collected online, including I.D. verification and approval--then immediately send this to the core, where the account number is generated. The number is then returned and funds the account. Everything's done in real time--at that moment--without lag time that could result in a lost sale.
For internal efficiencies to an enhanced member experience to gaining a competitive advantage, the answer is integration. Make sure your core provider has the tools in place to deliver.