Rough Waters Worth CU's Launch: Guest Opinion
How crazy is it to want to open a credit union when one is closing almost every day?
We had three missions of serving the under and unbanked that are left out of the financial mainstream, changing the age make-up of credit unions by attracting the Internet community and to be the open source and share any successes to help stem the decline in credit unions.
I’m not sure how many of you have ever tried whitewater rafting but chartering and starting a credit union is like a class four whitewater rafting trip. Our quest began in January 2011 and at first, it was all paddling up stream. We had determination, financial backing and a belief in the credit union community but no idea how to actualize our dream. So we paddled like crazy, filling out charter forms, doing three major surveys and engaging with anyone who would give us free advice.
It is one thing to attract members but how would we execute the day-to-day operations that make a credit union work? In April 2011, I bought the beer that changed our quest from paddling upstream to riding the CUSO rapids. Over drinks, I met folks from a Midwestern CUSO that could provide online banking, teller processing and check and debit card processing. Another CUSO would provide services like accounting and a bilingual call center. We had found our credit union in a box. A charter must be around the next bend, right?
Actually, what was around the next bend was our first set of rocks. We submitted our 537-page charter document in July 2011 and waited for our imminent approval. Some 40 meetings, 50 trips, 200 phone calls, 482 days and 4,276 changes later, we navigated the rocks and were told our charter was granted. Just one small request: can you open in two months? Huh?
Read more in the Aug. 28 Back-Office Technology Focus Report:
The fastest rapids now began. Now is when the technology would be tested and tested quickly. Was our credit union in a box really going to be as everything we hoped? Could we really open our doors and offer members easy access to online banking or process their checks or offer a CD? It was not easy, and both staff and the CUSO worked around the clock. But if you call an on-teller system with secure connections backed by a bilingual call center and the in-depth training to operate it all within seven weeks a success, well then, yes, we could open our doors and seamlessly serve our members.
Was our grand opening perfect? No. However, our technology is solid and our members had seamless access to basic services from day one.
Jordan Modell is CEO of the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union.
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