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True Story: System Upgrade Complete

by Doug True, CEO

As I write this, we are one week into life with our new core system here at FORUM.  As expected with a project of this scope and magnitude, we have had some bumps in the road with our “go live” process.  The main bump being the performance of our ATM and debit card processor during the system upgrade over a long weekend and holiday (June 30 – July 4).  A small subset of our membership was adversely impacted by ATM deposits and debit card pre-authorization holds while we were between systems (bringing down the old and bringing up the new).  I apologize for the inconvenience, potential embarrassment, and frustration you may have encountered from this situation.  FORUM teammates were also frustrated as we could not do anything at FORUM to resolve the situation but were dependent upon our ATM and debit card processor to fix their problem.  Following rigorous testing, we were certified with the ATM and debit card processor only to learn that, when the problems surfaced, coding had changed on their end after the certification process.  The solution to the problem took longer than it should have and we appreciate your support and patience during the process.   

We recognize change is not easy and, trust us, we know this first hand as we have been on the same consumer core system that served us well for more than 40 years.  In fact, the former system  was our very first core processing system purchased back when we were known as Indiana Telco Credit Union.  When our original core system provider notified us of two mandated changes, we knew it was time to research new systems.  First, the operating system that core was utilizing would be retired and a new one put in place.  Second, a move from an account-based platform to a person-based platform was required.  Both of these changes meant we would be going through a system conversion to stay on the same system.  This served as a catalyst to review our core system options and look to upgrade our technology platform and also combine systems for improved efficiency and cost control.  As the Credit Union has grown over those 40 years, we have added business lines based on member input and demand.  Business lines like mortgages and member business lending.  Since our previous core system did not have the needed functionality to meet these member demands, we simply purchased additional core systems – one for our member business (commercial) area and one to service our growing mortgage portfolio.  In addition, our internal software development team built a member relationship piece of software to bridge these three core systems.  Our cost to purchase and maintain these four systems was escalating. 

With our new core system, the four previous systems have been combined into one and we are able to realize efficiencies.  As a not-for-profit financial cooperative our aim is to optimize our cost structure so we can continue to pay the highest possible dividends on your savings and keep interest rates as low as we can on your loans, while investing in the delivery channels (branch locations, phone, chat, email, online, mobile) you desire to conduct your FORUM business. 

Here are just a few examples:
  • Training of FORUM teammates becomes more efficient as we are now training on one system instead of four.
  • Member service teammates are now operating in one system to serve members, member businesses, and mortgage holders.
  • The new technology will aid in our ability to innovate in the areas of new products and improved service delivery. 
  • Since we develop our own consumer internet banking and mobile apps, we will able to focus on member centric enhancements.  We will soon be working on person-to-person payments and self-service debit and credit card controls. 

While the conversion process is not one we wanted to subject you to, we knew it was a necessity for the long-term viability to serve you in the manner we desire and to offer you the services you will want in the future.  Thank you for being a FORUM member and for your patience during the system upgrade process.  If you have recently visited, talked, chatted, or emailed with a FORUM teammate, thanks for being understanding and cordial during the process.  I assure you the 360-member FORUM team has displayed unbelievable dedication and positivity while serving you and they genuinely want your FORUM experience to be a positive one. 
What does it mean that the new system is person-based versus account-based?
A few thoughts on the difference between an account-based system and a person-based system.  As noted above, our previous core system was requiring a change from the account-based structure to a person-based one and our new core system is person-based as well.  Modern banking systems are person-based due to compliance requirements and the ability for a member to see all accounts in one space on which he or she is an owner at the institution.  In an account-based system, there is a base account and then sub-accounts.  This meant if a person was joint owner on the base account, they then would see all of the sub-accounts under the base even if they were not an owner on these sub-accounts.  Sub-accounts can include checking, special savings, money markets, certificates, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and loans. 

You can quickly discern from a compliance point-of-view that this type of structure is not ideal – just because a person is joint owner on the base account does not mean they should be able to access the sub accounts when they are not a joint owner.  This type of structure not only created concerns from a compliance point-of-view, but also created member concerns.  The only solution we could offer was to open an additional base share with sub-accounts.  This remedy was not efficient and created unneeded complexity for members.  In a person-based system there are no sub-accounts, each account is independent.  When you login to internet banking or your mobile app to see your accounts, you are viewing all accounts on which you are an owner. 

We recognize this shift from an account-based to a person-based system has created confusion for some of our members.  One of the most common concerns has to do with loan viewing and loan payments for those members who are not on the loan, but are accustomed to seeing it and having the ability to make a payment on the loan, because they were joint on the base account on the old system.  With the new system, we do have a form that can be signed by the owner of the loan granting viewing and payment making access to the others not on the loan.  This has been welcomed by many members as a viable option for this scenario.  We hope this explanation helps and, again, we appreciate your patience with the new system.