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WILLISTON, Vt. – New England Federal Credit Union is benefiting in more ways than one from its participation in a credit union technology consortium, including deploying alerts and e-statement solutions springing from the consortium’s sponsoring firm. Those two solutions are part of CUNotify, a package of notification software solutions aimed at enhancing online services to members and created by CUTech in Livermore, Calif. CUTech was created in 1996 by Girish Shah, a former ULTRADATA executive, to provide technology solutions to credit unions. The organization relies on its Technology Research Consortium of about 20 credit unions to provide ideas and feedback, and a built-in customer base. That includes $465 million New England FCU. “The consortium has two benefits for us,” says Jim St. Peter, manager of technology and operations at the 65,000-member CU, Vermont’s largest. “The first is the many technologies and vendors we’re exposed to. Accordingly, the participating credit unions tend to be early adopters of advanced technologies. “The second is the peer networking with other credit unions. We find the size of the group lends itself to really powerful exchanges compared with the relationships you tend to establish when attending large user groups. And because we meet twice yearly, we don’t lose track of which credit union is working on what and can consider how we can leverage their experiences.” The give-and-take also benefits CUTech, yielding knowledge that shows up in the company’s offerings, its managers say. “The consortium continuously looks at a wide array of emerging technologies and leading-edge products that provide solutions that can be deployed by member credits now and in the future,” said John-Ashley Paul, CUTech’s vice president of business development. Currently, about 75% of the consortium’s member CUs are using CUNotify applications, Paul said. More than 40 credit unions overall are using at least one application, Ashley said, and a handful have licensed the whole package and are in the process of deploying the individual components. The CUNotify package began with CUAlerts in 2001, followed by CUStatements in 2002 and the ongoing first deployments now of CULetters and CUMarketing. Alerts and statements solutions are already widely used in the industry. CULetters, meanwhile, is an electronic letters generation and delivery product, while CUMarketing is an opt-in e-mail marketing product that also can be used to target non-members. Members of credit unions using the solutions opt-in for the services and access them within the CU’s home banking application on its Web site, Paul said. Integration with the Internet banking and core processing platforms, of course, is essential to using the CUNotify solutions, which are all deployed as in-house solutions. “Fortunately, many of the vendors have connectivity components that enable third-party vendors to interface to their systems,” Paul says. “For example, we work with Harland ULTRADATA’s Ultra-Exchange for home banking integration. “We’re also working with Sym-Connect to support credit unions that use Symitar’s data processing system, and we’re looking at Pathways for Summit credit unions.” New England FCU is on the ULTRADATA core platform and had little problem connecting, St. Peter says. “The interface already developed by CUTech was so rich and complete that no modifications were needed,” the CU’s tech chief says, adding that that “was a major selling point as most alerts systems we reviewed could not extract the same level of detailed information that CUAlerts could, and we could therefore offer a broader choice of alerts choices than most other providers.” St. Peter says his credit union chose to further modify the system by having members “pull” the e-statement from an e-mail notice rather than have it “pushed” to them via a PDF document, a change he says CUTech seemed happy to make. Internally, the learning curve for the credit union’s IT staff “was very nominal,” St. Peter says. “Operations personnel need to know how to stop and start the services and to monitor the e-mail handler for unsent mail. The host functions only require one or two commands a day.” The end users are issuing a lot more commands of their own. So far, New England FCU members have created more than 1,000 alerts and get more than 2,500 monthly statements electronically. As for the price and the expected return on investment, Paul at CUTech says it depends on the size of the CU and how many solutions are used. The statements, letters and marketing applications generate direct savings by “displacing existing delivery methods,” while the alerts product provides “indirect savings in less usage of existing fixed-cost delivery channels,” the CUTech exec says. Meanwhile, the consortium’s work continues. “The next application on the CUNotify platform that we have started working on is in the area of intelligent document generation and delivery,” Paul says. “With this application, we will introduce online authorization and verification using digital signatures.” -

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