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HARRISBURG, Penn.-PSECU is one to talk about online banking.

And pundits are paying attention. Pennsylvania State Employees CU won a Best of the Web award from e-newsletter Online Banking Report last month for Upost Home, the service that allows immediate access online to pre-posted deposits that are still in the mail, as reported in The Credit Union Journal in March 2003.

Last year, the Cornerstone Advisors, Inc. GonzoBanker advisory team pinned a Gonzo Award on PSECU's in-house Internet banking development, on top of consecutive awards given by the Central Penn Business Journal.

Meanwhile, Upost Home is gaining in popularity. Members pre-posted about $22,000 in January, up from about $15,000 per month last year.

And psecu home Internet banking, with almost 94,000 active users, adds at least 1,000 new active members every month, while the homebanking servers handled a record-breaking one-million log-ins in February.

The 296,000-member PSECU isn't about to quit there. Rick Long, vice president of information technology at the $2.4-billion CU, recently shared with The Credit Union Journal what's next for psecu home, what CUs should do to heighten their online banking presence and who to watch in online banking

Coming Soon To psecu home:

Account Aggregation will demand continued focus at PSECU. Members will be able to request alerts for any aggregation account. "For example we'll tell them about activity on their American Express card, or when their checking accounts at other financial institutions have gone below certain amounts," said Long.

Much like Online Resources, Inc.'s Money HQ, PSECU's aggregation and online banking platforms will soon be joined with A2A transfers.

* Aggregation was integrated as a single sign-on with online banking in September, and has since attracted 5,000 users-more users than in the three-year history of the previous configuration, Long said.

* E-mail and Knowledge Database Management also has PSECU pretty excited, Long said. "We receive up to 5,000 emails per month. We are hoping this service will reduce our e-mail volume by 25%, and at the same time, provide our members with better and quicker answers to their questions."

* Bill Pay will soon allow members to pay all their bills with one click from a single screen, still for free.

* Interactive E-statements will allow members to sort a statement online and pay loans from statement links. The statements may also feature targeted advertising for individual members.

"The statements would really have the same functionality as online banking with just another interface, and maybe an interface in which members are more comfortable," Long explained.

23 Must-Haves

Long's 23-item list of obligatory features for credit unions online includes inter-institution funds transfers, check searches money management software downloads, homebanking activation and views of outstanding debit or credit card holds.

In the future, credit unions will need to add intra-institution (A2A) funds transfers, account alerts and "richer content," such as knowledge databases, interactive demonstrations, and service level agreements, Long said.

A serious commitment to offering standard services online should be supported by a reliable technology infrastructure, Long said.

"Credit unions should look at creating a fault-tolerant system or look at their system redundancy if they intend to provide total or 99.9% percent uptime," he said.

"It has been our experience that the more stable the services and systems are, the higher the expectations are on behalf of the members," he continued. "If the system is brought down for any reason, then the members become very upset because they've grown to expect the reliability of the system."

In addition, credit unions need to eliminate user license restrictions that may be preventing additional members from banking online, Long said. "We've seen credit unions that had no idea how many online banking members they were turning away because of license restrictions."

Other Sites Worth Looking At

According to Long, some noteworthy credit union sites worthy of a visit are those of Navy Federal, Pentagon Federal, Boeing Employees and First Technology CUs, among others.

As far as major bank websites, "I'd have to say we admire Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America," he said.

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