Seasons FCU Transforms Hectic IT Schedule
Credit unions know that offering the latest in online, mobile and text banking technologies evens the competitive field against the convenience perceptions of large banks.
As consumer demand for these services are expected to grow, credit unions and competing banks need to constantly update, maintain and expand their IT systems.
But these technology trends create frustrating challenges for credit unions. Unlike their large competitors, the limited resources of most small and midsize credit unions can only support a very small IT staff of maybe two or three employees.
At some credit unions such as the $125 million Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn., there is only one IT person. As the cooperative’s IT director, Bill Weingartner is responsible for making sure the credit union’s entire IT system is operating smoothly 24 hours a day and seven days a week for 55 employees, four branches, an operations center and 16,000 members.
Weingartner said he used to spend most of his days traveling from branch to branch, working 30 to 40 hours a week troubleshooting every IT issue, big and small. But that wasn’t the end of his day. Weingartner needed to return to his office to take care of administrative duties and other work responsibilities that had been piling up on his desk while he was on the road. This daily scenario went on for a while until he found an affordable and secure remote support technology product that solved his problem and benefitted member service.
Weingartner first heard about the Ridgeland, Miss.-based Bomgar, a maker of remote support solutions, from a vendor three years ago.
The Bomgar B200 remote desktop support appliance solution enabled Weingartner to access any computer on Seasons’ system and remotely troubleshoot issues, make upgrades and perform other maintenance requirements.
“One of the main things I like about the Bomgar device is that I’m able to install a service on any PC where I can remote in whether the user is on his or her desktop,” said Weingartner. “A lot of the other remote solutions required the user to be at their desktop, go to a website and type in a meeting code to give me access. Now, when I need to make upgrades, I can do that whether or not the users are at their desktops.”
That was a huge benefit for Weingartner because it freed up the 30 to 40 hours a week he was spending driving from branch to branch resolving IT issues.
Interestingly enough, Weingartner’s story is similar to Bomgar founder Joel Bomgar. Like Weingartner, Bomgar was spending a lot of travel time to serve clients who needed IT support throughout Jackson, Miss. He couldn’t find a remote solution that would allow him to provide IT support for clients over the Internet. So Bomgar said he decided to develop his own remote support solution, which cut his drive time by half and doubled the number of customers he could support.
Convinced there could be a market for his new remote product, he produced a brochure, launched a website and waited. Soon, he said he began getting orders for his solution and made $24,000 in just two months. In 2003, Bomgar co-founded his business with Nathan McNeill, chief strategy officer and Patrick Norman, vice president of online marketing.
Since it opened for business nine years ago, Bomgar said it has sold its products and services to more than 6,500 corporate customers, including 476 financial services clients.
“Credit unions can use other tools to do remote activity, but in the financial sector those solutions don’t meet the security guidelines by the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council, and so credit unions can run into many regulatory issues and that becomes a real problem,’ said McNeill.
“If you have one, two or three people doing IT, your credit union still has the same compliance requirements as any larger financial institution but with far fewer resources,” McNeill said. “That means you’ve got to figure out a way to multiply your own hours without working more of them yourself.”
Security and compliance are critically important for all financial services companies, particularly when it comes to using remote applications. Research shows remote access tools are used in more data breaches than any other attack pathway. Bomgar’s appliance-based remote solution strengthens security through its architecture, authentication, access controls and audit capabilities, according to the company.
The Bomgar B200 device is installed on a credit union’s IT network, providing a centralized control over all remote support activities and preventing third-party tampering. Data is routed and stored centrally over standard ports, which enable effective auditing.
In addition to using SSL data encryption, Bomgar claims it is the only remote support provider to offer a solution that meets Federal Information Processing Standards Publications 140-2 Level 2 certified for both software and hardware elements.
According to Bomgar, its authentication integrates with any existing identity management and authentication methods, allowing users to login with security directory credentials, as well as smart or CAC cards. The solution also features specific access controls for support representatives, customers and vendors, and its audit functionalities include full audit trails and video recordings, real-time management oversight and third party validation.
Bomgar’s remote security features have given Weingartner the confidence and opportunity to help members when they have problems accessing Season’s online banking site from their computers, he said.
“Our call center is pretty good at walking members through issues. But when they are in a tight spot and can’t resolve the problem, then it gives us another option to help members out,” explained Weingartner. “It allows me to access a member’s computer securely and help them out. That goes a long way in keeping our members satisfied.”