Technology is largely a business of expectations – expectations that are met or not, and sometimes exceeded. For credit unions, their perspective on technology performance can be weighed heavily against the associated service provided.
And why not? Credit unions pride themselves on delivering world-class service to members, and they expect to receive that same world-class service from their vendor partners.
It doesn’t take long in this business to recognize that though specific reasons vary from one institution to the next, a credit union ultimately chooses to opt out of its current core platform because the provider of that system has failed to meet predetermined, agreed upon expectations at some fundamental level.
With the proper application of technical expertise, almost any core provider can promise the moon. But, that promise falls flat if not coupled with service levels that live up to the credit union standard. How can you know that your core won’t fail you?
Many credit unions fail to investigate more than where a prospective platform’s feature set is today and consider where it is headed tomorrow. Also, what type of insight is there to the provider’s own corporate stability and direction? As the old saying goes, the past is the best predictor of the future.
Any system should be kept current through an aggressive and consistent release schedule, with new features continuously added and existing features continuously enhanced to ensure it keeps pace with market conditions. Are current customers satisfied with these additions and enhancements? A previous track record that answers yes to these questions is likely to continue down that same path in the future.
Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with functionality. The features you need today may not be the features you need tomorrow, in five years or in 10 years. A system specifically designed to be flexible and customizable will adapt to your credit union’s changing needs rather than forcing your credit union to adapt to its limitations.
Look at the third-party products that are connected to your core system today. Chances are that many of them were not deployed five years ago. A few of them may not have even been thought of five years ago.
You and I both know how quickly technology is moving, and in turn how quickly member expectations are changing. Today’s progressive credit unions expect to deploy new third-party solutions quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. A system that creates a roadblock in this area – either technologically or financially – is clearly holding your credit union back.
Beyond a technology plan and a clear vision for the future, here is my short list of what credit unions should expect in terms of service from their core provider and other ancillary system partners:
- Top-down commitment: easy access to all levels of management, up to and including the CEO;
- Post-implementation support: a dedicated relationship manager outside of sales to act as your advocate;
- Ongoing service assistance: 24/7 telephone support from highly skilled and seasoned staff; and
- Above all, employees that are empowered to do whatever it takes to ensure that your core system enables your credit union instead of getting in its way.
Honestly, a data processing conversion is no small undertaking and is not a feat to be entered into with haste. But credit union core conversions are popular now. Here are just a few opinions on why:
- Industry activity. Consolidation continues, especially among credit unions with $50 million or fewer in assets. And, the number of credit unions over $100 million is staying relatively flat. This means an inverse relationship with the demand for credit unions needing to make a core change.
- Growth potential. According to Callahan’s, more than 2.1 million new members joined credit unions in 2012. And, 123 credit unions outperformed the industry averages for product penetration across the four major categories of checking, credit cards, auto loans and mortgages. When accounting for membership growth and portfolio diversity, credit unions discover the openness and flexibility of their core to realistically support entry into new products and services as well as build out their own offerings with ease and efficiency.
- Technological need. Close to two-thirds of credit unions plan to increase their tech budgets this year, 27% of them by at least 10% (Callahan’s). It is time for many credit unions that limited or halted such spending during the recession to invest back into system infrastructures. With the competitive banking landscape, general technology progress is necessary to stay on top of new member offerings not to mention growing compliance requirements.
Technology really is a business of expectations. When you commit considerable resources to a new core platform, you have the absolute right to expect the very best in both products and service. Take your time and consider your options carefully. This is a decision that should last you for decades, and hopefully longer.