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TORRANCE, Calif. – Since November, Toyota Federal Credit Union has been using an automated online account opening process that lets someone else’s fingers do the walking through those long lists of names at credit bureaus, government watch lifts and more. The $220 million, 16,000-member CU is one of the 13 credit unions and three banks that so far that have committed online account opening and funding work to Andera Inc., a high-tech startup based in Providence, R.I., and the Toyota Federal was one of the first to go live. “It’s a fairly new product and involved quite a development process, but they’ve been very good at customizing things for us and really, we haven’t had any problems to speak of,” says Brock Kasnick, chief operating officer at Torrance-based Toyota FCU (www.toyotafcu.org). “It really works a lot like an online lending decisioning system, with the information being integrated through a lot of different databases and systems. The system, called New Accounts Online, is a brainchild of Charles Kroll and Andera Inc., which developed the ASP as an outgrowth of Andera’s consulting work with a big Rhode Island bank that then became a company backer. “Nearly all credit unions can serve existing members through their online channel with products like home banking and bill pay, but they’re rarely able to acquire new members that way, and that’s where we come in,” says Kroll, president of the 5-year-old company. Andera’s Web-based system performs real-time identity verification, decisioning against Chexsystems and credit bureaus lists, OFAC and other watchlist screenings, automatic funding deposits and cross selling for loans and credit cards, Kroll says. As for making sure the application is on the up-and-up, “we set it up to look at 60 to 70 criteria, which then are used to generate a series of multiple-choice questions for the applicant to answer, things that would be known only to him or her,” Kroll says. Initial funding, required to complete the process, then can be done through such standard methods as ACH or credit or debit cards from other accounts. How automated the out-of-the-box process is “depends on the extent to which we’re interfaced with the core system,” Kroll says, adding that Andera’s account opening functions are currently interfaced with Symitar and Summit for straight-through, real-time new account opening and activation. “For our other clients, many will use a batch interface, where we’ll generate a file and their core system can accept it overnight for processing in the morning,” the Andera president says. Toyota FCU is a Symitar client but has chosen to not do straight-through processing with the new applications, says Toyota FCU’s Kasnick. “We want to look at the accounts first, and they’re not activated until a person here actually pushes the button,” he says. “They also still need to show us a copy of a driver’s license and a Toyota badge or family information.” Kasnick says about 30% of his organization’s new applications are being handled through the new online service, which he says is a good fit for his credit union’s far flung membership. “We replaced an account-opening system in which a person had to download a PDF and mail it or fax it to us, which can take a lot of time,” he says. “We’re in pursuit of a concept called the `virtual branch,’ which this is a part of and it has a lot of capabilities that we’re not using yet. For instance, we’re set up right now to receive ACH transactions but not originate them,” Kasnick says. Meanwhile, online account opening in various iterations is not an unknown commodity, so how does Andera – which recently announced 10 new client signings – plan to continue building its niche? “One of the ways we’re positioning ourselves is through our relationships with core processors. Account opening is our focus. It’s what we do,” Kroll says. “And it’s a complicated process. In addition to the technology part of it, we stay on top of the rules. We take the responsibility of making sure to modify our product in response to changing regulations.” -

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