BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – No more $5 pencils at Affinity Federal Credit Union. The $1.3 billion CU has automated purchasing for its 390 or so employees, using a software solution called Epicor Procurement. One or two employees at each of the credit union’s approximately two dozen locations are authorized to go into the system and place orders from a catalog, creating efficiencies both in what’s being bought and where it’s being bought, says Georgiann Bird, controller at 116,000-member Affinity (www.affinityfcu.org). “Our purchasing guy was always complaining about `$5 pencils,’” Bird says. “Clearly, when you give someone 3-inch catalogs, it really covers their choices and cuts down on what they were spending.” Next up is getting that paper catalog into the system electronically, Bird adds. The procurement solution is part of the credit union’s use of the Epicor for Financial Services suite of integrated financial accounting, reporting and budgeting software. A few dozen credit unions are among the thousands of clients using the suite, which allows users to cut down on man hours and inaccuracies of manual entries, automate and consolidate accounting and reporting activities, and generate reports in real time or close to it, according to James Norwood, vice president of product marketing at Epicor Software Corp. (www.epicor.com) in Irvine, Calif. Norwood says his company’s smaller clients, including some credit unions, are often replacing such tools as Quicken software to cope with growth, along with Excel spreadsheets widely used at institutions of all sizes. And regardless of size, there are issues that come with rapid expansion, Norwood says. “The first thing that gets exposed is that most of the systems in place are not talking to each other, so you start to get inaccuracies because of re-keying,” he says. “So there’s the value of seamless integration from the membership system to the financials, plus the ability to deliver Web-based financial reports to stakeholders certainly weekly, if not daily.” Integration with its XP Systems core platform was a key for Affinity, Bird says, especially since the credit union operates a family of CUSOs, further complicating reporting functions that now are integrated using the Epicor software to the point that the monthly closing process was reduced by two days. And then there’s purchasing and procurement. “For instance, forms and things like marketing collateral,” Bird says. “Now our various locations have to account for them in their reporting, hold them in inventory and expense them out when the time comes. “No longer is our inventory guy freaking out like he was when he saw how much stuff was in the closets at some of the branches.” And Affinity is not done exploiting the virtues of its virtual quartermaster. “We’re trying to figure out where we want to go with it, how to automate procurement and our reporting functions even further,” Bird says. One option may be to have stakeholders, such as staffers and board members, simply navigate to a central location and look at reports, rather than pushing the information through e-mail. -

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