BILLERICA, Mass. – Amidst heightened interest in IRA products and member servicing, more credit unions are turning to a Massachusetts software firm, Experion Systems Inc., to provide automation advice technology. The latest to sign up with Experion's "Trusted Advisor" program is University Federal Credit Union of Austin, Texas, which is currently "beta" testing an IRA module wthat is part of Experion's Deposit Account Advisory program.. "The IRA world is pretty complex and poses a challenge in building consistency in how employees respond to member questions, but we believe this kind of a program can help us give out more reliable advice," said Steve Kubala, chief operating officer of the $560 million University Federal. The Texas credit union is one of more than half a dozen CUs across the U.S. preparing to launch an IRA module to members this year with some product introductions slated to debut in the next 30-45 days. Like other CUs offering Experion's "Trusted Advisor" Deposit Account program or related loan or mortgage "suites," University Federal said it has been in the market for a simple "decision tree" system to guide members into buying the right products whether on the Internet, face-to-face with product reps. in the branches or at call centers. The problem has been that not all employees are fully trained or equipped to answer the myriad of member questions on IRAs, for example, or respond to questions in a timely fashion. The result, say CUs taking part in Experion programs, is lost business as members seek out financial institutions that can respond to their questions more quickly or thoroughly. "Most credit unions only have about two individuals on staff who are qualified to speak about IRAs to their members," said Ross Blair, Experion's CEO. "This creates a huge bottleneck in member education and awareness of IRA products." The Experion IRA advice module which routes a member through a series of questions, "empowers a credit union's whole staff to help their members with IRA decisions," said Blair. The IRA module, claims Experion, "has the ability to generate enough business for a credit union in a short time to show a positive ROI for all of Experion's Advisors covering all credit union products." The module covers traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, Education IRAs, non-working spousal IRAS and Rollover IRAs. The system, said Experion, "determines which IRA types a member will qualify for and how much they can contribute based on their specific situation." In addition to University, other Experion CU clients purchasing the Deposit Account Advisor which includes the IRA module and ready to "deploy" include: San Antonio Federal Credit Union, Texas; First Tech Credit Union, Beaverton, Ore.; Teachers Credit Union, South Bend, Ind.; and Bellco Credit Union, Denver, Colo. Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego and University Federal "will be deploying before yearend" with Mission in the third quarter and University by the fourth quarter, said Experion. CU experience with Experion is slated to come up Jan. 28 in a national Webcast or "Webinar" sponsored by Callahan & Associates. Among speakers will be Thomas Sargent, president/CEO of First Tech in Oregon and one of the early backers of the Experion program. Other backers of the Experion system have included the leadership of Members Gateway, a 22-CU limited liability partnership based in South Bend, Ind. and which shares and plots industry strategy on new products. The Experion system has also won support of an academician, Glen Urban, professor of marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and consultant Ronald Shevlin, research director at Forrester Research, who discussed automated advice at a Experion-sponsored seminar in Las Vegas in December. Urban noted that the rise of customer power in the purchasing process has forced financial service providers, like Charles Schwab, to reposition themselves in the marketplace to attract and retain new business. Shevlin also described how automated advice has "strengthened the trusted relationship" CUs have with their members. The frontline staff, said Shevlin, now assist members in finding the best products to serve their needs as well as provide members "with Internet self-service capabilities." [email protected]

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