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MIRAMAR, Fla. – A little thing like being able to download account history into Quicken or Microsoft Money is a very big thing to credit unions, especially those making the move into business services. That includes Tropical Financial Credit Union, which depends on connectivity with personal finance management (PFM) software for individuals and business software such as Quickbooks to attract and keep members who demand robust online channels. “Business services are one of our major initiatives,” says Kelly McConnell, senior vice president for e-commerce at $674 million Tropical Financial. He notes that the CU offers a separate business-services Web site accessible through its Digital Insight-hosted site at www.tropicalfcu.org. “We also have just begun offering ACH and we’re implementing payroll software from PayCycle that will be easy to use and fairly inexpensive compared with PayChex and ADP, and we think that will be a really big selling point for us,” McConnell says. Why so much attention to small businesses? In addition to hanging on to the business owners’ personal accounts, small businesses typically have a deposit balance of about $10,000, McConnell says, compared with maybe $1,500 for regular members. The biggest of the big boys is eyeing that market, too, and Microsoft just released its Small Business Accounting (SBA) 2006 as part of its Office Online suite of products. It incorporates existing Office 2003 programs with customizable Company Home pages, invoicing and alerts, and account summaries and transaction data, as well as third-party vendors such as ADP for payroll and tax services. Connectivity is needed to make that work, and Digital Insight has just announced that it’s supporting SBA 2006, along with existing PFM software. “OFX connectivity is a huge driver,” says Michal Geller, director of product management at the Calabasas, Calif., company. DI has about 640 credit unions using its cash management and consumer Internet banking services, and client members already are using the consumer channel for their own small businesses, the company says. More than 450 credit unions also are contracted with DI for PFM connectivity, the company says. “Overall, there’s been a staggering amount of growth, primarily on the retail side,” Geller says. “But now we’re definitely seeing interest specifically on the business side, too. We don’t know yet what the impact will be of the new Microsoft products, but when our credit unions are ready to use them, we’ll be ready for them.” McConnell says Tropical Financial has not yet had demand for SBA 2006 support, since it’s just hit the market, but is using PFA connectivity and other tools, including a “really comprehensive implementation tool that’s really kind of a neat thing.” The service allows the credit union to limit IT involvement in launching new products and services by “letting us go on the Web to co-access the tools we need there,” McConnell says. “It’s all there . you can get the right forms e-mailed to you and see how the project is going based on due dates and timelines.” Tropical Financial currently has about 370 small business accounts among its 58,000 members, about 180 of whom are using the online channel already. That includes small insurance agencies, property managers, computer support companies, accountants and an auto mechanic, McConnell says. “Once we get the ACH wire transfers, the Quicken downloads and the PayCycle software all up and running, we believe we can really get people to jump on board with this,” he says. The CU also is considering implementing the uPost honor deposit posting service from eCU Technologies as a business service, and expanding that to the call center, allowing the same courtesy to be extended over the phone. “Technology is huge for a small business,” McConnell adds. “They don’t always have time to run to the branch and make deposits and pay bills or do their payroll, and all the other things involved with running their business. Being able to do all this online saves them a tremendous amount of time.” -

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