Articles and Press Releases
CU*Answers Launches Beta-Test of New Budgeting Tools
This week CU*Answers began a special beta-test on an exciting new suite of budget calculation and analysis tools, integrated into the CU*BASE® core processing system. The totally redesigned software has been in development for more than a year and additional enhancements are already on the drawing board for the next phases to be released later in 2015.
“What’s unique about this project is the amount of direct client involvement in the testing process,” said Keegan Daniel, Professional Services Manager, who is coordinating the beta project. Participating in the beta are two Michigan credit unions who have been heavily involved in the Accounting Top 10 development focus group over the past several years, Frankenmuth CU in Frankenmuth and Service 1 FCU in Muskegon. “We are paying a CollabRebate payment of $2,500 to each credit union to undergo an intensive ‘Budget Boot Camp’ process with us,” says Daniel. “No matter what testing we do in-house, there’s nothing like putting the software through its paces in the field in a live credit union environment.”
As a cooperative with strong ties to its customer-owners, CU*Answers uses beta-test processes with volunteer credit unions for most of its software releases, with CollabRebate awards ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per credit union for active participation. “We put our money where our mouth is when it comes to collaborating with our credit unions for the future success of the entire network,” says Randy Karnes, CEO. “The budget beta-test is just the latest demonstration of that commitment in action.”
CU*Answers Client Services and Education Team offers 24 Training Opportunities in May and June!
The West-Michigan based cooperative CUSO, CU*Answers, is pleased to announce that in May and June a total of 24 training sessions were offered to clients via Web Conference. “Web Conference events have become a more popular offering then classroom events for our clients, both local and out of state”, states Laura Welch-Vilker, VP of Client Services and Education. These sessions included CU*Answers University courses, Tricks of the Trade series, and Education Express Sessions. CU*Answers offers a variety of training resources, spanning from hands-on education, recorded education, classroom and web conferences. Additionally, Welch-Vilker adds, “We are always creating new learning opportunities for our clients and our staff, which you will clearly see in our 2015 Education Catalog, anticipated to be delivered to our clients in October”.
CU*Answers’ Documentation Does the Trick
At CU*Answers, education goes way beyond basic technical documentation and the occasional class. The 100% credit union-owned CUSO has made it a core goal to be the most successful in educating its clients and providing high quality documentation. CU*Answers’s team of dedicated writers have gone to work over the years to help credit unions use the organization’s many products and services, and have delivered that help in myriad ways.
Recently, the CUSO published its ninth edition of the Tricks of the Trade series for 2014, which provides tips and information on new and upcoming changes as well as existing products and features. Although more traditional help documentation exists, including dozens of booklets and online help for nearly every screen on the CU*BASE® core platform, the team offers help in new and meaningful ways to accommodate every type of credit union employee. Videos, step-by-step instructions, technical doc, best practices, and more; CU*Answers does it all.
CU*Answers Announces Conversion Training and Support
The West-Michigan based cooperative CUSO, CU*Answers, is pleased to announce that in May and June alone, the Client Services and Education Team has hosted a total of 23 days of Pre-Conversion Training and Post Conversion Support. “The Client Services and Education Team plays a large roll when taking on a new client”, states Pauline VanZalen, Manager of the Client Services and Education Team. According to VanZalen, “Being a part of the conversion process gives the team an opportunity to get to know the client in person prior to supporting the client inquiries over the phone”.
In addition to the training and support for the actual conversion, the Client Services and Education Team hosts an on-going program called the Transition Group. VanZalen states, “Once on-site post conversion support has ended, we continue to have scheduled recurring meetings with key players at the credit union for 6 months to ensure their comfort on the new system, as well as identifying training opportunities, and potentially new products or services that the client would like to implement.” CU*Answers offers this program free of charge to all of their new clients.
CU*Answers 2014 Conversion Year Nears Close
As the 2014 business year draws near a close, CU*Answers is announcing that it will post one of its most successful years with respect to new members processed on its CU*BASE® core processing platform. During the period beginning October 2013 and ending September 2014, CU*Answers indicates it will have converted nearly 175,000 new members to the system representing ten new credit unions and six mergers into existing clients. Among the new credit unions added are Notre Dame Federal Credit Union (58k members), Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union (33k members), and Lake State Credit Union (18k members).
CU*Answers Adds Credit Score History Dashboard to Common Bonds Feature
CU*Answers, the 100% credit union-owned, data processing CUSO announced that its recently developed Credit Score History dashboard on the CU*BASE® core platform was too valuable to leave as a standalone research tool. Given the power it grants credit unions in developing their strategic plan, the tool can be now be combined with other analytical dashboards to strengthen each credit union’s ability to design marketing programs.
CU*BASE comes standard with a wide variety of analytical tools and dashboards that can be used to create population segments based on activity, products, services, and more. Now, before acting on the information found (such as where members are shopping or whether they’re enrolled in bill pay), the credit union can take that population segment and view their credit score history to see how their scores are trending as a group.
A CU*Answers spokesperson added, “Credit unions have access to such a wide variety of data on their members, but so many are forced to look outside their core processor to get meaningful analysis. We’re working hard to put those same capabilities directly in our core platform and at no additional cost to our credit unions—we’re just making it easier and cheaper to use the data they own.”
CU*Answers Celebrates Employee-Driven “Be an Innovator” Program with New Fun Logo
CU*Answers announced that it celebrated “Innovator Day” to recognize the success of its employee-driven “Be an Innovator” program. On September 17 employees wore harvest orange t-shirts sporting the new “Be an Innovator” logo. “Our meetings are fun, and we wanted a logo to reflect that spirit,” said the program’s coordinator, Alycia Meyers.
“The ‘Be an Innovator’ creates an alternative way for employees to present ideas, and it has really taken hold at CU*Answers,” explained Meyers. “Employees can either present ideas at our “Be an Innovator” lunches or submit ideas for review by top management though a “Be an Innovator” Employee Idea form.”
Meyers explained further that the purpose of “Innovator Day” was to re-energize staff about the program and to look forward toward growth in the next business year starting October 1.
Randy Karnes, CEO at CU*Answers said about the group, “The innovators group at CU*Answers is designed to challenge to our corporate designs for innovations. We value it as a volunteer-employee-challenge to the ways we drive change into our network.”
Almost fifty percent of CU*Answer employees have attended a “Be an Innovator” lunch or have submitted an Employee Idea form. “Be an Innovator” lunches are scheduled every two months. The twelfth meeting will be held in late September. The next Employee Idea form deadline is October 31.
List of CU*Answers Stockholders Growing Steadily
CU*Answers, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based cooperative CUSO, announced that to date it has added eight new stockowners during the 2014 business year. In the last five years, the 100% credit union-owned core processor has added over fifty new owners, matching the number of owners added in the ten years prior. In that same five year period, the price of new stock ownership has increased by $100,000. CU*Answers currently has 126 credit union owners.
Scott Page, CU*Answers EVP said, “We are very excited at the level credit unions want to participate, including having an equal voting privilege in helping set the future direction of their cooperative technology CUSO. Credit unions aren’t just our clients; they’re our partners. This is truly a cooperative relationship and we’re eager to continue to grow with our credit unions.”
CU*Answers added that the organization and its credit unions now represent over 1.5 million members and $15 billion in credit union assets.
CU*Answers Enhances Loan Packaging Feature
CU*Answers, a 100% credit union-owned core processor announced it had enhanced its loan packaging feature with the 14.2 release of the CU*BASE® platform. The loan packaging feature allows a credit union to segment a portion of the credit union’s loan portfolio for concentration risk analysis or to prepare them for sale to a secondary lender.
The enhancements will include new selection criteria for packages including credit union risk level, loan officer code, purpose code and security code. The same loan can now exist in multiple packages instead of just a single package. The credit union will also be able to combine loan packages and add comments to them.
These latest changes to the feature came as a response to the input of Progressive Credit Union in New York City, a 4,000 member credit union with over $680 million in total assets. Over 80% of the enhancements to the CU*Answers CU*BASE system come from direct input by credit unions on the platform.
CU*Answers’ Patronage Comparison Dashboard Offers in Depth Membership Analysis
CU*Answers recently introduced a new dashboard to its CU*BASE® processing system that is sure to impress any credit union looking for in depth, easy to use, membership analysis on their core platform. The 100% credit union-owned CUSO offered the new Patronage Comparison dashboard to clients earlier this year, which allows CUs to instantly compare the participation of two specific segments of the credit union membership, narrowed down in any number of ways. Population segments can be defined by the type of membership, reason they joined, gender, age range, tiered service level, and balance range, and then compared side by side on their account activity and patronage with the credit union. CU*Answers says this type of tool allows credit unions to better align future marketing campaigns and service/ product offerings.
In developing this tool, CU*Answers offered several challenging questions for how this dashboard might be utilized:
- What segment of a credit union’s membership uses credit cards the least, and are they a good target for a cross sales campaign?
- How are individual and organizational accounts different in their transaction activity? Should a credit union consider different types of marketing for the two groups?
- Are 20-30 year-olds generally in a good position to lend based on their average account balances?
- Is a certain segment of the population using a transaction channel far more frequently? Is it time to consider a new type of transaction service charge?
The CU*BASE feature will display the transaction activity for the two groups over the course of the last three months, with the ability to view either the group, per member, or per transaction average, segmented by the delivery channel used (e.g. online banking, debit, credit, ACH, etc.). Clients can then drill down further to see additional analysis on the comparison of the two groups, including their respective patronage. Lastly, credit unions can select one of the comparison groups and jump straight into the membership or account analysis to learn even more about the group (for example, the percent of that group using various electronic services).
Core processors are in a unique position to compile the data they receive on behalf of their credit unions and then to package that in a way that the credit union can execute on—CU*Answers sees this opportunity and has developed dozens of new dashboards to accomplish that goal with more in development. The Patronage Comparison feature represents just one of the many database mining tools included standard with its CU*BASE processing system. As with other similar tools, they said it is intended to provide a credit union instant access to key credit union data without having to create static custom reports or spreadsheets.
CU*Answers Improves Account Opening in Online Banking
West Michigan-based cooperative CUSO, CU*Answers, recently announced that it has improved the ability for credit unions on its CU*BASE® core platform to offer new accounts in It’s Me 247 online banking. Credit unions on the platform have had the ability to offer qualified dividend products, also known in the industry as “Reward Checking,” but now have the ability for members to open these accounts right from within online banking. The CU*BASE Qualified Dividends feature allows credit unions to set up checking accounts with specific eligibility requirements (such as e-Statement enrollment, a certain number of debit card transactions, etc.) to receive a higher interest rate.
Until the 14.2 release, received by online credit unions September 14, qualified dividend products could not be shown on the rate board within It’s Me 247 since there was no easy way to disclose to members that they wouldn’t always qualify for the highest rate. Now, eligible members will be presented with the rate they qualify for, and can learn more about qualifications directly on screen.
CU*Answers added that this is just one of many enhancements provided with the 14.2 CU*BASE release, and that all changes were made at no additional cost to credit unions.
CU*Answers Awarding $5000 in Cost of Compliance Contest
CU*Answers, data processor to nearly 200 credit unions nationwide, recently announced the Cost of Compliance contest, sponsored by its compliance division, AuditLink. Open to all credit union CEOs and CFOs, contest participants need to create a template that provides a standard way of calculating the cost of compliance. The template should list the costs of compliance and provide a way of tracking the costs. Participants are also asked to provide an implementation plan for their standard of calculating the cost of compliance. Participants will need to submit their template by October 15. Contest winners will be announced at CU*Answers CEO Strategies conference in November. The first-prize winner will receive $2500, the second-prize winner will be awarded $1500, and $1000 will go to the third-prize winner. Find out more at http://auditlink.cuanswers.com/.
Collections Roundtable Upcoming
The Lender*VP team at CU*Answers is hosting another Collections Roundtable on the 17th of the month. This group meets to discuss all types of issues, concerns, ideas, updates and new rules or laws. They can also discuss new training for the CU*BASE® core processing system they share. “Having an open forum has really been the hit of this session. Attendees know they can feel free to ask anything; it isn’t just a canned discussion based on predetermined points”, noted Jerry Collins, Manager of Collections at CU*Answers. “It also supports our core philosophy of networking and collaboration among our client Credit Unions,” adds Collins. The next Roundtable is scheduled for November 18th.
CU*Answers Lender*VP Forms Team Takes Final Steps to Complete Move to FEP Platform
CU*Answers is nearing the end of our file expansion project (FEP), which will be the new platform for CU*BASE®. The project has required over 7200 hours of testing and support throughout multiple departments. Our teams have tested over 2100 custom forms for our clients over the past 12 months. As of September 14, 2014 we have converted over 94% of our current 220 cuasterisk.com network clients to the new platform. With our dedicated resources and time we have ensured the transition to the new platform of CU*BASE has been smooth and seamless for our clients.
The major aspects of this expansion project were our loan forms to now support loan values of up to $999,999,999.99. We have also expanded the values within the member’s accounts to accommodate the new dollar limit as well.
These new file structures will now allow our credit unions to seek out new opportunities within the lending structure of our dynamic and constantly changing environments. This will be an asset to help gain additional member and business accounts in the future.
“Really, we barely noticed anything when we transitioned to FEP, and we were the second beta credit union. That’s really crazy”, states Linda Bodie, Chief + Innovator or Element Federal Credit Union. “I think we found two or three issues upon the conversion but those were relatively minor and cleaned up quickly. After that, it was business as usual.”
Dean Wilson, President/CEO of Focus Credit Union (Wauwatosa, WI) says “As a small credit union we often try to get involved in the development of our shared data processing resources. This year as we offered to ‘beta’ the new FEP release our transition was so smooth and seamless it was difficult to grasp that this wasn’t the production release. CU*Answers values all of its partners contributions to development and strengthening of the CU*BASE® GOLD flagship and our small efforts on the File Expansion Project were well worth it.”
Ice Bucket Challenge Soaks eDOC Innovations Staff
Rising to the occasion, eDOC Innovations employees braved themselves to be drenched with biting cold, icy water after being dared by CUSO partner CU*Answers to accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Raising $150 for the association, eDOC Innovations countered the challenge to three other industry partners: Digital Mailer, Cachet Financial Solutions, and the Association of Vermont Credit Unions.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. To learn more about ALS and the ALS Association, visit their website at www.alsa.org.