Speeding Apps To Market

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At Redstone FCU, a development toolkit and an app store let staff fix their own problems on their core system, create apps that work with the core and sell those apps to others.

Harry Gunsallus
Redstone Federal Credit Union
Senior vice president, technology and operations support
Latest breakthrough: Building new applications in an industry "app store" and actually selling them to other financial institutions.

About three months after converting to Open Solutions' DNA core banking system, Redstone Federal Credit Union in February 2010 submitted a punch list of over 100 system changes it wanted the vendor to make to the platform, even though Harry Gunsallus, Redstone's senior vice president of technology and operations support, said he had little hope that any of the work would get done.

Gunsallus' pessimism stemmed from nothing specifically endemic to the Glastonbury, Conn.-based core provider's customer service. His doubt was born out of a nearly universal experience: That vendors make changes only when they know they'll get paid sufficiently for making them, and that's only when enough of their customers request the same improvements. Because inspiring change takes user-group organization and time, vendors rarely deliver improvements in customers' desired timeframes.

In response to Redstone and several other DNA users pushing for more access to the core, Open gave the green light to a novel pact that would allow the banks and CUs "to solve our own problems and not be held hostage to the service provider's timing," Gunsallus says.

The vendor would allow banks, CUs and technology firms to develop their own DNA-compatible apps they could use and sell (or buy) on an app store, similar to Apple's iTunes. In May 2011 Open launched DNAappstore, and DNAcreator, a free, user-friendly development toolset that firms can be certified on to build apps vetted by the vendor to work with DNA core banking.

Now Redstone's in-house developers are working through that big punch list on their own prioritized timeline, using DNAcreator to tailor services that meet the CU's own particular needs and delivery deadlines, all without the major licensing changes or source code access required of more expensive user-customization arrangements.

Redstone's Overdraft Research Tool ($15,000) has been downloaded over 140 times, providing revenues to buffer development costs: Toolmakers typically get 70%of DNAapp sales revenue; Open keeps 30%. Peoples Federal Savings Bank in Brighton, Mass., and Windsor Federal Savings Bank, in Windsor, Conn., are Overdraft Research users.

The tool has enabled Redstone's call center to clarify account overdraws that often cause confusion, such as from pre-authorization debits, in five minutes, versus the 20 minutes it used to take, Gunsallus says. Redstone also offers a name-based search and deletion app called Account Role Manager ($8,500).

The Huntsville, Ala.-based credit union is currently developing a tracking tool aimed at helping firms comply with troubled debt-restructuring rules for loan modifications and foreclosures.


Gallery: The 2011 Innovators of the Year

Articles on honorees:
Brett King: A Vision for 'Frictionless' Banking
Jose Olalla: Pioneer in the Public Cloud
Jeff Dennes: A Granting of Grace
Robert Frohwein: The 10-Minute Small Business Loan
Howie Wu: Getting New Members Quickly on Board
Susan Andrews: Drawing the Best Ideas Out of 263,000 People
Shekar Pannala: Aware of the Context
Frank Eliason: Taking Social Media to a Chattier Level
Jim Smith: A Plethora of Online Banking Options

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