How Moving To Web-Based Solutions Can Pay Off

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Imagine implementing a technology solution at your credit union that's maintenance-free, platform- and core processor- independent, easy for both members and staff to use, and will always be fully supported throughout the industry.

What is it you ask? It is web-based technology, and it's saving credit unions across the country thousands and thousands of dollars in reduced labor. Credit unions nationwide are achieving remarkable results today with web-based solutions such as e-statements, archival/retrieval systems, online bill pay, e-notices, and others, which enhance efficiencies in their back office operations and, ultimately, provide better service to their memberships.

While working for the $300-million PACE Credit Union in Portland, Ore., IT Director Blair Ross experienced first hand the benefits of utilizing a web-based solution with a COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk) and imaging system. Since implementing this innovative system nearly two years ago, PACE's maintenance and end-user headaches have been eliminated.

"We wanted a solution that was browser-based where members and staff could simply go online, find, and view the document they're looking for quickly," he said. "And we found it."

Eliminates Constant Need To Buy

PACE's browser-based solution, running on Microsoft SQL Server, has eliminated the constant need to buy new software to update many of the credit union's 60 PCs. With the browser-based system, documents that are centrally stored can easily be accessed from any PC via the web browser.

Also, credit union staff no longer has to wait days for microfilmed checks to be delivered-then spending another few hours searching for a requested check. With the web-based check imaging and archival system, canceled checks are now available for online viewing within an hour or two of clearing. "This browser-based system has provided our credit union's staff with vastly improved operations efficiency," he stated. "As a result, what used to take us hours, now takes minutes-which has saved us a lot of money."

In addition to time and cost savings, PACE offers several options for viewing images, statements, and COLD reports. For example, management and staff can operate more efficiently by viewing a report with all pages in one browser page or each page in one browser page.

"Viewing all the pages in one browser page allows us to use the browser to search text," Ross explained. "Using one report page at a time allows us to control the printing of individual pages much easier. It's great to have both options."

As for the credit union employees learning the new browser-based system, Ross says they learned to use the COLD and imaging system on their own with very little training, adding that if you know how to point and click, you can use this system. "I can't imagine using a product that's not web-based," he said. "It's manageable from any PC and doesn't require a client license for every user."

The $175-million Berrien Teachers Credit Union in St. Joseph, Mich. is among those using COLD technology. "Looking up reports and accessing statements from our website has saved a lot of time and aggravation for both our credit union and our members," states Ed Cronin, marketing director for Berrien Teachers. "This technology is great. It's fast and it serves our membership wonderfully because they can view a cleared check or review their statements online at their leisure."

As for retrieving reports, Cronin noted that it used to be when a member requested a report, the teller would have to either leave the member standing at the teller line or place the member on hold during their phone conversation. They would then walk to another room to sift through files and files of microfiche reports and manually retrieve the designated document.

"Whenever this took place, our members felt abandoned, wondering if we were ever coming back to address their request," he added. "Now our tellers can simply look online from their workstation and immediately provide feedback to the member. It's great."

Using its web-based technology, American First Credit Union ($576-million assets, 77,000 members), based in La Habra, Calif., has reduced fraud over the years by creating a signature verification system on the teller line. This system interfaces with browser-based technology, allowing tellers to instantly verify member signatures at their workstations.

"This system allows us to pull up signature cards via the browser on the teller line," explained Charlotte McKernan, delivery channel manager for American First. "We can do this easily because the browser is standard technology. There's no need to write a new interface. And best of all, it's immediate."

The $250-million Honda FCU in Torrance, Calif., uses browser-based COLD archiving and document imaging solutions. The credit union has benefited from this technology by processing and archiving all print files electronically and implementing electronic retrieval and distribution capabilities. These capabilities have saved operations costs for the credit union by reducing physical document storage, operations time, and maintenance.

Simple & Cheap

"It's simple, it's cheap, and it's more reliable," stated Bill D'Camp, Honda FCU's information technology manager, commenting on his browser-based COLD and imaging package. "Moving from a proprietary system to a web-based technology is a vast improvement in regards to installation, maintenance, and use. It's easy to use from a member and employee's point of view. And it's easy and inexpensive to administer from an IT perspective."

In Olympia, Wash., the $464-million Twin County Credit Union implemented a browser-based archival and retrieval system, which has allowed the credit union to provide faster and more efficient member service, cut down on fraud, and save costs on document storage.

"With our web-based system, we are able to retrieve data much faster because it's all stored electronically," said Steve Shaw, director of IT for Twin County. "Our goal is to have our departments electronically in tune with each other so we can provide a more efficient service to our members. This technology has allowed us to accomplish this goal."

Shaw adds that prior to implementing the browser-based system, their hardware was antiquated, they had paper storage problems, and they had expensive licensing issues with their previous vendor. "Now that we've gotten away from paper storage by using a browser-based solution, we don't have to search through boxes and boxes of member documents or deal with costly software licensing," Shaw says. "Now we can utilize the Internet and respond to a member request in seconds. It's a better service all the way around."

Mike Lawson is founder and principal of DML Communications, a marketing firm focusing on credit union technology vendors. Lawson has over a decade of marketing experience within the credit union industry, working for Symitar Systems and now his independent firm, DML Communications. For info:

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