It Takes A CU Village-Remnant Of Early Internet 'Portal' Days Continues To Prosper

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Imagine doing it all from your credit union's website-shopping for jewelry, buying that ticket to Paris, or checking the weather and your account balance-again.

Welcome to website retro. Ten years ago, when larger credit unions first set-up shop on the Internet, one-stop portal sites were the craze. And one of the leading site designers was website development and services company CU Village.

CU Village is still around. The company rose above the Wall Street bubble and media blitz of the Internet glory days, and today continues to provide websites, content, e-commerce tools and custom solutions for approximately 200 credit union, along with state leagues, nationwide.

"We still have our eyes on our original vision," asserted Todd Mason, chief operating officer at CU Village. "There's still value in terms of helping leagues and credit unions improve the e-commerce functionality of their websites and making them a key destination for their members.

"But today's vision is not of the portal in the original sense," he continued. "That's just not the way the Internet is going. Instead, we want to help lead members to their credit unions' and leagues' websites and keep them there."

Today's vision for credit union sites takes the form of a gateway to consumer financial information and products. For example, credit union sites can feature the CU Village Financial Resource Center, a packaged content service.

Financial Resource Center provides members with information and products in 16 categories, which include calculators, consumer articles, financial planning and youth modules.

More than half of the U.S credit union leagues have done business with CU Village in the past decade, Mason said. In part, the CUSO survived because of its credit union roots, according to Carol Cheek, VP-information technology for the St. Louis-based Missouri Credit Union Association, a CU Village client since 2002.

CU Village is owned by credit unions, leagues and other CU organizations around the country. "On an IT level, CU Village is the only vendor I've stayed with because they understand what the credit union movement is about, and that's critical," said Cheek.

The company seems to understand that many credit unions don't have extra cash to throw at every new solution that comes along.

"CU Village likes to partner with its client members and go in on third-party solutions together to bring down the cost," said Jackie Buchanan, VP-Information Technology at T & C FCU in Bloomfield Hill, Mich. "Sometimes we'll decide we want a new tool and go direct to the vendor to get it, but other times we'll wait until CU Village offers it."

T & C FCU first signed with CU Village in 2000 and has since been spoiled with custom programming services, said Buchanan. "CU Village has never turned us down for custom programming, and the changes are always completed quickly. That's another reason we stay with them."

One-of-a-kind modules developed for the $542-million CU include an account opening and funding tool and a secure chat platform, available to T & C long before the technologies rolled out on the open market, said Buchanan.

Meanwhile, CU Village tailor-fit the Missouri CU Association's (MCUA) website with several password-protected areas for both consumers and credit union visitors, Cheek said.

"Our credit unions wanted their employees to have limited access to each area of the site depending on each job position," she explained. "We didn't how to do it, but CU Village was great at helping us figure it out. We don't get that level of service and custom programming from other vendors."

The MCUA serves 165 CUs representing $6.3 billion in assets. Mason looks forward making client websites more "member-centric" and user-friendly in the coming years.

For example, "we'll improve members' experience so that everything needed to get that auto loan is right at their fingertips," he said.

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* CU Village at www.cu-village.com

* T & C FCU at www.tcfcu.org

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