Small Credit Union's Processor Wins Over CEO
Robert Taylor was so impressed with the core processing system at the smaller credit union his Idaho State University Federal Credit Union was merging that the CEO is not only keeping that platform around, he’s buying a piece of the company.
Earlier this year, the $130 million ISUCU took in the $17 million Pocatello Teachers Federal Credit Union in Pocatello, Idaho.
Along with its 2,600 members, the 15,700-member ISUCU got a first-hand look at the CUProdigy Core system from Credit Union Data Processing Inc., a CUSO in Farmington, Utah.
“The normal assumption is that the system at the larger credit union would be the continuing one but I guess we decided otherwise after seeing what it had to offer and talking to their people and seeing how open both truly were,” Taylor said.
As a result of the merger, ISUCU now has 55 employees and five branches – three in Pocatello and one each in Blackfoot and Idaho Falls – and seven surcharge-free ATMs on the Idaho State campus. Taylor said his merged staff played a major role in the decision to look at staying with the smaller system.
“The tellers loved the CUDP system and kept badgering to take a look at it until I did. I was pretty close minded about it until then,” Taylor said.
His first impression came when he went to a Pocatello Teachers branch with his Mac.
“CUDP set me up on it in just a couple minutes and there I was on Firefox looking at names and accounts. There’s no way I could have done that with some other systems,” Taylor said. “It’s very platform independent.”
Taylor also found that he was able to talk the same language with the programming staff at CUDP, something he said has not always been the case in the past.
“I don’t want to mention the company’s name, but I had a discussion a couple years ago with a programmer we were working with, and he just couldn’t understand what was saying. I had him repeat it back to me and really, it was very frustrating,” Taylor recalled.
Work is under way now to meet the expected conversion date of Dec. 31 this year, Taylor said. ISUCU currently runs on the CUnify platform from Open Solutions Inc. Prior to that, it ran on the SOSystems solution that Open Solutions purchased and eventually began sunsetting.
The credit union has a demanding university membership base and is a power user of the Open Solutions system, Taylor said. The IT manager at ISUCU is active in their users group and has been an instructor for them in report writing, he pointed out.
“We’re always pushing for more and I think we’re now at the point where the bigger companies probably can’t turn our demands around soon enough,” Taylor said. “My members are demanding things that demand a different architecture, more bill pay, more multi-channel banking. CUDP has developed the [application programming interface] and has the people we need to provide a truly open system and work with us to get what we need in here.”
They’re integrating with a number of different vendors at ISUCU, including FICS for mortgage servicing, CardWizard for instant-issue debit cards and a marketing customer information file system from Jack Henry & Associates that the credit union used to extract data and segment the new members from the former Pocatello Teachers FCU.
Taylor said he also was impressed enough to persuade his board of directors to purchase a 16% stake in CUDP.
“Who’d ever heard of Google or Facebook before they became mainstream? That’s the way I feel about CUProdigy; it’s the next step in the evolution of credit union core processing systems,” Taylor said.
Now with 16 credit unions using its core processing platform, CUDP has completely rewritten and upgraded it over the past four years, the CUSO said. Along with interfacing with third party vendors, an emphasis was placed on business continuity and disaster recovery.
“If my system goes down I have continuous backup of my database at an offsite location to get us up and running quickly and I won’t have backup servers to deal with. If we lose one branch we can just go to another with no hiccups at all,” Taylor said.
That flexibility comes from the database replication technology CUDP is now using, said Charlie Fulks, president/CEO of CUDP. He also said that while his CUSO’s small size makes it easier to work closely with and be responsive to its credit union clients, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
“It’s not that easy. We have several developers involved in making all this possible, including what we call in interface engineer who finds ways that allow us to handle all the communications between the third parties and us,” Fulks said.
The 21-year-old CUSO also has developed not just a can-do, but a must-do philosophy as it re-developed its core platform over the past few years.
“Several years ago, one of our credit union people, a board member of our CUSO, described how it was beginning to feel like he was a large credit union trapped in a small credit union body,” Fulks said. “That’s how it felt knowing he had to be able to provide everything to his members that they would get from a large credit union.”
While the CUDP system can scale to large credit unions, Fulks said, being a small CUSO also has its advantages. Taylor said that’s why he asked his board of directors at ISUCU to invest in CUDP, eventually buying 16% of the ownership.
“Our credit union’s bottom line is to increase member satisfaction, not profitability for a few shareholders," Taylor said. "That’s what I love about the fact CUDP is a CUSO. The philosophy is much the same.”