Jeff Johnson

The Right People, the Right Initiative, the Right Time

‘The end goal is to improve our competitiveness in the broader financial services marketplace.’

October 8, 2013

Developing the credit union movement’s first integration specifications has been as rewarding as the need is obvious, according to Jeff Johnson, who—as former vice chair of the CUNA Technology Council—spearheaded the project.

But consider the scale of this undertaking: Counting conferences, committee meetings, and working groups, Johnson estimates participants have invested between 10,000 and 15,000 volunteer hours getting Credit Union Financial Exchange (CUFX) up and running.

“A tremendous amount of effort has been put into CUFX from credit unions, core processing providers, and third-party vendors,” says Johnson, senior vice president of information systems at Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill. “More so than any time in the past, technology is a key driver of success, and it’s gratifying to know that technology professionals are coming together to solve such a big industry challenge.”

CUFX is an open, vendor-agnostic, broad integration standard designed by credit unions and vendors to reduce the time and costs of systems integration, which have increased as technology grows more complex.

Johnson quips that the need for CUFX is as self-evident as being nice to your mother on Mother’s Day. He attributes the success of the effort to the right people discussing the right initiative at the right time.

He’s focused on delivering results, not getting credit.

“Ultimately, the member wins, because we’ll be able to get to market faster with more innovative products,” he notes. "The end goal isn’t technology, it’s to improve our competitiveness in the broader financial services marketplace.”

CUFX first tackled personal finance management specifications, which have been in production more than a year, followed by membership application. Most recently, specs for online and mobile banking have been approved, with a request for proposal issued this fall.

“Each iteration has built on the iteration before and we improve each time,” Johnson says. "The project will never be done because things always change and the specs need to change as the world changes.”

Early adoption of these standards by credit unions and vendors will be key to CUFX’s success, according to Johnson, who wants to elevate credit unions’ visibility in the financial world.

“The credit union movement is uniquely positioned for the benefit of its members,” Johnson says. “If credit unions, core processors, and third-party vendors all focused on serving members through integrated, robust, and secure offerings, we could provide solutions unmatched by other financial institutions.”