DALLAS – Community Credit Union prides itself on its innovativeness. It was the first financial in the U.S. to go live with the U.S. Treasury for the online sale of savings bonds. Earlier this year, CCU became the first credit union in the Dallas area to go live with IRNet. On June 27, CCU launched its latest innovative endeavor – it became the first financial in the Dallas area to offer its members online check images. The $950 million CU, the sixth largest in the Lonestar State, announced its new check imaging initiative with a banner on its Web site – www.communityycu.org – and a broadcast email announcement to its 24,000 members enrolled in CCU’s E-community program. The response, said CCU President/CEO Gary Base, was more than the credit union could ever have imagined. Within just 24 hours of the service’s launch, CCU received 7,000 inquiries over its Web site for check images. In less than one week, the credit union received over 49,000 check imaging hits. Currently, about 3,000 check images a day are being pulled up by members. “That’s amazing,” said Base. “We are really excited about the convenience our new Online Check Imaging service offers our members.” By going onto CCU’s Web site, members can view their checks through Home Banking and print as many checks as they need for free. The check numbers are listed in the left-hand column, and members simply click on the check number they’d like to see and the image is displayed on their screen. Members can see both the front and back of their checks. It can take up to three business days after the check clears to get the check copies loaded online. That may seem like a long time to some members, but Wendi Costlow, vice president of marketing, said it’s still faster and less expensive for the credit union than going through microfilm and search for the member’s check. For processing purposes, all check images are unavailable for one hour each night. Once members find the check image they want, they can save their check images to a disk or file them for future reference. The current and previous month’s check images will be available in addition to other months, depending on the transaction volume of the particular checking account. “Our new online check images are not only convenient for our members but cost-effective for the credit union,” said Costlow. The idea for Community CU’s online check imaging was spawned by the credit union’s board of directors at a meeting last year. Being members of the credit union besides board members, the board thought CCU’s membership would respond favorably to online check imaging. But CCU was wary and concerned about the costs and technology involved with implementing online check imaging, Base admitted. “We wondered whether this was something we as a staff could pull off,” he said. But the board persisted, and CCU took its marching orders from them. Immediately, the credit union was looking at two problems – how to create the online system, and how to link it to CCU’s Web site. At the time, Community Credit Union was using the Federal Reserve’s system for check clearing. CCU employees were able to access images of members’ checks over the Fed’s wide area network (WAN) system, but that system was missing one component vital to the type of online check imaging system CCU was looking for – one that also made check images available to members online. Community Credit Union was already talking with SWBC about a project the company was working on to provide check images on the Internet. SWBC, said Base, had discussed with CCU the possibility of the credit union moving its check clearing needs from the Fed to SWBC. Base said this all sounded tempting, but the system was missing a key ingredient to successfully work – an interface. For that, CCU turned to Digital Insight. The two companies, working relationship goes back several years when Digital Insight developed its first Web site for the credit union. Base contacted Digital Insight Chairman John Dorman and inquired if the company was interested in developing an interface with Southwest Business Corp.’s system that would allow CCU’s members to be able to access their cleared check images. The rest, said Base, is history. “We get 8 million hits a month on our Web site, 15% of our members are on bill pay, and over 95% of our members have Internet access either at home or at work. We saw this as a great opportunity for Community Credit Union and for our members,” said Base. “I’ve been around credit unions for more than 30 years. During that time I’ve seen the biggest problem credit unions have in selling checking accounts to members is they don’t return the cleared checks. The checks are truncated. This has always been a problem for credit unions. For us to be able to provide members images of their clear checks online, removes this obstacle. That’s what makes this so historic.” According to Base, CCU has 92,000 checking accounts from its members. The credit union is opening 2,000 new accounts each month. “Community Credit Union has been doing complete document imaging,” Base said. “But check imaging is a different standard of imaging because of the timeliness of what has to be done. Then there are the firewall protections that have to be built in to the system. You need substantial partners to work with on that, regardless of what size the credit union is.” One of the factors that’s contributed to the success of the system, said Base, is that CCU outsources the clearing of members’ checks and the imaging to SWBC. Digital Insight is responsible for maintaining CCU’s Web site and interface with the check imaging system. “I encourage every credit union that has the capability to do online check imaging to pursue it immediately,” said Base. “It’s one of the most important changes they can make to attract new checking accounts from their members. “To build a credit union on certificates of deposits or money market accounts doesn’t make sense because of the bottom line expense, but with additional checking accounts, the incremental expense is minimal because you already have ATMs and drive-up windows in place. Any credit union regardless of its size can contact a third party to assist them in developing an interface so they can provide their members with access to cleared check images. Size does not dictate implementing an online check imaging system.” [email protected]

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