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National 1st Federal Credit Union

Today, electronic commerce systems represent the path of least resistance – in the old bank robber’s saying “that’s where the money is.” The general public has a simplified view of online fraud which is dominated by the image of a lone teenager hacking away at their computer, but the real picture is much more complex and insidious. The fact is organized crime gangs – both in the US and numerous foreign countries – are working with increasing sophistication and efficiency. One credit union has taken a proactive stance in the battle against hackers, crackers and phishers: National 1st Federal Credit Union. Their partner in this campaign is PM Systems, a company with almost 20 years of credit union service, and one of the credit union movement’s most experienced and top notch technology companies.

National 1st FCU turned to PM Systems a few years ago when their contract with a large Internet banking vendor was about to expire. In search of a more responsive supplier, the $164M asset credit union chose to implement PM Systems’ powerful WebFederal2™ Internet Banking and Bill Pay solution. According to Marcia Franks, CEO and President of National 1st, “their system is very reasonably priced and quite easy to use.” She was also relieved to find that the conversion was “a non-issue – with PM Systems’ assistance it was a very smooth rollout.” The South Carolina-based firm also helped the credit union with website design.

Based in the heart of Silicon Valley and serving chip maker National Semiconductor, National 1st FCU has a technologically sophisticated membership base. Always open to member comments and ideas, Ms. Franks was approached by two members who owned OHVA. They demonstrated their inexpensive smart card technology to Ms. Franks. She referred OHVA to PM Systems, who in turn had their security division, CUDefense, take a hard look at the OHVA smart card-based system authentication system. CUDefense’s security experts, who have years of experience working with a wide array of security devices, came to one conclusion: this was one of the best solutions that they had ever come across. PM Systems quickly integrated OHVA’s smart card solution into their online banking systems.

With over 27 years of experience at the credit union, Ms. Franks is keenly aware of the importance of security to the credit union and knew that the smart card system would dramatically improve her online defenses. Naturally, as CEO of the credit union she has to be fiscally responsible and could not deploy any system that was too expensive. To her pleasant surprise, the cost of the smart card and the reader were incredibly reasonable: just five dollars! Another distinct advantage of PM Systems’ smart card security solution is that it is quite easy to install - the member only needs to plug the reader into their computer, no driver diskettes or manual downloads are required. Ms. Franks notes that “our online banking members that are using the system love it – it gives them and us a great deal of peace of mind.”

The credit union is marketing their smart card program via various channels: their newsletter, website and new account representatives. . National 1st does not force members to use smart cards, and offers them as an “Ala Carte” choice for security conscious members. Ms. Franks believes that “we are doing our part to educate our members about online security and practical ways to protect themselves from online fraud and ID theft.” She firmly believes that other financial institutions would be well served by performing such due diligence. “Unfortunately it may take a major security breach at some institution before other credit unions see the value of offering a program like ours,” she remarks. 

As for support of the smart card program, online banking and the website in general, Ms. Franks enthuses that “I have never in my life had such great support from a vendor!” “Their response is tremendous,” she continues “they answer any questions we may have immediately.” She and her staff have been so pleased with their relationship with PM Systems that they have extended their partnership to include other services beyond online banking. The results have been the same: “great service is just part of their company culture” she says.

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