The CU*Answers Vendor Partner Model
The very idea of choosing a vendor to complete tasks for your organization immediately creates the potential for conflict between where you are going and where your vendor wants to be. These inherent points of conflict range from contract and pricing issues to service expectations, liability, and follow-through. No area can create such a range of conflicts as when choosing a data processing vendor. The conflicts of ultimate service versus fixed investment, the need for change versus the pace of technology, and the conceptual ideals versus the abilities of the end user all tend to magnify the differences between a credit union and a traditional data processor. Therefore, every credit union should consider its alternatives.
A Focus on Utilization
The CU*Answers model begins with the principle that the vendor is an extension of the credit union staff, with the same underlying goals, strategic challenges, and focus as credit union professionals. By always remembering that everyone is vested in the success of the member service offering not the sale of software, a purchase order for more hardware, or a long list of new credit union conversions CU*Answers’ focus stays with its investors and their members. CU*Answers credit unions learned long ago that patronage is investment, and that every invoice paid is an investment in better processing, better service, and new technologies applied to their members’ needs. It is not only the business we did this quarter, or how CU*Answers services were used to accomplish credit union ROA goals, it’s the long-term guarantee that both the credit union and CU*Answers are evolving on the same path with the same goals.
Be the Best You Can Be
Best practices are not contingent on profitability in the CU*Answers model, as they are for many alternative data processors. Safety and soundness of technical solutions in today’s world are becoming more important to every user and member. Redundancy, security, internal auditing, and compliance with industry standards need to be the foundation of a data processor’s solution, not the results of success. Often, credit unions settle for best practices according to what they can afford, not what they should demand. The CU*Answers model works with credit unions, examiners, auditors, and industry professionals to ensure that its solutions pass the test. It is pride in the process that drives CU*Answers owners and staff members toward best practices.
First to Implement
CU*Answers resources are focused on a first-to-implement tactic, moving all of CU*Answers’ clients to new strategies and offerings. This is possible through the development of products that are comprehensive, diverse, and driven through the creative configuration of a standard product rather than the mix-and-match of best-of-breed solutions. CU*Answers processes are developed with the complete participation of CU*Answers clients and their staffs. While credit unions choose the pace at which they participate, no credit union is left behind due to access being based on investment or prohibitive pricing. All credit unions participate in CU*Answers returns. As an example, this has allowed CU*Answers to transition from analog, to digital, to TCP/IP as a group, where credit unions that wish to break ground first are no more important than those at the tail end of network projects. It is not about being sold on something or being able to afford it; it is about what is the best practice and which technologies will lead to long-term success. It is not about the size of the credit union or the sophistication of its product offerings; every credit union is an equal investor in CU*Answers’ sophistication and technical capabilities, and can market to its constituents all of the power of CU*Answers solutions. The efficiencies gained by adopting strategies in which all credit unions participate gives the CU*Answers Management Team a real edge over companies that are constantly doing at-risk development, then having to sell the product to their client base. CU*Answers builds products according to the needs of its clients as a consultant, a buyer of technology more than a seller of technology. This is why CEO Randy Karnes often refers to himself as the CIO of every credit union in the CU*Answers client base and why CU*Answers’ product managers and service support personnel are part of the staff of every credit union. CU*Answers is vested in the implementation of every product and solution it puts forward.
Guaranteeing the Difference
The CU*Answers model is about challenging the solutions, both technical and human, to clearly separate our efforts from other credit union alternatives. CU*Answers does not believe that sheer size, the amount of capital available for investment, or a stranglehold on the credit union market ensures success for any vendor, and certainly not for the vendor’s credit union clients. Partnership, shared equity, and mutual goals will win in the end. This model is about tools being placed in the hands of credit union staff with a mission to serve their members. The key is that those tools are owned and directed by the very people with this important mission.