Core Processing Project Targets $1B
After more than 40,000 hours of development, a core processing CUSO has put out for live testing a change in its data fields that will allow its mostly small to mid-size credit unions to access loans and deposits up to $1 billion.
Called the File Expansion Project, the collaborative effort by CU*Answers and its credit unions changed the system to allow deposit and loan balances of up to $999,999,999.99 (click to screen shot above to expand) instead of the current $9,999,999.99.
The idea is to accommodate growth to come. Executives at two of the first beta testers among the 225 or so CU*BASE users said they may not need it now, but they’ll be ready if and when that day arrives.
“As a smaller credit union, we may not immediately have a use for the expanded fields but just like home banking and e-statements, these evolutions create opportunities that will allow our organization to grow unfettered,” said Dean Wilson, president/CEO of the $41 million FOCUS Credit Union in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Wis.
The 7,600-member FOCUS went first, going live on March 16. A general release is expected in November.
Being proactive resonated with another early adopter.
Linda Bodie, chief + innovator at the $27 million Element Federal Credit Union in Charleston, W.Va. , said her 4,600-member credit union goes live with the expanded fields on April 7. She said in addition to her credit union itself, she also sees the value of the project as a member of the family of credit unions.
“Basically we’re building and investing for the future, or maybe even the now for our credit union network,” Bodie said. “This might not be a critical issue at the moment, but what happens when it becomes one? Do you scramble around and try to develop something last minute? Or are you a visionary and looking down the road to anticipate needs and changing business models and technology landscapes?
“I’ll take the visionary road and preparedness.”
Randy Karnes, president/CEO of CU*Answers, said his Grand Rapids, Mich.-based CUSO and its credit unions felt the time had come to undertake the project despite its size.
“This involved much more than just changing the transactional and balance fields. We also had to re-engineer our database,” Karnes said. “It’s a huge investment but it’s also one of those things you have to do, if you analyze what you need to do to stay relevant in the future.”
A future that could be just around the corner. “The credit union marketplace is changing dramatically and the continued net interest margin squeeze is making many credit unions look at business lending and participation loans,” said Wilson at FOCUS. “Expanding these fields is providing tools for many credit unions to look at new opportunities.”
And to remember the past.
“Our credit union has not run into any limitations at this time but I remember Y2K all too well,” said Bodie at Element FCU. “This is a proactive move that will ensure our operations are not interrupted due to data field limitations. It will also allow us to participate in any venture that would require these larger fields. Being part of a collaborative opens up opportunities that we could never have on our own.”
Bodie said the project itself will involve some in-house work as the staff incorporates the new data fields into its core processing infrastructure, but that they’re ready.
“We constantly test and evaluate all sorts of products, services and innovations. It’s a great learning tool and it’s just plain fun,” she said.
And it also paid off in the near term. CU*Answers pays to play when it comes to beta testing.
“We’re a collaborative network and we realize that when we develop software, it’s not a laboratory event, but a live event, so we try to make sure to pay credit unions to participate in these projects,” Karnes said.