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Technology vendors can be like Pied Pipers, luring CEOs away from sound investments, according to members of the CUNA Technology Council Executive Committee.

"Don't listen to vendors," advised Gordon Gregory, secretary and treasurer of the Executive Committee and vice president technology at $310-million Mazuma CU here.

"Vendors like to get the ear of a CEO before the IT guy gets a chance to rain on their parade," Gregory explained. "CEOs can be more susceptible to vendors' claims of glory, but the IT guy tends to be more skeptical."

A good CEO will immediately bring an IT manager in on the conversation, the committee members said.

"My CEO will talk to vendors for three sentences, but then direct them right to the IT department," said Brian Warfel, Executive Committee chair and senior vice president, Sales and Service at $375-million Power 1 CU in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

"My CEO realizes that if IT isn't brought in early enough, technology can be a disabler instead of an enabler," added Jackie Buchanan, member of the Executive Committee and vice president, IT at $560-million T&C FCU in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Even the IT manager isn't off the hook-as much as the vendor deserves skepticism, the IT manager deserves a watchful eye, Gregory said.

"Nose around a bit," said Gregory. "Keep me honest by asking hard-to-answer questions and have me explain what's hard to understand."

Technology vendors aren't all bad, Buchanan added: rapport with a service provider can pay off. "Develop a relationship with the core processing company so that you can have them on-site to see if your system is running to the maximum," she said.

In addition, CEOs need to keep an eye on "operating efficiency, which is not only how much is being spent, but also how much is being saved in terms of efficiency, Warfel said.

Grooming a tech-savvy CEO takes time, Gregory added.

"The CEO needs to focus on reaching business goals to see if technology is helping make progress over time, and if money is being expended in a wise way," he said. CEOs need to reach beyond the credit union's walls, said Buchanan.

"CEOs should engage in general conversations with other CEOs that are running the same systems," she said. "They should read about what other credit unions are doing."

A good CEO is enthusiastic about technology, the committee members agreed.

"In all cases, CEOs who are enthusiastic about technology and take the initiative to educate themselves are easier to work with," Buchanan explained.

Today's top technology priority for CEOs? Information Security, the committee said.

The road to effective security is paved with risk assessment, said Gregory.

"A risk assessment will bring out any security policies that are missing," explained Buchanan.

The CUNA Technology Council's greatest contribution to CEOs is in grooming IT managers to be business strategists, the committee members said.

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