WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – Data processing conversions are never easy, and they can be even more trying for a large credit union. The $1 billion Pacific Service Credit Union said it made it through the process relatively unscathed, however it took lots of planning and on-site visits with fellow credit unions to pull it off. The CU moved from Summit to Symitar at the end of March. The decision to convert was difficult, but made easier by the fact that even if it stayed on Summit it would have had to convert because of hardware changes. It was running Summit on an HP3000 box, which is being phased out by Hewlett-Packard. To stay on Summit it was going to have to move to a UNIX box. “Even staying with Summit it would have been a full-blown conversion,” said Larry LaBonte, Pacific’s EVP/CFO. In 2003 it selected a group of processors to evaluate. They came on site for the typical sales demo and Pacific narrowed the field down to XP Systems and Symitar. “Quite frankly XP was our first choice, but XP was rewriting their entire software code. We felt with the timeline we wanted to convert, we weren’t sure that would work,” said LaBonte. Once the decision was made to go with Symitar the real work began. “We tried to front load as much as possible. We went out and talked to various different client sites they had. Schools Credit Union in Sacramento converted a year before. We talked with DM FCU in Tucson and Ent FCU in Colorado,” said LaBonte. These credit union contacts wound up being a key part of the process. Pacific Service actually made contract changes with Symitar after hearing about their experiences. “What we adjusted were timelines for deliverables and having mock conversions ahead of time, and having our data base used in training,” said LaBonte. Often processors will utilize generic data when testing systems, but Pacific insisted the mock conversions use its actual data. “We were adamant about that. That way as the employees were going through training, they were seeing our data.” Initial mock conversions were done during the week. As it got closer to the real thing, the employees came in on a Saturday and Sunday and started executing transactions as if they were live on the system. One other key for the CU was hiring an outside consulting firm, namely eCU Technologies the tech CUSO of Pennsylvania State Employees CU that specializes in work on Symitar’s system. “When we were doing data mapping with Symitar we had them (eCU) sitting side by side. With their knowledge of Symitar, they expanded on things and became an additional resource,” said LaBonte. Pacific was impressed with the willingness of other CUs to help in the conversion. Pacific employees spent a day and a half on-site at Ent FCU working their system and watching the system in action. Based on that experience, it went back and modified areas of its own system. The other side of the system conversion was the employee participation. Pacific tried to make the process fun from day one. “We had newsletters, team shirts, lunches. Every two weeks we had some sort of team event where employees’ wore their rugby shirts. We had daily prize drawings based on the number of people in training sessions, “said Noelle Fischer-Herbert, president of corporate development. Employees won gift certificates for stores such as Macy’s, Outback Steakhouse and Starbucks. While all employees were involved in some way, the CU formed a 19-person conversion team that represented every department of the credit union. Again, on-site visits for this team was key. The CU sent team members to CUs running the Symitar platform to see it in action in their specific discipline. One enterprise-wide change the CU is making in conjunction with the new system is optical archiving, in an effort to eliminate paper. The CU actually went back and scanned and imaged signature cards from as far back as 60 years ago. It also had its call center pulling files and sending to branches for imaging. Now employees will be able to access a central system for imaged records. The move to paper provided a good team opportunity, said Fischer-Herbert. The CU compiled thousands of staples pulled from paper records that it moved to images and had employees guess the weight of the staples for a prize (see illustration). LaBonte estimates the conversion cost about $3 million. “Really it was the sprit of the employees that made it work. We involved them at an early stage. We wanted them to get all the answers they needed throughout the process,” said LaBonte. [email protected]

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