One of the credit union industry's leading core-processing proponents of open systems has institutionalized "co-opetition" with a program designed to smooth the way between credit unions and third-party vendors.
Symitar recently began promoting its Vendor Integration Services, comprising its Vendor Integration Program for software deploys and its new Hardware Integration Program for the equipment it runs on.
Vendors are invited to join by credit unions desiring their services. Symitar then provides access to its integration tools, including SymConnect, and single sign-on capabilities that allow credit unions to gain direct access to those applications without having to toggle back and forth between systems.
On the hardware side, the provider of the Episys core processing solution to about 550 credit unions will coordinate a validation process that reduces the testing time and costs credit unions would incur doing it on their own, the company said.
The credit union industry is no stranger to co-opetition-cooperation among competitors-and Symitar's approach to providing entry to its core processing client list is an example.
For instance, the product that one Symitar client-the $1.9 billion Keesler FCU in Biloxi, Miss.-chose to use from a VIP participant is readily available from Symitar or a number of other vendors.
Keesler recently decided to use the alerts service from San Diego-based Xpress Data Inc. through the VIP program.
"We wanted to alert members about things like fund transfers and maturing certificates, nonsufficient funds, past due notices, things like that," said Larry Mayo, the credit union's vice president of information technology. "This was a new project for us and the intention was that this VIP program would make it a smoother process."
He said while there were some slowdowns due to systems migrations taking place at both his credit union and at Xpress Data, "the beauty of all this is that we could work directly with the vendor, and they could work directly with Symitar. Everyone was easy to work with and now our system is up and working as they designed it with no problems at all."
While the vendor program centers on connecting software and hardware between organizations, the people part also was appreciated by Mike Cooper, president of Xpress Data, which now serves about 135 credit unions. Cooper said the higher level of communications was one of the aspects of the program he most noticed.
"It creates a smoother process for us and our clients. Everyone knows what needs to be accomplished and it happens quicker. And being a part of VIP means we find out about changes that are coming with Symitar and how those might affect our clients and their members," he said.
"The best part probably is that there's less confusion and our mutual clients don't end up in the middle, trying to negotiate between us or making communication happen," Cooper said.
Walter Hoffman, integration project manager for VIP at Symitar, said about 50 vendors are involved right now, including purveyors of loan origination, home banking, bill pay, cash management and e-statement solutions, among others. Client credit unions have chosen to use products from both small operations and major competitors such as Fiserv and Harland.
"Episys tries to be a truly open system and while our ancillary products can stand on their own two feet, we want our clients to have the selection of what they think are best-of-breed products for running their business," Hoffman said.
Potential VIP vendors have to be sponsored by a Symitar credit union, he said. Their ability to integrate with the Episys platform is then evaluated point-by-point and if necessary, Hoffman said, customized integration can be created for a fee.
"Credit unions are really great at being credit unions but they're not usually so good at coding and integration, especially with managing really tedious timeline projects," Hoffman said. "We help take the credit union out of that role with seamless, quality integration that relieves them of a lot of stress."