ARLINGTON, FARMERS BRANCH, VICTORIA, Texas - Credit unions without formal technology plans probably don't have much longer to drag their heels. NCUA has intensified its scrutiny of policies and security measures, and not having a technology plan may negatively affect a credit union's rating. But some credit unions may be...
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ARLINGTON, FARMERS BRANCH, VICTORIA, Texas – Credit unions without formal technology plans probably don’t have much longer to drag their heels. NCUA has intensified its scrutiny of policies and security measures, and not having a technology plan may negatively affect a credit union’s rating. But some credit unions may be unsure about how to get started or may not have the staff to carry out this important task. The Texas Credit Union League’s new technology assessment tool, LeAP, may give them the confidence they need. “We knew we had to have a formal technology plan,” said Pamela Stephens, president of Security One Federal Credit Union in Arlington. “The technology plan we had was not sufficient,” said Jim Williams, president of Texas Crossroads Federal Credit Union in Victoria. Stephens and Williams recently completed LeAP and describe the program as reasonably priced, simple to complete, thorough and very useful. The Process Launched in June 2001, LeAP evaluates a credit union’s current technology systems and charts a course for future plans. The program begins with a 30-90 minute online questionnaire that assesses five operational areas of the credit union – transaction processing, network strategies, strategy and management, competitive analysis and human resources. Sample questions in the network strategies area, for example, are: Who supervises your information technology and data processing personnel? Do you have a single brand of computer? Do you have an IT disaster recovery plan? Once the credit union has completed the survey, two online reports – an e-commerce profile, and analytical data from the survey responses – are sent to the credit union. After reviewing the reports, the credit union schedules two one-hour phone consultations with a TCUL technology consultant. During the initial consultation, the consultant reviews the answers to the assessment questions and obtains additional information about the credit union’s technology “vision.” During the second consultation, specific strategies are discussed that form the outline of a formal technology plan. These include the credit union’s current technology status, expectations two years forward, and a timeline for specific goals. The credit union also receives a written summary of the consultant’s findings. Texas Crossroads FCU’s Williams gleaned several “heads-up” items from the assessment. The credit union will begin using a single source for computer purchases and upgrades and will be more diligent in policing software to ensure that it is all licensed. “Another financial institution was fined $50,000 for using unlicensed software,” he said. “The consultation was extremely helpful,” Williams continued. [The consultant] asked many questions…We will use the information to write our new technology plan.” Security One FCU’s Stephens appreciated the suggestion to identify in the written plan who would be responsible for implementing various tasks. “We wouldn’t have thought to include some of these in our formal plan,” she said. “I found the two separate consultation sessions very helpful,” said Stephens. “The consultant took questions during the initial session and then came back with a lot of workable data. Our staff will be more confident as they write our formal plan. It was absolutely a success.” While the LeAP program may be especially appropriate for smaller and medium-sized credit unions like the $44 million Security One FCU, Stephens believes even larger credit unions with IT staffs could benefit. “Your IT staff won’t necessarily think of everything,” she said. Dee Gibson, TCUL information technology consultant, said LeAP is as much an educational process as it is an assessment tool. “I can safely say that the majority of credit unions do not have technology plans. In the past, credit unions could go year to year without one. That’s no longer true. You can’t plan for the future without knowing what you’re doing today,” she said. “Somebody can walk in the door with a great dog-and-pony show, but will it work? You have to ask, `Does this fit with the plan, or should we adjust the plan to include this?’ An assessment like this can help you prevent mistakes,” said Gibson. LeAP fees are based on credit union asset size. In addition, a new facet of the program has been added. Beyond LeAP provides credit unions with a formal technology plan at an hourly rate. “At the completion of these programs, the credit union will have a formal technology plan that will be ready to take to the board,” said Gibson. Credit unions may register for the program online at www.culeap.com. -
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