Members Report Snags in First Tech CU Conversion
The $4.9 billion First Tech FCU, the product of a California-Oregon mega-merger this year, experienced a few negative hits during its Memorial Day computer conversion.
The result was some negative local press in Portland as some members took to online vehicles to vent their frustration with account access.
Deborah Colby, vice president of marketing/business development for First Tech, which now has its headquarters at the former home of Addison Avenue FCU in Palo Alto, said, "Any integration of this magnitude is bound to run into problems, and we were not 100% perfect."
On its website, First Tech said the integration of its systems, accounts and services is complete, but added, "We’re still experiencing some hiccups that we’re diligently working to fix as soon as possible. We continue to appreciate your patience as we work through some remaining issues."
The website notice said longer than normal on-hold telephone and email response times also were occurring and gave suggestions to members on ways to ensure online banking systems and software such as Quicken could work more effectively during the transition.
"After that, if you still experience user name, password or security certificate errors, please email" the CU, advised the website.
Meanwhile, The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, said it was hearing from members online, noting that such a computer snafu as experienced by First Tech "is not good for a credit union that caters to Oregon's savvy, demanding technology workers. First Tech customers have flocked to a Facebook page to share their issues and grouse about the company's response."
"First Tech's technology issues were initially much worse," the Oregonian article said of the period over the Memorial Day weekend, including one member unable to access accounts for a reported nine days.
"When the credit union's newly merged computer back-shop went active over Memorial Day weekend, heavier than expected traffic crashed the system," the newspaper said.
Colby of First Tech declined to confirm that description but said there were 104,000 "logins the first day" and that operations last week were "moving ahead with business as usual."
Consultants with West Monroe Partners, a Chicago firm hired by First Tech to assist in account and system integration, said they were surprised at the member complaints though not necessarily dismayed given the size of the conversion.
"Actually, I was impressed with how quickly and professionally some of the issues were resolved by their staff since we were all operating on a 24-hour basis," recalled Tom Bolger, co-head of West Monroe’s banking practice division in Seattle and head of the firm’s First Tech task force.
Along with others, Bolger said he personally "was up all night" during a three-day conversion window from May 27-31. Bolger said he "thought the conversion went very well from our vantage point."
As did Open Solutions Inc., the enterprise technology firm whose core processing platform was in use by both Addison Avenue and First Tech prior to the integration.
"We still considered it a conversion since it was two separate systems. In our view, it was a very successful merger and data conversion between two very large credit unions. It went very well, and in fact was ahead of schedule in terms of what they accomplished in a short time," said David Mitchell, chief marketing officer at Open Solutions in Glastonbury, Conn.
He said the credit union had recorded about 650 comments on Facebook after converting 1.5 million accounts containing 95 million transactions from 330,000 members.
"Of course, the credit union wanted 100% satisfaction. I give them credit for their amazing transparency in setting up a Facebook site and launching this social media way of communicating with their members so quickly and collectively," Mitchell said.