Two years after it began, Jeff Johnson is not completely satisfied with the progress made by the CUFX project.
The effort to create a new technology standard for integrating credit union-specific software, however, has marked a number of milestones since it was launched by members of the CUNA Technology Council.
At the $1.8 billion BCU, the Vernon Hills, Ill., credit union where Johnson is senior vice president of information technology, about 9,000 of its 165,000 members are active users of a personal financial management solution that aggregates data from such disparate sources as the Symitar core processing system, PSCU card processing, a mortgage sub-servicer and the MoneyDesktop PFM solution.
Coming up soon is a second beta launch to include a set of standards to tie together an online account opening flow.
Other signs of progress: about 25 credit unions and 25 vendors are committed to the CUFX effort, including four major core processors – Fiserv (DNA, XP, CUBE, Acumen, among others), Jack Henry & Associates (Symitar), Harland Financial Solutions (UltraData) and FIS (MISER, Mercury) – now participating in various working groups.
Participants also have anted up $305,000 in the past year to support the project, and a fulltime architect manager working out of Atlanta has been hired to develop the new specifications designed to help credit unions and their technology partners more quickly develop and launch new products and services.
So what’s the problem?
"Quite frankly, it’s not going as fast as I’d like it to," said Johnson, a veteran manager who also was a Credit Union Times’ 2012 Trailblazer IT Executive of the Year. "But the reality is that this really is a big paradigm shift for our entire industry, and to make changes like this, really, it’s just going to take time."
Particularly encouraging to Johnson and another key leader in the CUFX project, Heather Moshier at the $5.8 billion San Diego County Credit Union, is the commitment from vendors.
"The fact we’ve got all four cores sitting around one room at one time is a huge victory," said Johnson, currently vice chair of the CUNA Technology Council.
"That was our big question last year," said Moshier, the council chair and her California credit union’s executive vice president of information technology. "At the time the only core vendor really committed was Symitar. The CUNA Technology Council really worked hard at CTO roundtable meetings and with various vendors. Now others are coming onboard. We also have mobile and online vendors lined up to help us work on the various specifications."
While the individual projects are moving along, the CUFX project leaders are hoping for more scale. For instance, while the account opening app is a joint project with nine credit unions, that really should be just the beginning if CUFX is to approach its potential.
"The real benefit comes in when someone like MoneyDesktop can integrate with 10 different cores and 50 different other providers. That’s what we need for this to be successful," Johnson said. "We need to get that kind of network of networks going. Once that gets going, it will make life easier for everyone involved."
To reach that scale, more adoption is needed from the vendor and credit union sides alike, the CUFX leaders said. "The credit unions and cores will have to make it a priority," Johnson said, and that will bring the others along.
The CUFX idea follows on the OFX financial data standard that grew from the XML standards that kicked off the whole idea of integrating standards a decade ago.
"The whole idea is that just a one-on-one brings no real benefit," Johnson said. "We’re still basically right now doing a series of one-offs as we write interfaces in our industry. The benefit of CUFX is that you don’t have to understand the core or the third party. You’re all using the CUFX standard to make that translation through which the data flows."
And the bottom line will then become evident.
"The overall benefit for CUFX is that it will help credit unions integrate and launch products and get them to market faster. That will help give the industry a competitive edge," said Moshier, Credit Union Times’ 2011 Trailblazer IT Executive of the Year.