LANHAM, Md.-Adding to the growing number of credit unions that are tapping in-house talent for technology initiatives, this month FedChoice FCU launched its own version of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software program.

"When it was determined that our IT department could handle a CRM solution in-house it was music to my ears," said FedChoice FCU Delivery Channels Director Kevin Roland. "It's not perfect, and perhaps not as robust as solutions from an outside third party, but it achieves our goals."

With five branches, 22,000 members and $323-million in assets, FedChoice welcomes between 100 and125 new members every month. Roland explained that 95% of these members join via a branch with the balance signing up online.

The credit union employs what it calls a "2-2-2-6-1" philosophy when it comes to onboarding, which means new members are contacted at two days, two weeks, two months, six months and at one year.

"We were looking for the best way to communicate with these members, while also concentrating on existing relationships with members, because member retention is so important and we need to be able to engage them upfront," he said.

FedChoice spent six months reviewing third-party CRM solutions as part of its discovery phase, before it was determined that two of the credit union's six-person IT staff could handle developing the program themeselves. Whereas vendors might charge between $60,000 and $80,000 for the type of solution it was seeking, Roland estimated that the cost for the in-house scalable program was a quarter of that amount if
not less.

"It required quite a bit of time, but the savings was considerable and we don't have to pay for maintenance fees," he said.

The Beta-Testing Process

Whether a software solution is out of the box or created in-house, beta testing is required, especially since in this case the software initiative was the first major program attempted by FedChoice staff.

"There were many internal testers that worked through it to come up with any wrinkles that needed to be resolved," said Roland, who referred to the software as a "CRM like" system. "We have had five or six employees testing it at various branch locations. While there were few things here and there that needed to be changed, testing went smoothly."

The credit union's team of financial service advisors also required training, which was added to the standing weekly meeting. "First we introduced it to the managers so they could preview it, but this wasn't a surprise as they knew it was coming," said Roland.  

Among the benefits of the software is its ability to record interactions with members. The program also allows employees to capture pertinent information such as how the member prefers to be contacted, when, and the status of the last contact. All aggregated information is presented to financial service advisors in an easy-to-access queue. This allows for cross-selling opportunities and, most importantly, deeper member relationships, said Roland.

'Amazing' Result

"It's amazing to me that our staff was able to make this work-from procedures to training. There will be some growing pains, but we are really looking for ways to connect with new members during the first 90 days of the relationship," said Roland.  

While some credit unions consider selling proprietary software programs, Roland and his team are taking a wait-and-see approach. "It hasn't crossed our minds yet, but if it does work, and we can offer this as an alternative to other credit unions, you never know."

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