Northwest FCU Members Go Virtual to Guard Private Documents
If anyone would know what makes digital documents secure on the Web, it would be agents of the Central Intelligence Agency.
That may be why Northwest Federal Credit Union – founded 65 years ago to serve CIA employees – is seeing its members take interest in a new Web-based deposit box solution called My Virtual StrongBox.
Developed by Herndon, Va.-based DigitalMailer Inc., the tool stores and provides backup of electronic copies of important documents, including wills, insurance policies, real estate deeds, investment statements, photos, and passports. The electronic communication service provider that serves 180 credit unions said it also offers time-tested reliability of security protection standards not offered by other online back-up solutions.
“Given the history of this organization and our members, this is the only product we found that provides lockdown security for electronic documents,” said Greg Gibson, chief operating officer for the $2.2 billion Northwest Federal in Herndon, Va. “There are a lot of cloud-based solutions that have no real security. Some solutions are only password protected and other vendors move data around to server farms, so you’re never sure where your data is being stored.”
Northwest was the first credit union to adopt MVS after DigitalMailer launched it in April. DigitalMailer CEO Ron Daly said there are nearly 30 credit unions that are in various stages of the buying process.
The MVS icon appears as a menu item on Northwest’s site behind its multifactor authentication process. The documents are automatically encrypted after members place them in MVS, which uses AES 256 bit encryption and other industry best practices, according to DigitalMailer. The virtual strongbox also stores members’ documents on dedicated, redundant storage devices in datacenters based in Boston and Charlotte, N.C. that are controlled by DigitalMailer, Daly said. The datacenters are SAS 70 Type II certified with 24-hour monitoring to assure safety and continuous backup in case of power outages or natural disasters.
Additionally, MVS enables members to customize the organization of their legal and financial documents, including photos. It offers anytime Web access. In September, DigitalMailer will launch a tablet app that will enable consumers to snap a photo of their documents and place them in MVS. A similar smartphone app is expected to launch by the end of the year.
Northwest members who get electronic statements are offered MVS free with 100 megabytes of storage space. Since the solution was introduced in June, about 800 members are using it. Approximately 68,000 out of 110,000 Northwest members get electronic statements.
“We’re still in the initial phases of making our members aware of it, but the number of adopters is pretty much growing every day,” Gibson said, adding Northwest also plans to market the service to small business owners.
As with any new solution, however, it’s uncertain whether MVS will become a popular offering among credit unions and their members. Marc DeCastro, research director for consumer banking at Framingham-Mass.-based IDC, noted in a June blog post that Wells Fargo recently dropped its virtual safe deposit box solution because of lack of consumer interest.
For Northwest, MVS was an easy install, Gibson said. The credit union paid a one-time set up and implementation fee and pays a monthly storage space fee, which increases only as members sign up for the service. Members pay an extra fee for storage space that exceeds the free 100 megabytes of space provided by Northwest. While income is expected, Gibson said the primary goal is to keep members in an increasingly competitive environment.