Seven steps to a successful core conversion

Seven steps to a successful core conversion

Congregate a dedicated team of internal staff that handle mission-critical operations.

April 18, 2016

For many credit unions, a core conversion can be a daunting task to consider: The impact on internal resources and operations can be significant, and there are many potential challenges that can arise.

Vibrant Credit Union, with more than $550 million in assets and 41,000 members in western Illinois and Iowa, converted its core platform to DNA from Fiserv in February 2016.

For Vibrant, the DNA conversion is part of a long-term transformational process to grow the credit union while adding increased value to the lives of members and local communities.

Our previous legacy core platform was not able to meet the credit union’s needs, and because of this, the core platform was increasingly expensive and difficult to operate.

Over time, the lack of innovative core technology resulted in Vibrant’s loss of members, loans, and deposits. Change was certainly needed to reinvent the credit union for a brighter future ahead.

As credit union leaders know, a core conversion is not a business decision that should ever be made quickly. A 360-degree assessment is needed to gain the full perspective on how your credit union will benefit from the change of technology.

Following this assessment, best practices should be followed to ensure a smooth transition for credit union staff and members.

Let’s explore the best practices Vibrant followed as part of its successful DNA conversion.

1. Establish a conversion team

Congregate a dedicated team of internal staff that handle mission-critical operations, such as member-facing transactions, technology applications, accounting, and compliance.

Gather staff input on daily functions that require interfacing with the core platform, and develop a detailed overview to make business requirements crystal clear.

2. Research the vendor landscape

Once the business requirements are established, it’s time to decide which core providers are worthy partners. If the current provider is flexible to your needs, assess those options along with those from other vendors.

Meet with as many vendors as practical to gain an understanding of the best opportunities for the credit union.

3. Think it through

After meeting with vendors, consider the proposals.

Take the time to thoroughly review the proposals with the conversion team, executives, and the board of directors. A core conversion is a major decision—never rush into it.

4. Select a business partner

Assess which technology vendor will make the best business partner for the credit union. The vendor needs to be aligned with your internal goals and growth strategies, otherwise it can be difficult meet those expectations.

Select the vendor and core platform that will enable your long-term success.

5. Dedicate staff to the conversion

Expand the conversion team by identifying other internal resources that need to focus exclusively on the conversion—and truly let them focus on the conversion.

Align the conversion team closely with the core provider’s implementation team to cover all bases. Make sure senior leadership is closely involved with, and responsive to, the expanded conversion team.

6. Conduct mandatory training

A successful conversion requires having a dedicated training leader to acclimate all staff members with the new core platform. Give staff the appropriate level of support and time needed to master the new technology.

Behind closed doors, let staff members practice using the new platform before the go-live date.

7. Prepare for the go-live date

Establish a reasonable go-live date in close connection with your technology business partner. Candidly discuss the deadlines and potential challenges that may arise.

Be flexible and agile throughout the conversion process and as key milestones emerge.

Vibrant engaged Fiserv using these tactics and the core conversion was extremely successful. Unforeseen challenges with third-party vendors were quickly resolved by the joint team, and front-line staff have smoothly operated DNA from the go-live date forward.

The transition to DNA was seamless for members, and there was no system down time during the initial launch.

Processes were automated immediately, leading to improved efficiency and an enhanced experience for Vibrant’s members. With new technology, insights on member relationships and wallet share growth opportunities are available more quickly and easily than ever before.

There have been other immediate benefits for the credit union, as longer-term objectives come into focus. By upgrading to innovative, open architecture technology, Vibrant is substantially reducing its ongoing core programming costs.

Interest rates on loans and accounts can now be updated within minutes, whereas it required up to 40 hours of programming work to do so with the previous system.

We often hear that it “takes a village” to accomplish many things in life—and core conversions are undoubtedly one of them.

But with the right team and technology partnership in place, credit unions can achieve progressive success for many moons beyond the go-live date.

MATT McCOMBS is president/CEO of Vibrant Credit Union in Moline, Ill.