Barriers Every CU Must Jump

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MT. PROSPECT, Ill.-Credit unions will face two critical challenges in 2012, but they must overcome four barriers to achieving those two objectives, according to one technology expert.

Curtis Hallowell, vice president of product management for Cummins-Allison, a provider of technologies that count, sort and authenticate currency, said changes in check and currency-processing solutions-combined with self-service kiosks in lobbies-are having an effect.

"Lowering costs and improving the member interface has always been a difficult balance to strike," he said. "Technology helps, but it has a cost and the ROI is not always easy to figure out. Improving member service through self-service kiosks can help by allowing tellers to focus on the products that are going to generate revenue rather than exchanging a roll of quarters for $10."

On the deposit-processing side, Hallowell continued, having separate processors for checks and currency gets expensive. Balancing the deposit at the teller window is something he said credit unions should be looking at during strategic-planning sessions.

Hallowell said there are four barriers blocking CUs from making process improvements:

1. Credit unions do not assign enough or the proper resources to execute new initiatives, process improvement or technology deployment. "It always sounds like a good idea at the top, but the top doesn't always budget the money to do the job properly," he said.

2. CUs don't always seek the best solution, they seek the least costly or the least invasive to their operations. "This means they settle for solutions that are not best for them. They should just step up and do what is right, rather than looking at cost. There will be pain, but in the long run it is best."

3. CUs have a short-term perspective perspective. "Don't try to just solve an immediate problem, solve the big picture problems. There will be more up-front costs, but it will save money in the future."

4. Training is shortchanged. Whether a credit union has five branches or 205 branches, if it is employing new technology he said management cannot ignore the training side.

"The credit union really needs to be all-in when deploying new technology or changing processes," he counseled.

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