CU Central Falls Adds Tools To Service Small Business

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Not one to be outdone by nearby banks, Credit Union Central Falls is promising to court local businesses with a full line of commercial services that are supported by specialized technologies.

"We've committed ourselves to aggressively pursue the commercial services market," said Lisa Dandeneau, chief operating officer at the $960-million CU. "As a community-chartered credit union, we're working against local banks to offer competitive accounts and loans."

But to be "competitive" the credit union recognized it must support accounts and loans with processing technology that's designed to handle commercial products.

The 45,000-member CU decided to develop a commercial accounts processing system in collaboration with its core system provider, SUMMIT Information Systems of Corvallis, Ore. That way, commercial processing can smoothly communicate with the credit union's core processing, SUMMIT's Spectrum, said Dandeneau.

"If we have a member with a small business, we want to service that member's business," Dandeneau explained. "Spectrum already has all that member information stored. I can have that information automatically integrated with the commercial accounts system, and vice versa."

Already, CU Central Falls offers business members enhanced commercial checking and savings accounts for which per-item fees, service charges and earnings allowances are automatically calculated.

CU Central Falls has 731 commercial checking accounts totaling $12 million, Dandeneau said.

Next month, the five-branch CU plans to add commercial lending technologies as part of the business accounts repertoire, said Dandeneau.

New products will include lines-of-credit and non-real estate secured business loans.

The proposed loan processing technology will also automatically share data with the SUMMIT Commercial Account Analysis module.

No Longer Cumbersome

No longer will CU Central Falls be forcing a square peg into a round hole, Dandeneau continued. "Because the underwriting requirements for commercial loans are very different than for real estate loans, the need for proper tools to offer commercial loans has become more and more evident. Right now we're using a traditional real estate lending system to help the process. There's lots of cumbersome, manual upkeep as a result."

The credit union's commercial portfolio currently carries 300 loans totaling $49 million, Dandeneau said.

After the loan piece is in place, CU Central Falls will focus on meeting business members' deposit needs, said Dandeneau. "We want to offer sophisticated services, such as combined account analysis. Also on the table is Internet home banking with a cash management module for businesses."

The cash management module would automatically sweep funds from line-of-credit accounts to other accounts, for example, to meet members' daily operating needs, she said.

CU Central Falls works to develop the Spectrum commercial accounts platform as part of SUMMIT's Client Advisory Team (CAT), consisting of 10 credit unions.

Formed in 2003, the SUMMIT CAT also has plans to enable credit unions to post Mastercard or Visa transactions within the business member's commercial account.

Previously, CU Central Fall's business members were limited to basic commercial products and services, such as night depositories, check images, overdraft protection, online banking and bill pay, coin and currency transactions, wire transfers, stop payments and savings accounts, said Dandeneau.

SUMMIT serves 300 credit unions nationwide, about 40 of which use the SUMMIT Commercial Account Analysis module, according to SUMMIT.

CUJ Resources:

For info on this story:

* CU Central Falls at www.cucf.org

* Summit at www.summitsite.net

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