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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nathan Tothrow sees the results of marketing’s collaboration with technology at Charlotte Metro Credit Union about 80 to 140 times a week.That’s how often the online account-opening tools are used at the $177 million credit union, which has about 32,000 members and counting.Charlotte Metro began using the XpressAccounts solution from MeridianLink about a year ago and found it to be “the missing link we realized we needed in a coordinated sales and marketing process. We can go out and educate consumers and inspire them to learn about us, but we needed to be able to do something other than tell them go find one of our five branches in order to enter our sales channel,” said Tothrow, Charlotte Metro’s vice president of marketing.“In our competitive market, surrounded by big banks like Wachovia and Bank of America headquartered here, and regional banks at every corner, that just was not going to be effective in our market,” he said.Charlotte Metro can now activate new accounts-including credit reporting, ID verification, electronic funding and cross selling credit cards and other financial products-through the Web, in the branch or remotely through a telephone or a staffer’s laptop using the same solution.“When we did our initial focus group a few years ago, we found many people did not see credit unions as a viable option. That’s why we started branding ourselves to look more like a bank, because consumers generally associate banks with being a full-service financial institution,” Tothrow said.“Then we had to keep hammering them with the message about what we have and how easy we are to get to. And now, when we advertise on TV, where focus groups show folks expect financial institutions to advertise, I’ve got 30 seconds to inspire action. We try to drive them to our Web site (www.cmcu.org) and make it obvious right there that they can join us right now,” he said.“It really integrates with what we’re trying to do here,” the Charlotte Metro marketing chief said.Integration also is key to the program’s success on the technology side. “It’s one of this system’s strongest points,” said Melanie Hester, Charlotte Metro’s chief information officer. “It was important to us that Symitar, our core processor, endorsed the system, and it’s proven to be the best integration product we have, and we have lots of products integrated.”MeridianLink said its account-opening solution integrates with more than 90 other companies’ solutions. Charlotte Metro is one of about 100 financial institutions using the account opening solution, about 70 of them credit unions. Most of its solutions are delivered via the ASP model. The Costa Mesa, Calif., company is perhaps best known for the credit reporting system it said is now used by more than 27,000 financial institutions. It also offers an automated lending solution, an area that Charlotte Metro is now considering.Ed Guerin, vice president of credit union development at MeridianLink, said that’s a natural fit for following up on account opening tools.“Our account opening solution is built on a loan origination platform, actually, so the account opening process is not really separate from the loan application processes,” Guerin said. It also scans credit reports, identifying cross-selling opportunities.“What that really means is that when someone goes through the account-opening process, you run can run it against your own credit union’s rules and find out, for instance, that, ‘hey, we see you have an existing loan at Ford Motor Credit and we can save you $48.32 a month if you open an account here at Charlotte Metro. Are you interested in that sort of cost savings?’“Making accurate and real time, point-of-sale, cross-sale offers helps make your members higher-performing assets of the credit union,” Guerin said.Speaking of assets, in a year marked by economic troubles, Charlotte Metro has seen its grow from $143 million to more than $175 million, and along with the migration of consumers from troubled local banks to credit unions, “we know a lot of this has been related to our increased online services and capabilities,” said Hester, the Charlotte Metro CIO.Next up is “shoring up the loan process and getting that integrated into the account opening on the deposit side,” added Tothrow.As for MeridianLink, “keeping up-to-date is always our priority here and one of the things that we’re going to try to enhance is business intelligence,” said Tim Nguyen, the company’s chief technology officer.“In today’s market, people want automation so in the next few months we’ll be coming out with a business intelligence module that our clients can use to help anticipate what kind of business an individual member can bring you,” Nguyen said.The information can be as granular as business volume expected at certain times of the month or day and includes sales reports and risk mitigation information, such as certain areas with higher risks of bad checks, Nguyen said.“This is information usually only multi-billion dollar companies have the resources to do. We offer economy of scale for all our clients, since they essentially pay us only for specifically what they use,” the MeridianLink CTO said of his company’s ASP offerings.–[email protected]

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