1 Small CU'S Plan: 'You've Got To Keep Processing'

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Katherine Hoeper says technology is her credit union's biggest strength. Yet in almost the same breath, she adds that it is also a weakness.

Hoeper, President/CEO of the $14.6-million KONE Employees Credit Union, said technological advancements sure come in handy in serving the sponsor's members who are spread across the country.

But, the expense makes it difficult to progress as quickly as they-and their members-would like.

Ninety-five percent of the sponsor company's employees are located somewhere other than headquarters, and to serve them KONE ECU has turned to outsourcing.

"I think we outsource every technical process we've got," she said, adding that much of it is through the Illinois Credit Union System. "They've got a lot of different programs and progressive people there. They are the best."

Hoeper said league programs have made it possible for KONE to offer credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards.

"We make the decisions, but they do the work," she said, adding that without many of these services, her members would probably go elsewhere.

And except for the recent challenge to reduce assets a bit in order to keep the capital ratio where it should be-"We had grown way too fast so we lowered some dividends and now, it's almost perfect," she said, adding that the CU is doing well, with a loan-to-share ratio of 77.5% and 9.5% net capital.

Other outsourced services include its online data processing system from Summit Information Systems, Corvallis, Ore. Like the other technical services, Hoeper said, it was much less expensive than bringing a system in-house and having to hire an IT specialist to operate it.

She said that her staff and board also take advantage of the new telephone training offered by their league and "Webinars" through CUNA.

"Look at the cost -$99-compared to having to travel and stay in a hotel," she said. "And we can have everybody come into the office and listen."

Hoeper said she hopes to have Internet banking available by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Her advice to other small credit union managers: "You've got to keep progressing no matter what. Give more loans than you want to, use technology, look beyond the services you have."

Twenty-five years since she was first hired as a credit union teller, Hoeper said her career, so far, has been wonderful.

"When I came here, I was only going to be here for awhile and then move to a larger credit union," she said. "But, then this one grew from $5 million to $14 million. I love my job. As long as there is challenge, I'm staying."

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