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Large and technologically sophisticated credit unions often have knowledgeable IT (Information Technology) staff and software developers onboard at their credit union. North Carolina-based Coastal Federal Credit Union (CFCU) certainly fits this description. CFCU is so tech-savvy that they were one of the first twenty financial institutions in the United States to perform live transactions over the Internet when they originally launched their custom-developed Internet home banking product, Coastal Online Transaction Service (COLTS) in 1996. Yet, just about every financial institution, including Coastal, will sometimes turn to outside firms to assist them with their technology needs. In this case, CFCU turned to one the top firms providing highly qualified information technology consultants to financial institutions: Gallagher Systems Group.
Coastal FCU started out as an IBM employees credit union, and while they currently have over 1000 SEGs (Select Employee Groups), over 51% of their members are still affiliated with IBM. As expected, many of these members use online services and are quite comfortable conducting business on the Internet. Therefore, CFCU knows that they must constantly keep their in-house developed e-services offerings updated and relevant. While there are many off the shelf online banking and bill payment packages available, Coastal FCU felt that none of them were really designed to suit their unique needs and membership, as well as cost structures.
Carlton Howard, vice president of E-Business Services for Coastal Federal Credit Union, was one of the key players in finding an outside firm to help the credit union enhance their systems. Carlton explains that "there were three basic criteria that we were looking for in potential vendors: 1) do they know financial services; 2) do they know credit unions; and 3) does their business and customer service philosophy mesh with ours." Since the company's inception in 1990, Gallagher Systems Group has focused on the unique application requirements of the financial services industry: online banking, e-commerce, core systems, CRM analytics, check imaging and other financial industry applications. According to Carlton, "Gallagher stepped in at just the right time with just the right help."
From a strategic viewpoint, e-services are a critical part of Coastal FCU's delivery methods. There are many reasons for this: CFCU's previously mentioned high-tech membership base that includes over 54,000 online bankers who have accessed COLTS; the credit union has always focused on remote delivery; and North Carolina is one of the most heavily branched banking states and CFCU could not possibly build enough expensive brick and mortar locations to serve their members in a face to face manner. "We strive to offer home town service coupled with 21st century technology," explains Carlton. He continues, "partnering with Gallagher Systems Group provided us with an economical way to develop this crucial delivery channel for our members." Just nine months after Gallagher's consultants came onboard, the custom coding was completed and members were able to more quickly access their data on the new enhanced, processing platform.
In addition to providing Coastal with a talented programmer, Gallagher has acted as a trusted advisor to the credit union. Carlton explains: "they sent in a bill payment specialist when we working on that module, plus they do a great job of feeding us information and helping to keep our staff up to speed on the latest financial technology trends." He also appreciates the fact that Gallagher brought another essential component to the partnership: "their consultants brought security expertise to the table, which is something that we are very aware of internally and place a high priority on."
Today the COLTS system is so popular that it accounts for as many transactions per month as the credit union's top four branches. This success can be attributed to the credit union's vision and hard work, plus "the flexibility and great cooperation of the team at Gallagher Systems Group" in Carlton's words. He concludes that "we have had an excellent long term relationship with Gallagher and have found them to be a very professional and efficient company."