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WASHINGTON – Business services, Check 21 and courtesy pay programs are among the key topics that core technology vendors were hearing from clients about at the CUNA GAC in Washington. Meanwhile, consolidation among credit unions as well as the shift to community charters is having as much effect on the core processing space in many ways as the merger and acquisition activity going on among the vendors themselves, industry participants say. “It’s becoming more important for providers to give credit unions multiple solutions and the infrastructure and architecture to allow credit unions to configure their services to meet their new markets,” says Santo Cannone, senior vice president in charge of the Miser Division at Aurum Technology. He cites business services as a key area he’s hearing from credit unions about. Business services – including payroll services and online cash and accounts receivables management – also are topics Scott Butler finds himself discussing with the credit unions served by IntegraSys, the old-EDS, new-Fiserv unit that Butler serves as president. The technology tools are there, he says. Deciding what to use and how is the rub. “The challenge now is for credit unions to define their strategies,” Butler says. “That’s what I see coming together in the next eight to 12 months.” His counterpart at Harland Financial Solutions, meanwhile, likes to point out the integral relationship between business services and the business people who also have personal financial relationships that credit unions would like to keep. “My analogy is if you had a bad experience at a restaurant you went to for a business lunch, you’re probably not going to take your personal business there, either,” says John O’Malley, HFS president. Meanwhile, Dick McConnell, AFTECH’s director of marketing, says he’s been talking to a lot of clients who feel they need to learn more about Check 21. And he agrees. “We’re encouraging them to talk to their vendors, particularly whoever is now providing their check processing, to see what they should be doing to take advantage of this. They’re the ones who should be in the lead,” he says. Both McConnell and his counterpart at USERS Inc., Stacey Motznik, said they’re now seeing as much effect from the merging of credit unions and growth of community charters as they’re seeing impact from the merger activity in the core processing space. “The two consolidations are sort of parallel, and they’re creating a lot of new synergies,” Motznik says. Among her company’s client base, meanwhile, she says maximizing fee income, particularly with courtesy pay, is high on the 2004 to-do list. Butler at IntegraSys also sees those new synergies, and says he sees no drying up of competition among vendors or options for credit unions. “The industry is still being well served by a lot of technology providers,” he says. “There are still of lot of choices out there.” O’Malley at HFS also talks about the commoditization of financial technology solutions as credit unions take advantage of the increasing use of open systems and standards but says he’s confident it presents a good opportunity for multi-faceted companies like his. “Integrating solutions is getting better and better all the time,” he says. “But we still like to say the best way to do integration is to own the pieces.” -

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