March 2014: Samaha Associates’ CEO Sabeh Samaha Featured in Credit Union Times Magazine Article

March 2014: Samaha Associates’ CEO Sabeh Samaha Featured in Credit Union Times Magazine Article

Credit Union Times magazine

Market Share Flex Requires Core Strength

By Marc Rapport

Core processing conversions are frequent because they are typically seen as a way to modernize the technology infrastructure to accommodate growth strategies.

Those changes vary with each credit union, and while some opt to move on, others use their existing technology partner to leverage the core for growth.

For example, shared branching is a big deal at the $130 million Southern Security Federal Credit Union in Memphis, Tenn., said Dawn Graeter, CEO. She credits an interface that allows tellers to move between screens and institutions without closing out for its success. Five of the credit union’s branches have ranked among the top 10 in the state for the past few years as a CO-OP network member, including one branch that has been number one for the past five years, she noted.

Graeter also attributed 20% loan growth and 10% asset growth over the past two years to the ability to roll out new products, including mobile banking, through the NewSolutions platform from Memphis-based CUSO Share One. The partnership has enabled Southern Security FCU to stay current with all its applications, products and services, she added.

“Members’ needs are very simple but it takes a refined, complex configuration to satisfy these simple needs,” said California-based technologist Sabeh Samaha, who has consulted on hundreds of core platform and other deployments. “Credit unions can have very good technology but really, it’s the use of that technology where we seem to find a lot of room for improvement.”

The $5.7 billion Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union in Live Oak, Texas, is intent on not being one of those. After many years of operating on a self-built core processing system, the financial institution said it was the first to commit to the Acumen platform from Fiserv Inc. and then to the Open Solutions DNA system that Fiserv bought to replace the faltering Acumen as its flagship account processing offering.

“Our growth strategy is no big secret. We’re continuing to focus on serving members through both traditional channels and new, innovative ones, and we’re focusing on providing members the best resources possible to meet their needs,” said Mary O’Rourke, senior vice president at the 460,000-member RBFCU.

She said the conversion will make it easier to introduce a host of new ancillary products, such as updated voice response and loan origination solutions, but also will turn a big chunk of the responsibility for keeping up with regulatory changes to the core processor.

Meanwhile, the $234 million Red Rocks Credit Union in Highland Park, Colo., is using off-the-shelf, cloud-based tools as well as making the move to a new core processor to execute its growth strategies. The 16,700-member Red Rocks plans to convert this fall from Fiserv’s XP2 to the CUProdigy platform from Credit Union Data Processing, a CUSO based in Layton, Utah.

“We found ourselves over time experimenting with off-the-shelf, cloud-based technologies and because of the way our infrastructure was kind of locked in, we had to do a lot of workarounds – what I referred to as using baling wire and duct tape,” Red Rocks President/CEO Pat Ahern said. Charlie Fulks, CEO of CUDP, said “The last thing a core should do is hold a credit union back from implementing their strategies.”