Weapons of Mass Construction

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CEO Terry Belcoe uses technology to kill the competition, according to credit union technology consultant David Dally of Tremaine-West, Inc.

"CEOs can choose to approach the investment in or the implementation of technology as either an opportunity or a hassle," Dally explained.

Belcoe chooses to seize the opportunity, said Dally. "A good CEO sees technology as a weapon and is not afraid to use it."

A can-do attitude toward tech has helped Belcoe keep his North Coast CU in Bellingham, Wash., 100% loaned out for the past two years, Dally continued.

The $115-million CU makes sure to capture every loan opportunity, Dally said.

"Anyone answering the phone or inquiring over the Net can use the North Coast loan system tools to render an instant decision," he said.

Conversely, Dally said that in his 28 years of working with CU technology, he has seen some CEOs approach IT begrudgingly.

"They see technology as a necessary evil," he said. "They seem to groan every time something new comes along because they're going to have to spend more money and get approval from the board."

But costs can carry less of a sting if CEOs ask for Return on Investment (ROI) statements from potential partners, Dally said.

"For example, a CEO might ask: 'If I buy your automated underwriting system, what effect will it have on my bottom-line from cost and income perspectives?'" he said.

In addition, IT won't pay off unless it's married to "superior business processes," such as a strategic plan, risk management and incorporating the end-user, according to Bill McFarland, a senior director at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cornerstone Advisors.

CEOs also should take stock in the vendor community, Dally continued.

"Continually press your vendors for more," he said. "Require vendors to provide ROI statements on their proposals and ask them to regularly assess if the credit union is using best practices. Invite them for product presentations. Attend their annual client conferences."

But don't stop at your own third-party partners, said Dally.

"Build relationships with competitive IT vendors," he explained. "You will quickly learn where you have strengths and weaknesses."

CEOs should look to competitive vendors as part of host system research "at least every five years, even if the credit union has no intention of changing," Dally said.

Dally himself has spent the last 12 years comparing core host and ancillary solutions as president of Tremaine-West, a credit union IT consulting firm.

"I'm familiar with each vendor's approach to systems development and how well the vendor is doing it," he said.

Dally said he has helped nearly 40 credit unions, ranging from $6 million to more than $1 billion in assets, with IT selections, host system conversions, Y2K and business consultations, networking and web products.

Though CEOs are faced with a multitude of trendy tools, Dally said high-priority technologies include Internet-based self-service, automated lending, knowledge management and imaging.

In addition to Belcoe, Among the "tech-smart" CEOs Dally said he would recommend include Steve Dahlstrom of Spokane Teachers CU and Kevin Foster-Keddie, CEO, Washington State Employees CU.

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For info on this story:

* Tremaine-West at www.tremaine-west.com

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