June 2016: Black Hills Federal Credit Union Partners with Samaha Associates on Core Conversion

June 2016: Black Hills Federal Credit Union Partners with Samaha Associates on Core Conversion

Credit Union TImes

Black Hills FCU Makes Big Decisions Pre-Conversion

By Roy Urrico

The biggest decisions in a core banking system change are frequently made prior to the project’s actual start. In a recent CU Times interview, Black Hills Federal Credit Union offered an inside look at its pre-conversion choices.

For the first of a series of articles documenting its conversion journey, the $1.07 billion, Rapid City, S.D.-based credit union revealed its course of action – from developing a strategic initiative through RFPs, vendor interviews and scorecards to making a core selection.

BHFCU SVP of IT John Buxton recalled a number of events that led the credit union to consider a new core system during the last quarter of 2015.

“It was a combination of things, such as the timing of contracts and integration with best of breed software we wanted to implement but could not,” he said.

Plus, its current system is 20 years old and still based on Windows XP. That led the credit union to search for a partner that could help.

“We had an internal steering committee that evaluated several different consulting groups and people with expertise in that area,” Buxton said.

After several months of presentations and evaluations, the core project officially kicked off in January with the selection of the Chino Hills, Calif.-based Samaha & Associates to help with analysis, planning, implementation and documentation.

“From our perspective, we see these as organization projects, not just IT projects,” Samaha & Associates Managing Consultant Adam Denbo explained.

After selecting Samaha & Associates, the credit union’s small internal steering committee was expanded to include employees from all departments, especially as it started bringing core providers onsite, Buxton explained.

“When we have our kickoff meetings, we meet with all the different teams,” Denbo said.

The goal of those meetings is for the core provider to understand the credit union.

“We know the core systems out there in the marketplace, we know the credit unions really well, but we didn’t know Black Hills Federal Credit Union,” Denbo added.

Samaha & Associates spent several days onsite learning about the credit union’s different teams and traveling to different locations to understand the various aspects of BHFCU.

The next step – producing a request for a proposal – was a collaborative effort from the beginning.

“Unlike some other consulting firms, we like to start off with a blank sheet of paper and have the credit unions author their own questions,” Denbo said.

During the kickoff meetings, Samaha & Associates gave the various departments homework.

“We found out how they would ask questions in an open-ended way to various core processors,” he said. “That is how they start to compile a list of questions to ask.”

Buxton added, “It’s really hard to get an organization to write an RFP. That is why one person or one small group ends up doing it, but that’s not the case here. Samaha has a really good process for helping credit unions write an RFP.”

Read the first installment in Black Hills Federal Credit Union’s core transition article series in the June 15, 2016 issue of Credit Union Times.