Core Balance: Strong People and Strong Credit Unions

How CUCollaborate’s core processor consulting can help your credit union identify the best technology partners.

A credit union core processor.

The foundation of a solid exercise program is “core” strength, a concept that immediately sounds familiar to anybody running, or supporting, a credit union. But most days, thirty minutes on the treadmill is a lot more appealing than another grueling series of planks and side curls—so, without a coach or trainer to help us, we lean on exercises that give us the illusion of a solid workout, without including all the components.

We’re guilty of that in our credit unions too.

A new core investment is just as likely as your old core software to include some percentage of difficult, or unrewarding, processes and routines. It’s a rarity to find a credit union that is getting full and comprehensive use out of its core; instead, we find ourselves creating workarounds and hacking the specific procedures that we’re most comfortable with to make them fit the work. Other elements of the whiz-bag core software—which we invested so much time and money in—end up resembling the home workout equipment in the bedroom that now functions as a place to throw clothes at the end of a long day.

In a busy credit union, an unbalanced core is just like a workout that creates strong legs but poor upper body strength; it’s a weakness that eventually throws everything else off. And usually, it shows up at the worst possible time.

In a marketplace that includes 74 combinations of core vendors and systems, how does a CU search committee comprehensively analyze what each system will do, how fluidly it will do it and, most importantly, how easily it will fit into the workflow of its staff, operations and members?

No good personal trainer or coach would run a client through 74 sets of exercises or workout routines. And no capable consultant would dump 74 RFPs on a CU manager’s desk, or schedule that many sales demos.

Like a coach, a consultant like CUCollaborate is there to make the work more efficient and productive.

The CUCollaborate Process

Here are the basics of how our process flows, from start to finish:

1. To help choose a core solution that will be easy to live with and give great results over time, CUCollaborate not only assesses the strategic goals of a few years into the future, but where the credit union is right now. Sure, you’d love to run a marathon in a year, but how easy is it to run a mile today?

With this understanding, we can match where you are and what you want with the vendors and systems most likely to support your credit union.

2. These candidates then must hold up their end with a CUCollaborate RFP, structured to extract the most relevant information with the fewest possible questions. The RFP does not include questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, it offers opportunities to write thorough answers—an exercise that in itself reveals how much thought vendors have put into earning your business, how well they understand your needs, and how much time they are willing to invest in the process.

Simply copying and pasting answers from the corporate website would be unacceptable. Specific, well written examples of how their system’s specific tools would approach your goals? Worth a look.

3. The RFP and your feedback then determines which three or four (on average) vendors your search committee would benefit from meeting in an onsite demo. In the demo, the RFP answers and challenges are fleshed out and tested in your real working environment, where you and your team can expand on the issues and strategies you need addressed by a new system.

The best thing about a good demo is that it creates a growth opportunity for your team; seeing different core systems builds a shared vocabulary and bank of expectations. When your team is engaged with a responsive vendor, everyone learns something, and the final selection is the one most likely to suit your credit union and provide a platform for the member service you want to deliver.

4. The CUCollaborate Scorecard lets every demo participant rate and rank the system and its components. The scorecards are weighted to focus on what you and your team have identified as the things your credit union needs the most.

The scorecards create a solid “backbone” of system details on which to hang the subjective impressions of the demo. It’s a way to merge how much you and your team like how it works with how much you like how it feels. Like that workout, if it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t going to do it.

These scorecards, combined with your team’s impressions, follow up calls and visits and deeper dives into specific features, create a clear path that allows you to narrow down the four or five candidates to two finalists.

5. You and your team will know these finalists quite well at this point, and that knowledge should allow for frank conversations and negotiations about the finer points of pricing, terms and contracts. No credit union likes to be surprised by unexpected fees or unbudgeted expenses. We know the right questions that will reveal the real cost of ownership over the contract period.

6. Before your final selection gives you a contract to take to your attorney, CUCollaborate also will offer negotiating services that clarify terminology and finer points that might slow your legal team as it reviews the contract effectively and efficiently.

It benefits everyone if your legal team is presented with an agreement that is straightforward, coherent and understandable to anyone that reviews it, including your board members.

Why Our Approach Will Help Your Credit Union

Just like reaching a personal goal for health and fitness, achieving a healthy, fit credit union core system isn’t accomplished overnight, or with an effortless routine or piece of gym equipment that magically transforms your situation.

But I’m a genuine fan of consulting, which, when done right, can coach you and your credit union through the process; and celebrate the advancements, improvements, and progress along the way that get you, your team and your members to a balanced and growth-motivated state—all built from a strong core.

Connect with the CUCollaborate Core Processor Evaluation and Selection Services team today to see exactly how our unique approach can help your credit union!

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