Open Architectures Offer Efficiency, Flexibility
When choosing a core banking system structure, many credit unions are finding that open is the way to go. Core banking systems with open architectures enable institutions to keep up with rapid technological changes, as well as deliver best-of-breed functionality to their branches, ATMs, and online and mobile channels, experts affirmed.
With an open architecture, credit unions can also easily integrate their various banking channels to application program interfaces for partners and third-party developers, resulting in improved member experience, convenience, satisfaction and engagement.
“Because banking solutions develop so quickly and from a variety of non-traditional solution providers, an adaptable, open architecture system lets financial institutions react to changes in this ever-changing environment,” Stan Cowan, senior solutions marketing manager for the Toronto-based fintech provider D+H, said.
Credit unions that utilize the right core solution provider can stay ahead of the curve by proactively seeking out alternative ways to serve their members, he added.
David Dang, CIO of the $448 million, Houston-based PrimeWay Federal Credit Union, agreed that an open structure benefits credit unions from a channel delivery perspective.
“The omnichannel member experience is a huge topic in the industry at the moment, and a core with an open architecture can be a real advantage in achieving that consistency of experience,” Dang said.
The need for a more open architecture stemmed from the limitations of core systems with a closed architecture. Problems associated with closed systems include high maintenance costs and the inability to compete in the market due to vendor limitations, Murthy Veeraghanta, chairman and CEO of the Duluth, Ga.-based VSoft Corporation, pointed out.
“Being held hostage to the offerings of one vendor means that any change of integration can be done only by the vendor associated with the closed system,” Veeraghanta said.
An open structure also gives credit unions more choices when it comes to putting additional products in place around their core system.
As an example, Symitar, a division of the Monett, Mo.-based Jack Henry & Associates, provides Episys’ open architecture core system, which can be integrated to hundreds of vendor applications, plus additional offerings and technologies.
“Whether they are looking at best-of-breed or best-of-suite, or just having an investment with a third-party product with an open architecture, they can easily connect that third party and continue to use whatever product they want,” Symitar President Ted Bilke said. “They don't have to wait on us as the core vendor to provide custom integration.”
Symitar supports a variety of efforts that encourage credit union collaboration, including SymConnect, which enables linking to third-party products or ancillary applications; SymXchange, an interface that allows third-party vendors and credit unions to access Episys core data and business rules; and the PowerOn Marketplace, a collaborative environment where clients can exchange custom-created programs and applications.
An open architecture core system has allowed the $926 million, Purchase, N.Y.-based Quorum Federal Credit Union to take advantage of seamless integration. The credit union began its core implementation project in May 2014 and went live a year later.
“We have a suite of Jack Henry products that we were able to integrate through SymXchange,” Kevin Dono, Quorum FCU's senior director of business services, said.
Prior to implementing an open core system, Quorum FCU's frontline and operations staff would often have to open five to ten separate applications, remember a similar number of passwords, and send many email inquiries back and forth to process transactions, Dono explained.
The credit union has since seen a definite decrease in member request turnaround time, according to Dono.
“Before, we used to go to multiple systems,” Dono said. “Now because Quorum built certain controls into the system, the credit union can simply execute the transaction rather than logging into separate, disparate systems.”
By adding third-party solutions to their core systems, credit unions have more control over creating the best overall experience for both employees and members, Cowan maintained.
“This kind of flexibility also gives leadership teams the ability to switch out certain non-core solutions in favor of different and/or better ones without the need of evaluating or switching to a new core system,” he said.
The $1.9 billion, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Genisys Credit Union, did just that. After implementing D+H's UltraData Enterprise Core integrated platform, it reportedly saw an improved member experience and loan growth.
With UltraData Enterprise Core, Genisys CU employees don't waste time moving around files that need to be posted to the core because everything is contained within the system. Additionally, the system gives the credit union the flexibility to incorporate different third-party solutions without sacrificing efficiency.
“It also gives us the freedom to build custom programs that set us apart from the competition,” Jackie Buchanan, president/CEO for Genisys Credit Union, explained. “For example, our mobile banking app is completely customized.”
A truly open architecture carries two primary advantages, Santo Cannone, chief product officer for Fiserv's Credit Union Solutions division, said. First, it provides the ability to attach solutions to the core processing system that can help a credit union respond to its specific market opportunities and business requirements. Second, it offers a database that enables a credit union to easily retrieve and analyze data.
Cannone added that many integrated solutions provide valuable insight into members’ product and service usage, plus, since real-time processing has been a long-standing technology advantage for credit unions, their integration strategies should build upon that.
“Using a core provider with open architecture allows us to add, upgrade and swap components easily, and see inside all of the architecture that a developer or integrator may need without any proprietary constraints,” Terri Bentley, vice president of technology and automated services for the $3.8 billion, Huntsville, Ala.-based Redstone Federal Credit Union, explained.
Redstone FCU uses the DNA account processing platform from the Brookfield, Wis.-based core processor Fiserv, which gives credit unions the flexibility and scalability to support new products and expanding business models. Fiserv's DNAcreator tool encourages ongoing innovation through custom enhancements called DNAapps, which can extend the core platform's capabilities. The open architecture also allows RFCU to enhance member facing channels, the credit union said.
A major advantage of an open architecture system is that it puts the credit union in control, according to Tim Maron, director of business development at the San Diego-based Corelation, a credit union-centric core processor.
“Our credit unions can control how they do business internally within the open architecture as well as define what the member or staff experience is with third-party applications,” he said.
Corelation clients leverage standards-based tools such as Java Script, and implement processes that they only dreamed of in their prior environments.
“Things like creating a charity donation process or the ability for the credit union to control how and what they have their members self-serve on the online and mobile banking channels, all in real-time,” Maron explained.
An open architecture system enables credit unions to pivot in accordance with current and future technology trends, Frankie Duenas, chief technology officer for the $225 million, San Diego-based Cabrillo Credit Union, added.
Duenas explained that thanks to Corelation's Keystone's open architecture, Cabrillo CU can blur the lines between small credit unions and large financial institutions by allowing different vendors to “plug and play.”
PrimeWay FCU increased efficiencies, lowered costs and improved its online loan experience using Corelation's open core system, Dang explained. Distinct benefits include flexibility, the ease of real-time integration and the ability for programmers to code in multiple languages.
“We have created a forward facing dashboard that allows each branch and MSR to see where they are in relation to their goals as well as given executives the ability to view the organization condition overall,” Dang said. “The ability to extract data and create custom reports has given us greater insight into our operation. The open architecture allows us to create custom loans and provide better tracking.”
Andrew Shaw, vice president of IT and facilities for the $554 million, Cheyenne, Wyo.-based Warren Federal Credit Union, another Corelation customer, added, “The open architecture allows conceptually for any business-driven need or application to be developed. Plus, it eliminates the roadblocks of waiting for an enhancement in a timeframe that the credit union has no control over.”
Phillip Love, president/CEO for Midwest Business Solutions, a Rapid City, S.D.-based CUSO and a VSoft customer, has also benefitted from offering an open architecture to its participating credit unions. MWBS manages complex commercial and agricultural loan participations and provides back-office support functions for credit unions over a multi-state region.
“The CoreSoft lending platform allows us to offer custom loans with variable or fixed rates, and flexible payments to match the timing of our business members’ cash flow,” Love said.