Online Portals Upgrade Board Communication
Technology is taking credit union boardrooms by storm as an increasing number of institutions have adopted online portals to provide board meeting packages and other materials in a fast, efficient and secure manner. Online formats are also providing volunteers with forums for discussions, polling and sharing information.
Online board portals have been around since 2003, but experts say adoption rates were slow until the introduction of the iPad.
“Advancements in online technology have made it easier for secure materials to be shared safely, immediately and effectively, guaranteeing that credit union volunteers have all the materials they need, when they need them,” Kevin Smith, director of volunteer education at CUNA, said in a white paper.
Increasing regulatory pressures and compliance changes have also prompted credit unions to implement online portals.
“For CU directors, who are performing their responsibilities at a time of intense regulatory change and scrutiny, concerns about transparency, governance and compliance are always top of mind,” said Jeff Hilk, director of client services at New York-based Diligent Board Member Services.
By implementing online portals such as Diligent Boardbooks, some financial institutions have cut overall costs by 50% while significantly improving communication and board governance, Hilk said.
For example, the $1.5 billion United Federal Credit Union has reaped significant time and cost savings by deploying Diligent Boardbooks, said Jorja Ritter, executive assistant at the St. Joseph, Mich.-based cooperative.
“Prior to switching to Diligent Boardbooks, our electronic board portal was inefficient and required constant maintenance,” said Ritter, who creates, manages and distributes board materials.
“Diligent provided a secure portal that is convenient, easy to use and provides a cost-effective solution to the efficient posting of current meeting documents as well as archive management,” she added. “It serves as our primary repository for policies and information critical to our board’s effective governance of the credit union.”
Solution providers report that they’ve experienced a surge in the number of credit unions adopting online portals since the iPad's introduction.
“About two-thirds of the credit unions that are our clients have signed up since 2011,” Hilk said. “Board portals empower CU directors to meet the requirements of boards, board committees and auditors in a timely fashion as well as to provide convenient and secure access to the critical documents they need to fulfill their duties.”
Next Page: iPad Prompts Paperless
The iPad has prompted more credit union boards to go paperless because it offers the ability to control content, serves as a common platform, and combines the immediacy of online access with the readability of print, said Joe Ruck, CEO of BoardVantage, which introduced the app, iPad Briefcase, in 2011. The firm is located in Menlo Park, Calif.
Despite those benefits, the iPad also ushered in concerns about security, discoverability and offline access to board information.
To maximize security, online platforms must guard against threats such as external hacks, internal breaches, discoverability and human error, Ruck stated in a recent BoardVantage white paper.
“That’s why any board content downloaded by directors to the Briefcase still remains under the central control of the administrator,” he wrote. “That means that documents and annotations can be purged remotely by the administrator, or expiration of notes can be automated to take place after a predetermined time. The Briefcase is encrypted and password-protected to safeguard its content in the event that the device is lost or stolen. If necessary, content from a lost iPad can then be centrally purged by the administrator.”
In 2010, the $2.4 billion Members 1st Credit Union implemented an online portal by partnering with BoardVantage.
As a result, the 240,000-member credit union in Mechanicsburg, Pa., has enhanced the efficiency of the corporate secretary’s office, streamlined its board process, automated much of the oversight process and delivered better service to directors at a lower cost, the credit union reported in a case study.
Switching to a paperless solution also offers a measurable environmental impact—another plus for credit unions seeking to boost corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
For example, Diligent Boardbooks has enabled its clients to reduce paper usage by more than four million sheets, the equivalent of 527 trees, the company said.
Selecting an online portal can be a complicated process, but experts say that board portals with intuitive and interactive tools that offer a true book-like reading experience can streamline board communication and organization. Other important features include robust online access and flexibility to allow access by regulators.
“For credit unions considering moving from hard copy board books to a board portal, the checklist of requirements for a secure, easy-to-use solution is straightforward, yet critical to ensuring acceptance by all directors,” said Alex Sodi, president/CEO of Diligent Board Member Services.
“The solution must be secure, customizable in both implementation and training, and ultimately, must ease the crucial pain points faced by credit unions,” Sodi continued. “A board portal will only be viewed as a smart investment if the solution helps directors read, annotate and engage with board materials more conveniently and securely than the bulky paper hand-outs or PDFs the portal replaces.”