No matter what size a credit union is, it has to handle payroll, whether internally or using an outside system, says Steve Swanston, executive vice president at CU People Inc., a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.
“But we think we have the better mousetrap,” he says.
Small credit unions often use old technology with a high-touch process, such as Excel or QuickBooks, Swanston adds, which are rudimentary tools. Many larger credit unions use sophisticated providers with impressive technology— but typically poor support and service.
“That’s where we come in,” he says. “We offer payroll technology that’s as good as what the big payroll services offer but with a much bigger eye to service.”
That’s because CU People deals exclusively with credit unions. “Our larger rivals are ‘industry agnostic,’ meaning they’ll work with any industry without learning its unique culture,” Swanston says. “Credit unions are a unique niche that’s heavily driven by acceptance, referrals, and service.”
He says credit unions with 50 or fewer employees may have no true human resource (HR) professional on staff. “The person in that role might even be the chief operating officer, chief financial officer, or CEO. Payroll processing can take up to 50% of an in-house payroll specialist’s time. This takes away from strategic processes, such as improving the culture, training, or recruiting.
“Larger credit unions may have a three- or four-person HR department that still has to do the tactical process of tracking time and attendance, filing taxes, making benefit adjustments for qualifying events, and so on,” he continues. “Our system handles all of those functions.”
CU People bundles its services, which are scalable and can administer payroll for four or five employees or several hundred. “The cost of having us do that is more than made up by the increased productivity of the employees who no longer have to handle payroll.”
Swanston says payroll technology has evolved greatly in the past 10 years. “HR information systems were really disparate pieces of software with different tasks— payroll, time management, employee administration.
“When Web 2.0 came on the scene, it created hosted software applications, including the ability to develop multipurpose, scalable payroll solutions,” he adds. “As health-care reform adds extra administrative tasks to payroll functions, using home-grown solutions is no longer an option.”
Even the solutions bigger payroll companies offer have to be looked at cautiously, Swanston says. “While they’ve acquired smaller companies that each had a proprietary software, they still face the task of getting these legacy systems to work with one another.”