Internet-Based E-Commerce Paying Dividends In NY

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Credit Union: CCSD FCU

Nominated By: Empire Corporate, Albany, N.Y.

Nominated For: Moving Members To E-Services

Credit union success rests on meeting and beating member needs and expectations. That line of thinking drove CCSD Federal Credit Union's move to Internet-based, e-commerce service delivery.

CCSD now offers home banking, bill payment and consumer check imaging, a service package that the $73-million credit union believes puts it ahead of competitors, cuts operating cost and increases efficiency, according to Ruth Zarezed, CCSD's president and CEO.

The credit union had two things working in its favor in making its e-commerce move. The first was the growing complexity and cost of delivering financial services, which was forcing the credit union to evolve more cost-effective ways to serve members.

In addition, a large portion of the membership of CCSD, which serves eight school districts and more than 40 SEGs, was highly educated. That meant the ability to curb costs through more sophisticated electronic delivery, says Zarezed.

When Empire Corporate Credit Union launched its e-commerce services last year, Zarezed knew she had found a match.

"We'd been researching home banking products for a year and a half, but postponed our plans when Empire Corporate announced they had a package in the works," Zarezed says.

Familiarity between the credit union and the corporate was one driving factor, as was the familiarity the credit union's 13,500 members had with the provider. More important, however, was the seamless sophistication the corporate offered CCSD members through its Internet-based service.

Empire served as pass-through between credit union members and Summit Information Systems Inc. Members logged on through the credit union portal and Summit took it from there.

Since 25% of CCSD's members are under 18-the credit union pioneered signing up students as well as teachers and faculty in the school districts it serves-both ease of concept and sophistication of use mattered to CCSD. "This service has been extremely successful for us," says Zarezed.

The credit union tested the program in-house in November 2002 and went live within a month later. In the ensuing nine months 1,400 members-roughly 13% of the total membership-has signed up for CCSD's e-commerce program.

"Bill paying is slower than home banking," says Zarezed, who nevertheless is pleased with the growing acceptance of the entire suite of electronic services.

"Check imaging is fabulous because it reduces the cost of returned checks but allows members to access images, both front and back, online if they need to see a check that has cleared," she says. "That's an example of serving members well while reducing costs at the same time."

There were few bumps and bruises during startup, says Zarezed. Marketing was restricted to the usual channels which, for CCSD, includes the credit union newsletter and local radio and television broadcast outlets. Best of all, the credit union was able to upgrade its services while downgrading its costs, she says.

"We kept pace with our members by aligning with a business partner we knew would be around for years to come," Zarezed says.

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