CUFX Backers Hope Integration Ready to Cut to the Core
Two of the key players in the effort to create a game-changing software standard for credit unions are hoping the third time is a charm.
Launched by the CUNA Technology Council and vendor partners in 2011, CUFX is now live in version 3.0 but in live use only at the $2 billion Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill., as far as its SVP/chief information officer, Jeff Johnson, knows.
There, the integration standards were used to get the MoneyDesktop personal financial management and FreedomPay Commerce Platform up and running.
“They work fine,” Johnson said. “Inertia is a very powerful thing but we’re now moving from the technical to adoption and I think we’re about to start building momentum around this.
“We just need more industry oomph, now.”
The CUFX standard is intended make connecting third-party solutions to core processing systems a much simpler matter, and less proprietary. Much relies on the core processor, too, and Johnson said he is encouraged to see that Symitar is planning to include CUFX in an upcoming version of its widely used Episys platform.
“That's a huge thing,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping and expecting that this will give us the momentum we need with third-party providers to get things really going.”
Ted Bilke, president of the Jack Henry & Associates division that serves more than 800 credit unions, said Symitar plans to roll out CUFX services as part of a service-oriented architecture upgrade expected in 2016.
“The Symitar team has been moving toward SOA architecture for a couple of years now. The heavy lifting inside of Episys is nearing completion, putting the SOA framework in place with an extensive list of internal service/business functions,” Bilke said.
What does that mean to Symitar users? “It means they will be able to plug in a variety of third-party vendors without any dependency on Symitar other than to access the supported services,” Bilke said.
And what does it mean to the industry? “No core vendor that chooses to participate will be able to block out third-party vendors by refusing to provide or allow integration, because the common service standard will work across all the vendors that adopt the standard,” Bilke said.
Symitar has been an adviser on the project since the beginning, including creating an Episys pilot of CUFX's initial version. The collaboration continues, Johnson said.
“The tech council is still the leading entity in this,” he said. “We also have 10 members or so on an architecture committee and they continue to meet on a regular basis to hash out and fight through all the specifications. Then we have ad hoc working groups that, for instance on version 3, can have upwards of 30 people coming together to come up with the specs.”
While Johnson said he's encouraged by the group effort, he's ready for others to take up the banner themselves and actually deploy CUFX.
“It's like having a telephone,” Johnson said. “If you’re the only person who has it, it's not terribly useful. But if you get two people and then four people and then 16 and then 144, that's when it starts to take off.”
Bilke and Johnson continue to see the new standards as potentially transformative. Within the credit union space, “I equate it to the web,” said Johnson, who was CU Times’ Trailblazer IT Executive of the Year in 2012. “That took a long time to get widely adopted but then it was completely transformative.”
And Bilke, whose Symitar platform is one of the most dominant in the space, said, “We believe that over time any core vendor that doesn't participate in the CUFX standard will become irrelevant.”