Goal To Be The Facebook and LinkedIn Of Credit Union Community

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INDIANAPLOIS-One vendor contends that it has launched the Facebook and LinkedIn of the CU community.

Passageways is currently beta testing "Verona," a secure community portal platform that can connect CUs nationwide to encourage collaboration and sharing, said Passageways co-founder and VP-business development Paroon Chadha. "Credit unions all have their own intranets. But with Verona we take it to the next level and connect credit unions and other financials in one large portal, much like Facebook and LinkedIn," Chadha told Credit Union Journal during the recent Passageways powWow Collaboration Conference 2010 at the Embassy Suites Hotel here.

The success-and power-of the two social network sites support the need for Verona, insisted Chadha. "Those tools have shown us the way and the power of connecting people."

Christopher Beltran, Passageways co-founder and VP-product development, said Verona encourages sharing, such as best practices, brand building and customer engagement concepts, vendor lists, applications, templates and forms, and simply ideas. "There are a lot of different things credit unions seek out each day on the Internet, whether that's using e-mail or chasing down a URL. And each time they often have to use a different password and sign in. Verona brings the information from the financial community to you right inside your intranet portal."

It also encourages people with the same skill sets and interests to form branded communities, said Beltran, such as CEOs of certain asset size credit unions, or CU HR professionals. "This creates robust working groups of people to foster collaboration, new ideas, and to improve efficiencies."

Chadha suggested that Verona works well for state leagues, connecting them more closely with their member credit unions. Organizations do not have to be using Passageways portal technology to use Verona, however companies should be on the platform to take full advantage of the collaboration software, Chadha added. Currently, Verona costs about $2 per user per month.

Verona is being beta tested by the Glastonbury, Conn.-based Open Solutions, which has 450 banks and CUs in its portal community. Chadha said Verona will be rolled out next among Passageways customers and CU* Answers, which partnered with Passageways on the Verona concept.

Randy Karnes, CEO of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based CU* Answers, believes Verona is the next major step in driving credit union collaboration. "If everyone was on the same portal or intranet, then you would reach a whole new set of data. When Verona takes off, credit unions will be able to reach a powerful vault of information."

Chadha acknowledged that comparisons to a listserv may be made, but stressed, "It's the next level in terms of interacting with people. You can connect with people, see their profiles, follow them, post messages, exchange ideas and files, and have conversations."

The $230-million RBCU, Richfield, Minn., has been participating in the beta test with Open Solutions and is currently connected with 450 banks and credit unions. Emily Randolph, RBCU e-commerce systems analyst, said the advantages far exceed those delivered through a listserv. "The questions you ask go to people in your work group, not to everyone. And these are people who you get to know and who are interested in the things you are discussing."

Randolph said RBCU has used Verona to improve back-office functions, deposits programs, online banking, teller functions, accounting, compliance, and more. "You quickly get to the people you need to reach. It just creates a strong community of your peers who have a reason to respond."

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