HARRISBURG, Pa. – It’s no revelation that some CUSOs out there rely a lot on their credit union owner or owners for personnel, resources and in many cases business. The $2.2 Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union wanted the leaders of its tech CUSO, eCU Technologies, to know right off the bat that if it couldn’t stand on its own two feet, there would be no CUSO. “We treat eCU Technologies at totally arms length in terms of finances. We impose some pretty rough accounting on them so we know it’s not being carried by the credit union,” said PSECU President/CEO Greg Smith. “Otherwise how else do you know if they’re succeeding?” Smith said the products eCU provides are not for PSECU members, so why should they help pay for it? “The board does not want member dollars to be subsidizing it. We really draw a distinction there so PSECU members aren’t covering deployment costs for another credit union down the street,” that eCU may be working with, said Smith. That’s not to say eCU and PSECU don’t communicate about technology. Smith is the president of the CUSO and has a pulse for what’s going on with it and eCU’s 17 staffers are also housed at PSECU’s main headquarters. But the $2.2 billion CU isn’t necessarily going to be first in line to use one of eCU’s new products. “Out of a million dollars in billings this year for eCU, PSECU represents only about $30,000. We all want them to succeed, but we’re not doing it by giving them all our business,” said Smith. eCU started about three years ago with very high expectations given PSECU’s well-known tech prowess. PSECU’s technology is so admired in the industry, it’s not uncommon for the CU to host hundreds of personnel from other credit unions each year on “tech tours.” eCU really evolved from those tech tours. “Credit unions would come through and look at some of the things we’ve done from a technology standpoint and wanted our help. Up until the time of the CUSO, we had to say no. We recognized there was a need out there to help others do what we were doing, but the credit union didn’t have the resources and the time,” said Alan Brunner, administrator for eCU. The CUSO today boasts 66 clients, all users of the Symitar core processing system, which is PSECU’s core system. The CUSO helps these CUs with conversion work, integration and add-on modules to the Symitar system. eCU knows the Symitar system well as many of its employees are former PSECU staffers who worked with the system at the CU. Brunner himself led PSECU’s conversion to Symitar back in 1999. eCU also has five former Symitar employees on staff. They are located in the San Diego area where Symitar is based. One of those is Ron Murray, eCU’s IT Director. Murray said one of eCU’s most valuable services is consulting. “The biggest issue is because of the flexibility Symitar offers, it takes more in-house skill and knowledge to take advantage of it. There’s more opportunity than Symitar can handle itself for its 300-plus credit unions wanting customization,” said Murray. Symitar has middleware, SymConnect, that allows CUs to add functionality, but it takes knowledge of the system. Its report generator, PowerOn, has a lot of flexibility in allowing CUs to pull data out of the system in a customized manner, but that too takes knowledge. “Even with an open system with proprietary roots like Symitar, you still have to understand the way the system works, the database structure. You can’t just plug and play,” said Murray. Murray said credit unions also look to eCU to help through the system conversion process, which is one of the most stressful operational events credit union staffers go through. “Any Symitar conversion comes to the table with hundreds of customization requests from the credit union. Sometimes the Symitar staff offers up one way to do something, when we know of three or four other ways they can do it. More and more we’re called on to be an independent advisor,” said Murray. Murray said another interesting thing emerging is customization hours are being written into the conversion contract with Symitar. A CU may get 100 hours of custom work time from Symitar staff. eCU can either help a CU cut down the hours the CU needs or do the customization themselves. Brunner said eCU’s core products are home banking, online lending, [email protected] (see sidebar), consulting and kiosks. eCU staff will actually custom build kiosks for credit unions. “We purchase the cabinets and hardware from an outside technology company, put our software in and build it ourselves. Right now we have 15 kiosks out there,” said Brunner, who noted eCU can churn out a high-quality kiosk for about $27,000. eCU and Symitar do compete on some fronts, mainly home banking. Brunner said Symitar has been very supportive and in a way they both benefit from any new business eCU gets. “Any product or service we provide gets the credit union deeper into the Symitar system. Whether it be home banking or online landing, it taps back into Symitar and makes the core system better,” said Brunner. Symitar President Bruce Cormode said these types of CUSOs are becoming more common as larger CUs look to get more out of their systems. “It’s a unique situation. We make it work for the benefit of the client. We definitely see what they’ve been able to offer to our clients. Sometimes they have a slant to an offering that we have that helps clients,” said Cormode. At press time, eCU staffers were gearing up to attend Symitar’s annual client conference. Brunner said the conference is good from a sales point, but mainly as an educational tool to keep eCU staffers up on the latest at Symitar. Cormode said the conference is a bit unique for a vendor show in that it has an exhibit hall of about 80 vendors. How do you get in as an exhibitor? “The rule is as long as one of our credit unions use the product, they can come in and open up a booth,” said Cormode. [email protected]

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