Taming IT Personnel Costs: How APFCU Did It

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ST. PAUL, Minn.-Tired of paying $125,000 in salary for a series of system specialists who would come and go, Affinity Plus FCU here asked its core vendor last year to provide specialists all clients could share.

One year later, the CU pays the core vendor less than half what it paid the specialist to perform daily operational and system maintenance on the UNIX database, according to Keith Malbrue, COO at the $2-billion CU. "It's fantastic."

The vendor is available around the clock, and Affinity Plus no longer worries about knowledge or investment walking out the door when a UNIX specialist quits, Malbrue said.

"Every time our UNIX expert left, we'd get behind on routine maintenance such as file purges and resizing," he explained. "It doesn't take long before that affects performance, and our system would go down. Plus, we kept finding ourselves set back in our projects."

Hence, "Enterprise Resource Services" was born, created by Harland Financial Solutions for UltraData Enterprise core clients in response to Affinity Plus' suggestion. And it's just one example of how the CU is working to pool technology and expertise within the credit union community.

Affinity Plus currently shares a homegrown audit report tool with a nearby $4-million CU, he continued. "NCUA has referred a lot of credit unions to us." Also up for grabs is a custom-built enterprise dashboard tool, said Malbrue.

Affinity Plus would also like to share a disaster recovery communications "pipe" with some fellow credit unions, Malbrue said. "A lot of credit unions don't have the luxury of having additional systems and infrastructure to respond to a disaster. We could create an instance of another credit union's base in a partition of our UNIX box in Des Moines, and they could share a pipe to our Des Moines facility. Then, in a disaster, it's just a short drive to Des Moines with their latest upgrade tape, and they could be up and serving their members from Des Moines.

"I can see a lot of these types of collaborations continuing in the future," he said. "We want to give back to the community."

"Affinity Plus is thinking in new ways around collaboration and sharing resources as the market has become more dynamic," said Sam Kilmer, VP-market development, Harland Financial Solutions.

Now that daily UNIX maintenance is outsourced, Affinity Plus has found time to train IT staff to produce daily notices and monthly statements instead of paying a third-party provider to do it. The savings-$750,000 per year on production and mailing, said Malbrue.

UNIX specialists didn't stick around very long at Affinity Plus, said Malbrue. UNIX isn't a full-time job at the CU, and most specialists weren't interested in the remainder of the job description-namely, directly serving members.

Enterprise Resource Services handles IT, operational and business continuity functions, including system monitoring, software upgrades, capacity planning, database backups, user maintenance and nightly processing.

The service reports details from the core system, such as server capacity and corrupt files, something Affinity Plus' UNIX administrators never provided, said Malbrue.

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