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DEL MAR, Calif. – The Information Technologies Credit Union Association is marking its 45th year with a new chairman, a veteran executive director and a new direction. The trade group’s mission is to provide technology information, education, networking, products and services to its 132 members in the United States, Canada and Australia. A diverse group, they range from $1.9 million in assets with 571 members to more than 200,000 members and $2.5 billion in assets. Among the ITCUA’s newest offerings is the Neutral Network, an online resource that allows credit unions to review and rate technology offerings and share their experience and expertise. The ITCUA also offers an annual convention, membership directory, quarterly newsletter, a remote funds network that links CU members to their accounts at more than 600 branches across the country, and sponsor representation to companies such as AT&T, Verizon and SBC, says Kathy Clark, the organization’s executive director. She’s been involved with ITCUA since 1979 and is a former education director for NAFCU. The trade group’s chairman is Leo Ardine, president/CEO of $275 million United Teletech FCU in Tinton Falls, N.J. He says, “My main focus for the next year is going to be on expanding the ITCUA’s new electronic community – the Neutral Network. “We want to make sure everyone knows this online resource is open not only to all credit unions but also to the CEOs, senior management and directors at each credit union. “It’s a great way to share the good, the bad and the ugly of our technology experiences. And by popular demand, we’re adding new review categories to include other credit union areas such as human resources and lending.” The ITCUA was founded in 1959 as the International Telephone Credit Union Association by a group of about 20 telephone company credit union managers. Among its accomplishments was helping its credit unions deal with the breakup of AT&T into the regional Bells. “The ITCUA was instrumental in preserving payroll deduction and gaining authority for telephone credit unions to guarantee signatures on stock transfers,” Clark says. Another big change came a few years later, as telephone credit unions expanded their fields of membership amid declining employment in their original SEGs. The ITCUA focused on the growing high-tech sector for new members and in 1993 took on a new name: the Information Technologies Credit Union Association. Another big change in the organization’s direction came last year, when the ITCUA changed its bylaws to accept all natural-person credit unions as members. “Now ITCUA is open to all credit unions that want to build a resource for making more enlightened tech decisions,” Clark says. And one membership per credit union entitles all its staff and volunteers to access the ITCUA’s online community. Roots in Technology By dint of their SEGs, the ITCUA credit unions have been on the front line of technology from the organization’s beginnings, Clark says. “They had a reputation for being in the vanguard of technology advances – the first to use bill paying by phones, to set up Web sites, and so on,” she says. And, of course, being credit unions, “they’ve always been a congenial group eager to share information with each other,” Clark says. “They check their egos at the door when they meet, realizing that everyone has something to offer. “That’s why the Neutral Network is such a natural. Credit unions are looking for reliable information, especially when it comes to making major technology decisions. “They know that other trade groups sometimes have special endorsement relationships with the companies they are evaluating. ITCUA has never got caught up with that.” Ardine adds: “We called it the Neutral Network to reflect the fact that we are a group that exists solely for the benefit of the membership. We are independent of vendors or large trade associations and don’t leverage our membership list to sell other products or services.” He says the network is being built up slowly to ensure its usefulness and that it “doesn’t inundate its members with e-mails that become more of a nuisance than a help. “We do have several posts now on the public page that demonstrate its usefulness. One deals with voiceover IP telephony, another with network security. These provide reasons why one might consider the idea, good things that happened, and things to watch out for that the credit union would do differently.” Another highlight is the annual conference, set this year for May 26-29 at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. That session and year-round networking will help Ardine and the organization meet what he says are its other main challenges for the year ahead: new member development, team training and development, and improving earnings spreads. Year-round communication is a part of that effort, while the annual conference provides opportunities that might not be available at the larger credit union gatherings, Ardine says. “We’ve found that this group (the ITCUA) is more effective than others we’re involved in because of the smaller size, mix of volunteers and paid staff, and topics that are sponsored for discussion,” the ITCUA chair says. “For instance, at prior conferences, we’ve been able to learn how other credit unions were able to reduce expenses through automation, improve loan origination through the use of different technologies, and improve team morale by implementing a thorough training and performance management program,” Ardine says. The ITCUA is online at www.itcua.org. Joining Ardine on its executive committee are Rick Miron, president/CEO of Greater New Orleans FCU, vice chairman; Latchie Welch, board member from Communications Family Credit Union in Saginaw, Mich., secretary, and treasurer Len Greene, president/CEO of Unified FCU in Peabody, Mass. The other three board members are Dottie Tichavsky, a director at Austin Telco FCU in Texas; Robert Gipson, a director at Florida Telco Credit Union in Jacksonville, and Marla Shepard, president/CEO of First Future Credit Union in San Diego. -

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