INDIANAPOLIS — If credit union technology experts have one thing in common, it's most likely the desire to create or implement a service that is not only "cool," but one that enhances the member experience.
In this reoccurring feature, Credit Union Journal visits with IT professionals — the often unsung CU heroes — to better understand how organizational goals are executed. This month, FORUM Credit Union's Chief Technology Officer, Cameron Piercefield, provides an inside view of operations.
"We are working on a few fun projects right now, including teller capture and tablets that will be used in a sales capacity in branches," said Piercefield. "Over the last couple of years, we have launched mobile apps and more recently an iPad app, which we are really proud of and has been well-received by members."
Piercefield began his career in technology in 1994 as senior technical support analyst and later a technical integration analyst. He has worked at FORUM CU since 1999, starting as a network manager and eventually worked his way to being vice president of technology.
In 2012 former CTO, Doug True, was named CEO leaving the position open, which went to Piercefield.
"As a member of the executive team I have a seat at the table, which helps with new initiatives, but mostly needs organically develop like the need for more mobile offerings," said Piercefield. "It does help that he [True] had my job because he really understand my role well."
With nearly 15 years in the same technology department, Piercefield said he values his team of 18 technology employees who help serve the needs of 300 employees and 110,000 members in 12 branch locations.
"We have a stable team and my managers are key to the operation. Many of us grew up in this credit union together," he said.
When it comes to rolling out new technology initiatives like mobile banking apps, home banking solutions, tablets for branch employees or teller capture, Piercefield explained that often a dual approach is taken with some internal development as well partnering with local software developers.
Like most credit unions, FORUM is concentrating on its Mobile app offerings. While to date the focus has been on Apple products, Piercefield's team is also working on new Android apps that he hopes to release in the coming year.
And there is good reason the $950 million credit union is focusing on its mobile offering. Last December, there were approximately 45,000 active online banking users. One-third of these were mobile users and 36% of online users log in via a smart phone or tablet.
"There are developmental cycles," Piercefield noted. "You can't launch a mobile app overnight or sometimes the same year," he said. "There are often many releases over many years."
When asked if he thought his team, or "techies" in general, are often taken for granted, Piercefield had a mixed response.
"There has been a consumerization of IT with many people knowledgeable because of computers and smartphones, but it doesn't scale to credit union technology. So, for example, they might think because they know how to set up their phone, their computer should always operate at work, but they don't understand the regulatory requirements and all moving parts behind the operation of a one-billion dollar credit union serving 110,000 members."
With that said, Piercefield, like many IT executives, remains focused on the big picture, which includes budgetary issues and the fortitude to schedule technologies rollouts years in advance.
He noted that he enjoys the challenges and couldn't ask for a better team to work with in achieving the credit union's shared goals. If he could change one thing; however, it would be having more time to get back to basics.
"I started out as network manager and today don't really do any computer stuff, which I really enjoy," said Piercefield. "Sometimes I do miss getting my hands dirty."