READER QUESTION #2

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We've made a considerable investment over the past five years in technology solutions across the enterprise. We formed a three-person committee to examine where technology can help us reduce or redeploy personnel. In your experience, where is technology underutilized and personnel overdeployed?

Doug True, President FORUM Solutions, Indianapolis

Each credit union is unique in how they deliver value to their members. Technology solutions should enable your team to reach their goals more effectively and efficiently. We all have limited resources, both monetary and people, to invest in and leverage technology. So where should we invest to make a difference for the members? The answers could be quicker turnaround time on loans, new or improved delivery channels, tools to aid cross-selling efforts, or even how to perform a process more efficiently. I suggest sitting with your team and asking them how they feel goals could be achieved more efficiently and what might allow them to further exceed their goals. Industry benchmarking reports are also helpful (i.e. head count comparisons and technology used in specific areas by other credit unions) to prioritize areas in which to look. Be sure to talk with your team about how they are performing with the tools they have and to ask what tools would enable them to do even better. With all that we have going on day-to-day we sometimes forget to ask these important questions."

David McConney, Credit Union Core Systems, Harland Financial Solutions

If you have made significant investments in technology, your management team has every reason to expect a meaningful return. Our experience, however, is that technology is generally underutilized. Departmental reviews should be performed to focus on process improvement in areas that can be more fully automated or streamlined, or that involves improvement in service delivery. Examples might include lending (origination, processing underwriting, and closing), back office (share draft posting, exception handling, return processing, etc.), management reporting (from manually generated to automated), and electronic delivery channels (bill payment, recurring transfers, etc.).

Some questions to ask internally are whether there is a duplication of effort performing same or similar tasks; whether tasks can be eliminated; whether time is spent waiting for technology to perform tasks; and whether there is opportunity to more tightly integrate current technology applications.

When a process has multiple steps, some of which are complex in nature, it generally requires additional staff to complete in a timely and accurate manner. This type of process is an excellent candidate for technology deployment, or re-deployment, which should then yield a corresponding staff re-deployment to focus on service initiatives. And service is where you will ultimately beat your competition.

Sue Pogatschnik, Credit Union Market Manager, Wolters Kluwer, Minneapolis, Minn.

Automating one or more compliance processes can help a credit union increase its operating efficiencies, make compliance with regulatory requirements easier, and allow staff to spend more time on revenue producing activities and better serving member needs.

That's exactly what happened at First American Federal Credit Union in Santa Ana, California. In order to meet growing member demand for home equity and second trustee loans, First American automated its loan documentation process with the ARTA Lending Documentation System for Credit Unions from Wolters Kluwer Financial Services.

By automating its loan documentation process, First American was able to double its loan volume in one year simply because its faster loan processing times allowed it to handle more applications. In addition, the credit union felt automation improved the consistency and accuracy of its documentation and helped the credit union remain confident it was up-to-date from a compliance standpoint.

John Edwards, XP Systems

Very often the back office functions, like DP operators, will be overstaffed. Recent technology has reduced the need for personnel in that area. And since back office functions involve the accounting department for ACH and share drafts, as well as ATM reconcilement and balancing, those areas could be overdeployed as well. In many cases the writing of a custom program can eliminate hours and hours of manual work. Look at where time is being spent and determine if the process can be automated. In many cases it can.

While technology often eliminates positions, it also opens doors to opportunities. Quite often the people who are replaced by technology have an intimate knowledge of the system. This knowledge can be used by the credit union to generate a new perspective and reach beyond current opportunities.

For example, personnel that used to run data mining reports that are now automated can now use the results of the reports to cross-sell members or create target-market campaigns.

Scott Burwell, Industry Research Analyst, Symitar, Allen, Texas

So much to say and only 150 words in which to say it ... and I've already wasted 20 of them. I'll be cryptic. Use automation to let the member help you and make your employee's job more fun. Look at the following.

Self help for those members willing to do the grunt work. Allow them access to the information that will let them to do their own research. Things such as:

* Check images, e-statements, receipts and loan applications viewable through home banking.

* Pending ACH activity and history accessible via the IVR.

* e-alerts.

* Answers to routine questions through a knowledge management system at your website.

* Let your employees focus their efforts on the members versus routine and exception handling.

* Image everything. Eliminate the searching for lost/misfiled paper documents.

* Auto-decisioning and pricing of routine loan applications. Let your staff spend time cross selling and finding pathways to credit for marginal applicants and the underserved.

* Automate manual tasks of ATM balancing and accounting reconciliation.

All of these will result in improved member service as well as the efficiency you seek. I'm over my word count so ... let the efficiency gods be with you.

Terry Treadwell, Director of Market Strategies, Summit Information Systems, Corvallis, Ore.

Congratulations on your team approach to evaluating technology use-often mistakenly viewed as only the credit union technologist's responsibility resulting in less than satisfactory results. We can best answer this question using "best practice" deployment examples within our Summit client base-where they are maximizing both the use of their technology and staff.

Successful clients are using Summit workflow based automated new member and account opening fulfillment tools; automated balancing systems for ATM exception handling; have implemented a paperless office environment replacing file clerk tasks; are using workflow based contact management tools to support optimal member service. These clients also have integrated automated loan decisioning capabilities in place-allowing for application-to-decision-to-fulfillment in 20 minutes regardless of application channel.

Another tip: our best practice clients using these technologies also actively measure the impacts of their streamlining activities-tracking in areas using financial, service quality and productivity metrics to insure maximal ongoing efficiencies.

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