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COLUMBUS, Ohio – KEMBA Financial Credit Union doesn’t necessarily take the beaten path when it comes to launching a new solution or solving an old problem, its chief technology officer says. For instance, unsatisfied with standard options for electronic statements and notices delivery, KEMBA Financial combined its archival system from COWWW Software and its Symitar Systems core and home banking processes to come up with a new system of its own. “We tend not to do things in the typical way, to just sit back and just say, `Well, that’s how things are done,’” says Phil Hunt, the vice president of finance who also oversees operations and technology at the $208 million CU in Ohio’s capital city. “In this case, we found a number of deficiencies in the current approaches, and since we had worked with COWWW on our mass-storage solution and found them to be extremely flexible, we decided to combine statements and notices in this new way,” Hunt says. The first part of the new project with Michigan-based COWWW Software took off about six months ago when KEMBA Financial launched the e-statement capability. The e-notices function, which also involved working closely with core processor Symitar, is rolling out now, Hunt says. Both are being advertised to members through various channels that tout the system’s ability to let them know by e-mail of such things as NSF notices, bounced checks and late or missed loan payments, as well as when their monthly statement is available for viewing online. “When something negative occurs to a member’s account, such as a bounced check, COWWW’s system automatically extracts the member data from the core system, which triggers the e-notice that is then sent to the member’s e-mail address,” says Bill Thomas, COWWW Software president. The notices also are archived and can be reviewed at any time later on. KEMBA Financial’s managers are betting that the CU’s 29,000 members will respond to the appeal of notices arriving by e-mail rather than snail mail, which can take a few days for a member to find out that, for instance, that a check has bounced or a loan payment got lost en route. “This new service allows our members to find out and quickly recover from the notice,” says Jerry Guy, CEO of the credit union at started out in the 1930s as the Kroger Employees Mutual Benefit Association. “We feel our online e-notices will empower our members to better manage their accounts from home without having to contact the branch. This adds value to our credit union for the member,” Guy says. SLIM, FAST WITH XML The system uses XML technology to present notices because many of the credit union’s members use dial-up Internet services, and thinner XML files are much faster to appear on the screen than downloading a standard PDF file. It also lessens the chance of identity theft, since identifying account information is not sent through the mail or even by e-mail, since it’s accessed at the storage site. The e-notices also allows the credit union’s member-services representatives to serve members better, Hunt says, because they can easily call up the notice from COWWW Software-driven archives and see the same thing a member is looking at when she or he does have to call in with questions about a notice. And while saving money on postage is nice, and certainly one big reason KEMBA Financial is rolling out e-statements and notices, it’s not the sole reason. In fact, Hunt says the CU doesn’t think in the traditional way about a return on its investment in the new services. “I’m a finance person, I do ROI calculations all the time, but a lot of this is uncharted ground,” Hunt says. “We’re not doing an ROI on this particular project because it’s more of a competitive issue. It’s just something that we needed to do to serve our members better. It’s more of a strategic investment is how we see it. “At the same time, it was extremely affordable. We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs here. Not at all,” he says. KEMBA Financial is planning now to add e-alerts to the system, which would allow members to set such parameters as certain account balances or limits on the size of a cash withdrawal to trigger an e-mail from the CU that it’s time to look at the Internet banking site. COWWW Software, meanwhile, plans to show off the new capabilities at the next Symitar Systems users group meeting and can offer it to any credit union regardless of its core processor, the company says. “We enjoy pushing the envelope of technology services for credit unions,” says Thomas, the company president. “By doing so, we can provide the best, most unique technology available, which in turn encourages members, like KEMBA Financial’s, to return again and again to their credit union as their primary financial institution.” Getting them to return again and again is the key. “A lot of the time, when we go down a new road like this, we know it will work technologically, but if members don’t adopt it, it’s a failure, regardless of our technical success,” says Hunt, the CU vice president. -

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