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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – To fly or not to fly? As many Americans are asking themselves that question, credit union organizations are preparing to serve an industry that takes to the skies less often. Not all are ready to dump their frequent flyer miles just yet. Take Les Muma, president/CEO of Fiserv: “I’m a very stubborn American who is not going to let these guys change my life. I don’t want to give them that satisfaction.” He was quick to emphasize however that all Fiserv corporate travel is up to the individual. If someone is leery about flying, they don’t have to. But as a worldwide corporation, completely cutting out commercial air travel just isn’t feasible. “We must fly. This company services financial institutions all over the world, we must fly,” said Muma. There has been a noticeable increase in usage of long distance communication tools at Fiserv since the attacks. “People are using our videoconferencing and teleconferencing more in lieu of flying. We have a very, very thorough video/teleconferencing network within Fiserv. My opinion is if they’re doing it now, they should have been doing it all along.” CUNA’s Center for Professional Development, which hosts approximately 70 educational schools/conferences a year, quickly took steps to deal with a decrease in travel. It has accelerated the development of its online educational sessions and other distance learning tools, and has redirected staffers heavily focused on the print side, to the distance learning channels. CUNA’s CPD has been forced to cancel 12 schools due to weak attendance stemming from the attacks. Mike Miller, vice president of CUNA’s CPD, said a survey done by the American Society of Association Executives, found that due to the terrorist attacks there will be a 20-30% drop in conference travel. “For at least the next year to 18 months, considering where the travel industry is, we are anticipating 20-30% fewer participants. September 11 changed things. People are looking more at self-paced learning experiences online,” said Miller. Even before the attacks occurred, CUNA was preparing to use remote educational tools as its 70 schools bring in only 4,000 CU professionals and volunteers, out of a pool of around 300,000. “We’re able to extend our reach to a lot of folks who wouldn’t otherwise travel. Without travel, conference costs can be cut by as much as two-thirds.” On Nov. 7 CUNA will conduct its first real-time virtual classroom session called “Sales and Service Culture Development” conducted by John Hoffman, an independent consultant. Participants will pay the same registration fee as for in-person sessions. Miller said the experience will mirror an in-person classroom environment because attendees will be able to view Powerpoints and other programs sent from the instructor’s computer over the Web. There’s also a chat box enabling participants to interact. The pilot will not include streaming video box of the instructor, but there will be a live phone hook up. All corporate air travel for CUNA Mutual Group employees was completely banned from Sept. 11 to Sept. 24. The ban is over, however CUNA Mutual Group President/CEO Mike Kitchen has asked employees to utilize technology to cut back on air travel where feasible. “CUNA Mutual has state-of-the-art video and phone conferencing equipment, high-quality computers with e-mail, fax machines, and other technology that allow us to quickly and effectively communicate with other parts of the country and the world. Please continue to serve the needs of credit unions and members by taking advantage of these technologies when possible,” stated Kitchen in a memo to employees. “…we’d like to continue to leverage our technology investments and reduce the travel of our employees.” CUES, which had to cancel a technology conference due to cancellations, is expecting a spike in usage of its Online University educational tool. “Some people I’ve spoken with have been a little bit leery about getting on a plane. I can understand that. We could see more interest in this product,” said George Hofheimer, director of product development for CUES. Currently about 600 CUs are enrolled in Online University. “It’s a very simple interactive solution, with no audio and video streaming at all. It’s all text-based, with self-scoring exams.” Credit union consulting firm Counter Intelligence Associates, San Juan Capistrano, is hoping to grow its business through an online tool where location isn’t a factor. The firm is marketing “Webinars.” A Webinar is essentially a seminar online, that can feature text boxes for members to send in comments or questions in real-time. The presenter can offer educational data or text in a separate window, and there’s streaming video of the presenter. CIA has partnered with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Kansas City to offer interactive financial education Webinars. The current feature is on buying a home and is entitled “Achieving the American Dream.” CIA’s Tom Glatt, Jr. said CIA has a system where any member who calls or sends an online message during the Webinar looking for more information, can be patched into a CU representative, no matter where the CU is located in the country. A member in Texas watching the Webinar being held in California can call a number posted on the Webinar that will instantly patch him to a member service representative of his credit union. “Our purpose is not to build our brand, but to help credit unions build their relationships with members,” said Glatt. “A Webinar is an opportunity for credit unions to educate members in a more interactive and dynamic environment,” said Glatt. Glatt said better bandwidth and advances in streaming video make these long-distance tools more feasible for today’s CU. Quality of transmission depends on three things: the qualify of system run at broadcast location; bandwidth out of broadcast location; and bandwidth capacity of member location. “The way the technology works is if a user does encounter a network build-up, the system downgrades the video. In the old days if you didn’t have the bandwidth, it would crash. The supporting material and interaction is more important than the video. It’s just eye candy, it’s not fundamental,” said Glatt. John Edwards, senior vice president of XP Systems, who has flown three times since the tragedy and was speaking to Credit Union Times from the airport set to leave on another flight, said XP isn’t cutting out travel, but it does plan on doing more long-distance communication due to the company’s desire to share information with its CU clients about the upcoming release of its new system. “We’re using something called Mshow. We had planned to make extensive use of it even before Sept. 11. It’s not really video conferencing. It’s an interactive audio system where everybody who is dialed in can ask questions and converse with each other and view programs or product demonstrations on a Web site,” said Edwards. [email protected]

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