Making An IT List, Checking It Twice

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Forget Game Boy and Bratz-topping The Credit Union Journal's Technology Wish List this season are "hot'' Internet enhancements backed by shiny, new core system improvements.

These credit union "toys" support the "competitive advantage we've built to handle member transactions remotely," according to Todd Kenthack, CEO at $115-million Pacific Resource CU in Los Angeles, one of the credit unions that shared with The Credit Union Journal what they're putting on their Wish Lists for 2004.

But it's not all about how core processing is going to handle Internet services-the Wish List is as diverse as its credit union participants. Here's a sampling off the tops of wish lists from CUs ranging from $3 million to $4.5 billion in assets and from Connecticut to California:

Internet: As the virtual branch becomes increasingly sophisticated, credit unions said they plan to pack everything online, from basics such as bill pay and e-statements to next-generation membership enrollment, chat, loan application and fulfillment, electronic signatures and advice tools.

In fact, CUs online can no longer get away simply with homebanking, according to Lynn Wagner, CEO at $21-million United Shoreline FCU in New Haven, Conn. "Adding online bill pay is necessary to compete," she said.

Fairwinds CU, a $970-million CU in Orlando, Fla., is hoping to compete by adding online product advice tools, said Larry Tobin, CEO, and Charlie Lai, president of Internet development subsidiary Fairwinds.net. "These tools guide members in choosing the product that is right for them, and demonstrate a commitment to member advocacy," Tobin said.

And look for "major enhancements to homebanking and bill pay," according to Rob Guilford, senior vice president of Information Technology at $2.5-billion Wescom CU in Pasadena, Calif.

Core Systems: A move to a Windows-based environment from the DOS environment would mean that Ketema FCU's computers "won't be dinosaurs anymore," said Faith Mitchell, CEO of the $3-million CU in El Cajon, Calif. In addition, Ketema FCU hopes to expand account products.

And $24-million Clermont County Teachers' FCU in Amelia, Ohio, anticipates moving to an entirely PC-based core system that supports "as much as possible via the Internet," said Shari Duff, CEO at the one-branch CU. The system will include a streamlined mortgage and consumer loan application and approval process, Duff said.

"We are not physically convenient to all of our members, so we need to do business the way they want to do business with us," she added.

Online Chat: Secured chat and e-mail messaging will eventually allow direct member service, according to Jon Rhodes at $55-million Public Health Service FCU in Rockville, Md. That's one reason Public Health Service CU, as well as Seattle-based Boeing Employees Credit Union, would like to enable secured online communication between members and representatives in the coming year. Wescom CU wants to implement chat, as well.

Web Services: Baxter Credit Union already has a Web services infrastructure for interfacing in-house to business partner technologies. Jeff Johnson, vice president of Information Systems at the $880-million CU in Deerfield, Ill., wishes that business partners would step up with complementary Web services.

That would allow Baxter to "fully integrate our business partners' processes within Baxter processes; improve productivity for member-facing and back-office staff; lessen deployment times for new products and services and reduce expenses," Johnson added.

Thinking Caps: Some credit unions waxed philosophical: $4.5-billion Boeing Employees' CU must focus on "improving conceptual thinking skills in the IT Division," according to Butch Leonardson, vice president of Information Technology. Honing conceptual thinking skills could lead to "innovation within IT and our members," he explained.

At $260-million Atlantic CU in Newtown Square, Penn., Vice President of Information Technology David Reis is looking forward to a Balanced Score System approach.

"A balanced scorecard system will create an environment where Atlantic can make business decisions based on internal, market, industry and macro-economic business climates," Reis explained. "After a period of time we will also have trending data, which we can use for modeling."

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