Ten Tips to Make Technology More Efficient

July 15, 2010

“Information technology is the third top expense—behind staffing and facilities—for credit unions,” said Rudy Pereira, senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant CU, Chicago. “With nearly half of credit unions having negative earnings last year, 2010 should be a year of automating tasks and work processes to drive efficiency.”

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Pereira addressed 10 tips for increasing technology and operational efficiency—best practices from the CUNA Technology Council—during a Wednesday morning breakout session at The 1 Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas.

The 10 technology tips are:

1. Automated work flow. Enterprise content management will drive the effort to make processes more efficient, Pereira said, noting that often a member’s phone call request is forwarded on and not followed through with a single call.

2. Integration of platforms and information from various departments. This “lets you go from technology victim to leader,” he said. An integrated platform can handle 90% of calls from members.

3. Virtualization. By consolidating and lowering the number of servers, Pereira’s credit union saved 60% in costs—and reduced energy used. 

4. Cloud computing. Linking a large group of servers via high-speed networks to create a massive data storage system is in the future. By 2012, nearly 80% of Fortune 1,000 companies will engage in cloud computing. It will bring these benefits, Pereira said: scalability, skilled vendors, reduced costs, flexibility, quality of service, security, and privacy. Small companies and start-ups are at the front of the trend because they haven’t invested in legacy systems that would need replacement.

5. Task automation, including job scheduling, lock box, and log reviews. Automation allows the tech staff to work on meaningful projects.

6. Member self-service. Members making transactions themselves will increase. At Pereira’s credit union, 32% of members were online in 2005 and 60% in 2009. Among hot new self-service options: ATMs with check image catchers and phones that can take photos of a check and deposit its image instead of the physical check, itself.

7. Continuous process improvement. By breaking through patterns of “the way it’s always been done,” credit unions can improve service, ensure quality, and reduce expenses.

8. Fraud analysis tools for online banking, ATMs, and self-service phones. In 2005, credit unions saw significant budget losses beyond their insurance deductibles; Pereira’s credit union lost $700,000 on its $208,000 deductible. Insurers have put more responsibility on credit unions to manage their fraud losses.

9. Single sign-ons. Having a single password to log in to all the credit union’s systems reduces help-desk calls, saves employees time waiting to reset passwords, reduces risk of the password being written down, adds layered security, and engages employees.

10. Collaboration. More credit unions are beginning to consider partnering with other credit unions to use the same core system and staff. “The key is standardization (among vendors). It can drive up efficiency,” Pereira concluded.