Tech Meets Operations at CUNA Councils Conference
SAN ANTONIO — For the past 15 years or so, the CUNA Technology Council and the CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council have been holding annual conferences.
For the past couple years, they’ve been holding them together, including last week at the Marriott Rivercenter here.
Each group had their own series of breakout sessions, with general sessions featuring speakers – including Fiserv executive Mark Sievewright, security expert Jim Stickley, and author and former Yahoo! executive Tim Sanders – appealing to both sides of the aisle, an aisle that participants said is often crossed and blurred as technology and operations managers find themselves dealing with issues of mutual concern.
Peggy Stavely, vice president of branch administration at the $2.4 billion Tower Federal Credit Union in Laurel, Md., was one of about 300 attendees and said she was back after a couple years’ absence. She said she liked the combined format.
“The operations conferences had been getting very small and really not worth my while, but now with them combined like this, it’s a different story,” Stavely said. “There’s a lot of crossover between technology and operations, and I’ve picked up a lot of good information from the vendors and the sessions here.”
While no technologist, Stavely said finds herself looking at processes more and more, including at such issues as how to cut the amount of time it takes to open an account or apply for a loan at one of her credit union’s dozen branches.
Meanwhile, Dan McGowan, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union in Charleston, said he also was finding value in learning more from colleagues and vendors about how they’re dealing with growing regulatory demands.
“Here we are a credit union of about $136 million with a staff member whose full-time job is working on compliance,” he said.
Automation can help. “We want to make everything fast and easy and connected for our members and our staff. So, for compliance, we’re automating things that are redundant as much as we can so we can spend as much of our human capital as we can meeting member needs,” McGowan said.
Compliance issues are a particularly good example of where operations and technology converge, said Rudy Pereira, chair of the CUNA Technology Council and senior vice president of operations and technology at the $7.9 billion Alliant Credit Union in Chicago.
“These are issues that affect all of us and they involve all the different disciplines at a credit union,” Pereira said. He also said he thought the conference format worked well, giving more scale to the conference while allowing separate tracks for breakout sessions that accommodated both those who wanted to concentrate on either technology or operations, sales and service, or mix and match.
There was enough going on at the show to keep a pure technologist like Mike Thomas, technology security architect for the $306 million Credit Union of New Jersey in Ewing, engaged.
“I don’t get too involved with the operations area. We have a COO, and I just try to make sure to provide what they need,” Thomas said. “But we still all have to work on things together."
A popular addition to the conference this year was a speed round session of technology solution providers held Monday morning. In a fast-paced 90 minutes, a group of eight presenting vendors showed off their offerings–including automated compliance software, online, mobile and personal financial management solutions, remote check deposit solutions and document management.
A familiar figure with a new role in the credit union space was Kathy Hooker Burress, the retired president of Symitar who’s now president of Software Management & Associates, a Texas-based provider of workflow automation and job scheduling solutions.
Hooker Burress and her colleague Will Pulley demonstrated an OFAC compliance automation solution they said cut a process that normally takes 30 minutes to about four minutes and can send text-based notifications to nearly any mobile device.
That was one of a dozen presentations that also included online banking, personal financial management and business process improvement solutions.
Jennifer Weiss, vice president of information technology at the $1.7 billion Sandia Laboratory FCU in Albuquerque, N.M., said she enjoyed the new addition to the CUNA Technology Conference agenda.
“It was a good way to get a quick snapshot of all these different product offerings,” she said. “I think security is our big challenge right now and being able to meet all these new guidelines coming from the FFIEC, it helps to talk with different vendors and hear different approaches."
The value of a combined operations and technology conference, meanwhile, was illustrated at a lawyer-led session on e-discovery, attended by Belinda Caillouet, vice president of IT at the $1.5 billion Spokane Teachers CU in Liberty Lake, Wash., and her traveling companion, Christina Dunford, the CU’s director of operations and support.
“This session was good from both the IT perspective that I’m responsible for and for the person sitting right next to me, who’s got to look at the human side of things and how things are working out in the branches,” said Caillouet, who’s also a member of the CUNA Technology Council and chaired this year’s conference.