As bells jingle, candles flicker and holiday cheers resound this merry season, credit union IT executives are secretly hoping for bigger budgets, more automation, better telephony and much, much more.

For the thirteenth consecutive year, Credit Union Journal asked information technology executives from credit unions around the nation to share what technologies would make 2015 and beyond a more joyous occasion for all. Read on to see what new technological innovations credit unions hope to implement in 2015.

A Wish For An Automated Loan Solution

Ismael Mendiola, vice president of operations for El Paso, Texas-based evolve FCU, said his wish centers on loan automation.

"Our one IT wish for 2015 would be automated loan approval in order to streamline loan underwriting processes and improve efficiencies, without adding headcount," said Mendiola.

The $328 million CU, which supports nearly 39,000 members and 127 employees in eight branches, is no stranger to adding new technologies. In 2014, a new bill pay system was rolled out as well as mobile bill solution, an enhancement to its existing mobile application.

"Now our members can control bill pay system functionality right from their smart devices. We also rolled out a new cash management solution," said Mendiola. "We completed the implementation in October, so we have yet to achieve the full benefits from the system."

When asked the probability of his 2015 wish coming true, he responded: "Highly likely as we are currently making adjustments to our business model and loan policy to maximize loan approval automation."

A Wish For Telephony

InTouch Credit Union Executive Vice President Diane Gerstner said she is wishing for a hosted telephony system.

"The implementation of this product would provide for centralized administration and support," she said. "Additionally, it will eliminate the need for credit union-based hardware. These value adds would allow for the redeployment of resource time and reduce hardware costs."

With 85,345 members, 227 employees and 20 branches, the Plano, Texas-based InTouch CU has been busy over the last year undertaking a conversion to virtual servers.

"This transition allows the credit union to quickly relocate a virtual server from one branch location to another, thereby eliminating downtime and enhancing disaster recovery," said Gerstner.

When asked the probability of her 2015 wish coming true, Gerstner offered fifty-fifty odds. "We are unable to validate a positive ROI due to the solution's annual expense of $145K," she said. "The cost of this solution is driven up by the number of locations and telephony devices supported by InTouch Credit Union."

New Mobile, Online Banking Solutions

First Tech Credit Union Chief Digital and Technology Officer Mike Upton is wishing for a new mobile and online banking solution. The goal is to enable members to bank when, where and how they want on any device they choose, he said.

"We have adopted Alkami's ORB platform as part of our overall omni-channel platform, linking together all of our online digital and off-line branch channels," said Upton. "Based on our work with Alkami on our NextGen platform we have full confidence that we are well positioned to delight our members and accelerate our ability to deliver new and innovative value quickly and frequently."

The Mountain View, Calif.-based First Tech CU supports 920 employees and 380,000 members in 40 branches. Over the last year, the CU has undertaken new tech initiatives including integrating CO-OP Financial Services MemberPayPlus.

"This solution allows members to receive, view, manage and pay all bills, electronic or otherwise and positions us extremely well to deliver even greater member value in 2015," said Upton.

When asked the probability of his 2015 wish coming true, he responded: "We are on track to implement a full-scale release of the solution [ORB] in third quarter of 2015."

Cross-Departmental Automation

The Partnership Federal Credit Union Director of Lending Strategies and Business Technology David Martinez said his overarching wish is to increase automation across the entire organization, including automation of letters and mailings.

"Automation is an easy and often comparably inexpensive way to significantly increase efficiency across all business units," said Martinez. "The increased efficiency allows staff to focus more time and energy on the aspects of their job that cannot be completed by technology: building member relationships, focusing on enhancing credit union strategies and exploring best practices."

The $145 million Arlington, Va.-based CU supports 12,100 members in three branches. Over the last calendar year, Martinez said new initiatives were launched to better assist the CU's 33 employees.

"We've added additional monitoring, logging and scanning software to our network to ensure that we remain as secure and stable as possible," he said. "We've also continued to virtualize systems and introduced endpoint security solutions."

When asked the probability of his 2015 wish coming true, Martinez responded: "It is very likely that we'll be able to add more automation in the coming year. We've been working with partners, exploring the capabilities of our existing infrastructure, as well as exploring new technologies coming to market and we've mapped out several 2015 initiatives to begin realizing more efficiency through automation."

Enhanced Cybersecurity

NARFE Premiere Federal Credit Union President and CEO Marty Wye is wishing for enhanced cybersecurity for the CU's 10,790 members. To achieve this goal, the Alexandria, Va.-based credit union is working with Horsetail Technologies, a Baltimore-based technology consulting firm.

Last year the $159 million credit union successfully implemented an ADAPT telephony system. "This improved the quality of the phone set sound, reduced communications expenses and offered redundant telephony solutions in two locations," said Wye. "Additionally, the new system will allow for core system screen pop implementation in 2015."

When asked the probability the 2015 wish coming true, Wye felt positive about the initiative.

"With our Horsetail Technology partnership, we hope to have a log file analysis and retention for every device on our network," said Wye. "The implementation of a risk management system that integrates assessments, vulnerability scans, vendor management and training."

Expand Biz Intel Capabilities

Greylock Federal Credit Union's Chief Information Officer Kevin Zimmer has an interwoven wish that includes many operational facets of the $1.1 billion credit union.

"Business intelligence capabilities would be my biggest wish as it has the potential to have a significant impact on our business in areas such as cross-selling, fraud prevention, quality control and many others," he said. "We see a strong opportunity to use technology to provide greater business intelligence to senior leadership to help them in managing the credit union and making the most informed decisions."

Last year Greylock FCU, supporting 71,000 members and 215 employees in 12 branches, implemented instant-issue debit cards, which was accomplished using a third-party partner that provided the card-issuing equipment and an interface to its DNA system.

"Another important technology initiative for us in 2014 was the addition of mobile deposit capture, which we just went live with in December," said Zimmer. "We see mobile deposit capture as an important service for keeping pace with our competitors."

Greylock FCU, a frequent developer on DNAapps, has launched systems that have a business intelligence component, such as Raddon's Integrator, explained Zimmer. This solution, he said, provides member relationship analysis to help determine the next best cross-sell and ways to improve product mix and pricing.

For 2015, Zimmer said the CU is ready to take business intelligence to the next level. "We will be combining information from multiple data inputs that have knowledge about our members' behavior and presenting it in graphical dashboard views that are easy for senior leaders to use."

When asked the probability of his wish coming true, Zimmer said: "It's 100% likely we will get some form of this done in 2015."

Securing The IT Department

First Service Credit Union Chief Information Officer Frank Halstead is wishing that 2015 will provide more security for all things IT-related. He cited concerns related to Target and Chase Bank security breaches.

"My wish is for increased awareness of IT security issues by all including  members, employees and vendors," he said. "The threat to our IT infrastructures is very real and persistent. Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated and they are able to change their methods almost as quickly as we can adapt our systems."

First Service Credit Union supports 54,000 members and 150 employees in 13 branch locations. Last year, the $510 million credit union successfully implemented online document signatures.

"This project has greatly improved the speed at which we can conduct business with our members," said Halstead. "Coupled with our online identity verification methods — from document preparation, to signing, to storage and archival of the completed paperwork we are now able to conduct many complicated transactions completely online."

While security is a 24/7/365 concern for all financial institutions, Halstead said employees and vendors alike have been more cooperative in light of the increased frequency fraud reports.

"What is needed is continued education on specific exploits that hackers employ, more information on the habits and techniques that members should use when conducting business online, quick patching by IT departments for newly identified vulnerabilities, and more use of layered security at all points of communication and storage of data."

When asked the probability of his enhanced security initiative wish coming true, Zimmer responded: "Pretty good."

Increase End-User Product Ownership

Generations Federal Credit Union Chief Information Officer Wes Barnett is wishing for an increased level of end-user product ownership across the $519 million credit union's organization.

"IT can purchase and implement the best-of-breed technology available on the market, but without effective product ownership, we'll never be in a position to leverage all of the capabilities these best-of-breed applications provide," said Barnett.

Last year, the credit union, which supports 49,000 members and 248 employees in 14 branches, successfully implemented a remote deposit capture solution. "This has almost doubled our mobile banking adoption," said Barnett.

Looking toward 2015, Barnett said there is a good chance that his wish will come true.

"The momentum has already started to take root: for instance, we are currently implementing a new loan origination system and our lending department has done a fantastic job of taking ownership and driving its implementation," he continued. "We've seen similar success with our marketing and finance departments."

Core Conversion Success

Aspire Federal Credit Union President and CEO Thomas O'Shea's wish for 2015? That the $180 million CU's core conversion, scheduled for Super Bowl weekend, goes off without a hitch.

"We are converting to the Corelation Keystone core system. Most of our member-facing technologies will be replaced," said. "We've done a great deal of work, including validation, testing, training and member awareness marketing in preparing for this change."

Last year, Aspire FCU, supporting 25,000 members and 55 employees in two branches, successfully selected solutions that will also be implemented in the coming year. These include Ongoing Operations "Replicator" DR backup solution; Digital Insight for home banking, mobile banking and PopMoney; IMSI for lending and new member onboarding front-end; XDI for statements; and Hyland OnBase for document imaging.

When asked the probability of his wish coming true, Super Bowl weekend and all, O'Shea responded: "We have a very strong, cohesive team here at Aspire that is dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition. Philosophically we've selected vendors that view us as a strategic partner and not just a customer or invoice number. We think this will increase our odds of a successful implementation."

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