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ARLINGTON, Va. – Keith Nolan has only been on the job for three months as the front man for NAFCU’s for-profit subsidiary, NAFCU Services Corp., but the fledgling NSC president is eyeing up some big changes for this somewhat unknown entity. NSC’s core offering is its Preferred Provider Program, which has been in place since 1996. With this program, NSC endorses various vendors and helps market their products to credit unions. At press time, there were only 11 vendors in the program. “One of my objectives is to grow the program, to grow with quality not just quantity. I want to make sure that this club of vendors remains quality partners which have credit unions’ interests in mind. What’s amazing to me is I get three to five unsolicited requests a week from vendors looking to join the program,” said Nolan. Nolan hopes to have 15 preferred providers by this time next year. He also wants to expand the breadth of products and services represented by the providers. Right now there is a void in data processing, credit/debit card processing and e-business solutions.There’s a financial temptation to add as many vendors as possible to the program given that to become an NSC preferred provider costs a vendor between $25,000 to $100,000 a year. Nolan said, however, that the program will remain an elite group of vendors and quantity will remain second to quality. But choosing which vendors and products to endorse is no easy task. After all, with the NAFCU name at stake, NSC can be on the hook if it endorses some shoddy products or not so CU-friendly vendors. Although he’s a 20-year veteran of the industry, he’s no expert on all of today’s various products and services, so he’s going to tap what he sees as a can’t miss resource to help NSC pick the best products and vendors – credit union professionals. Nolan is looking to create a 7-10 person committee to help evaluate various vendor products being considered for the NSC endorsement. “I’m not looking for CEOs. This is not a crack against the CEOs, but they’re going to be more generalists, and tend not to have that detailed knowledge I’m looking for to evaluate whether or not these vendors are the best. I’m looking for senior level marketing and product talent across the country. We’ll use this group to help on the front-end in evaluating products,” said Nolan. “The group will be robust, much more involved in day-to-day doings of products and services.” Once a committee selects a vendor’s product, that vendor will make a presentation to the NSC board, which includes NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker, and other current NAFCU board members, as well as some former NAFCU board members. “It’s not an easy sell, products will have to be scrubbed before they make it,” said Nolan. Another factor that will keep the number of endorsed providers from growing dramatically is overlap. “I can’t have two preferred providers for the same products. I can’t have multiple data processors, multiple credit/debit processors. My relationship is exclusive with them, and they can’t enter into any similar relationships like ours,” said Nolan. He said by not allowing competing endorsements, the value of the endorsement is elevated. If NSC endorses a DP vendor, for example, it’s going to be certain that its products are cutting-edge and in the best interest of CUs, said Nolan. NSC is going to be careful about getting involved too quickly in emerging areas. eMoney Digest, publisher of an online financial publication for CU vendors, was one of NSC’s preferred providers. eMoney Digest went out of business last year. Also, NSC had what it called its CU WEBS program. This was basically a compilation of online solutions, including Web design and ISP. That program is also no longer in operation. Among his planned changes, Nolan wants to create different preferred provider levels. Soon there will be bronze, silver, gold, and platinum NSC preferred providers. The higher the level, the higher the fee and the more exposure NSC will give the vendor. So how does NSC get the word out about its preferred providers? There’s print advertising in NAFCU publications such as its Federal Credit Union magazine and its newsletters; direct mail opportunities in monthly NAFCU mailers; booths at NAFCU conferences; and online advertising from NAFCU’s site. Nolan is also considering other outlets, including hosting regional conferences on behalf of its preferred providers where NAFCU officials would be available to speak; giving providers the opportunity to make educational sessions at NAFCU events; and expanding into non-NAFCU print publications, such as national CU trade publications. The levels also come into play in terms of number of products and services NSC will endorse. While NSC may only market one of a bronze member’s products, it may go up to four for platinum providers. Nolan said whether or not CUs are looking for a CU trade association organization to help it select vendors and products is probably as varied as CUs themselves. Some CUs might question why NAFCU is in the business, while others may consider it a value-added service, said Nolan. Being in a way a middle-man between the CUs and vendors, Nolan said he plans to get involved if there are ever any disputes between CUs and an endorsed vendor. “I feel that there’s a role for me to play, as a facilitator or referee. I would get directly involved with the credit union and provider,” said Nolan. [email protected]

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