Talking Tech Turkey

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IT is not always part of a four-letter word.

In fact, some Information Technology managers are Problem Solvers, according to their CEOs. They're also Big-picture Thinkers. Technical Innovators. Willing to get their hands dirty and work behind the lines. Empathetic. One is even a fantastic drummer and master of jazz fusion.

As Thanksgiving nears, CEOs across the country counted their technology blessings. In addition to describing their IT folks' characters, senior managers told The Credit Union Journal how IT has added value to their credit unions in the past year.

The Big Picture

A CIO's value often manifests itself as the absence of trouble. "Our former system issues have disappeared and our business lines focus on the tasks at hand, rather than on technical limitations," said Larry Tobin, CEO at $1.2-billion Fairwinds CU in Orlando, Fla.

North Shore CU's CIO Fred Cook is able to use technology to stay ahead of the competition, according to Chris Catliff, CEO of the $1.4-billion CU in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

In that vein, Cook this year implemented Enterprise Content Management to support electronic signatures and forms, new account openings and photo identification of members, Catliff said.

The Juggling Act

Credit union CIOs can do three things at once, said many respondents.

For Rick Long, vice president of IT Systems at PSECU, that meant working the daily IT beat while bringing up a fully redundant data center for the CU and its CUSO, said Greg Smith, CEO at the $2.4-billion CU in Harrisburg, Penn.

The $10-million backup data center was a "massive project, ensuring that all of the credit union's critical systems were duplicated, and acquiring and renovating the property," Smith explained. "We also upgraded a number of systems and converted many single server systems to a blade server technology."

Meanwhile, CIO Jim Morrell juggled his daily duties and took the lead on iQ Credit Union's merger in April, said Roger Michaelis, CEO at the $330-million credit union in Vancouver, Wash.

"Jim was able to understand and bring together all areas of credit union operations," Michaelis explained. "The process was very smooth and we were able to retain a majority of the member business."

At Plus4 Credit Union, Leo Carrejo, director of Management Information Systems, "increased and expanded work production," explained Patricia Collins, senior vice president of Strategic Services at the $135-million credit union in Houston. "Leo has willingly accepted all opportunities while maintaining an exceptional level of excellence in the quality of work."

Carrejo's projects included implementing a Windows 2000 Active Directory; McAfee antivirus software with automated, centralized updates; and wireless access for laptops.

Joan Zazzaro is in the same boat. The IT manager at $137-million TEG FCU in Poughkeepsie, New York, is migrating the CU to new core processing and imaging systems, said Ron Flaherty, chief financial officer at the CU. "To add gas to the fire, we are also moving into a brand new building," he said.

Riding the Storms

Fairwinds CU braved three hurricanes in four weeks, but business operations suffered nary a blip due to disaster recovery management by Charlie Lai, CIO at Fairwinds, said Tobin.

Ducking the Feds

Fairwinds' IT areas are spotless, including operations, security controls and disaster recovery planning, according to NCUA and state examiners, said Tobin. "Examiners identified zero deficiencies, something that positively reflects the efforts of our CIO and is a rarity for an institution of our size."

Just Rewards

Zazzaro could be in for a roast as outstanding employee at TEG FCU's annual awards dinner, Flaherty said.

However, IT managers aren't necessarily looking for fame and fortune for their efforts. "Charlie Lai needs no reward or recognition to excel, Tobin said.

With that in mind, Lai will lead the CU's switch to a new core system next year. "Charlie will agree that his reward will come from a well-executed core system conversion, with highly satisfied members and crewmembers," said Tobin.

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* Fairwinds CU at

* Plus4 CU at

* iQ CU at

* North Shore CU at

* PSECU at

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