PALO ALTO, Calif.-Ninety percent of Stanford Federal Credit Union's interactions with its members take place by computers and mobile devices, allowing 20% of its employees to work from outside the office.

Now, new unified communications and core systems are bringing efficiencies to the way the staff serves the credit union's members across all these channels.

The $1.4-billion credit union was created to serve the Stanford community in Silicon Valley-the university, hospital system, the Stanford linear accelerator and related businesses around Palo Alto.

"It's very high-tech, they're very highly educated members with high net worths and high credit scores," Jim Phillips, chief information officer, told American Banker, an affiliate of Credit Union Journal. "They don't pay a lot of fees, they don't tend to take out loans. They prefer to communicate over e-mail and they prefer to be proactive and do their own transactions if you let them."

The credit union maintains its loan ratios in part with participations in MBLs .

Stanford Federal does have a couple of branches located on the university to serve students, as well as a branch in downtown Palo Alto and another in Stanford Hospital, but branch transaction volumes are low.

"Most of our membership does everything online, on mobile or with debit or credit cards," Phillips said. "It's an interesting group because they prefer to be that way; it's not us pushing them. They're very brainy and they'll let us know if they don't like something."

SFCU recently completed a core conversion and went live on Open Solutions in mid July. "When I came on board here in February 2011, we needed to update everything in our environment, all the infrastructure from the ground up," Phillips said. The previous core system was being "sunset" by a company that had two customers, including SFCU.


Hanging Up On High Telecom Costs

Phillips began analyzing all IT expenses and realized that SFCU's telecom expenses were high for its size. "We're a very lean organization, we have about 130 employees full time," Phillips told American Banker. "But we didn't have the infrastructure in place to give our teams a better way of working."

The IT team upgraded the network, replaced all the circuits, adopted an MPLS network (Multiprotocol Label Switching, a type of network that moves data efficiently), and implemented voice over IP. Phillips looked at several unified communications systems before selecting Cisco's.

"The good thing about this solution is it ties in with so many other areas of our environment," he says. For instance, the Cisco system uses the credit union's existing Microsoft Active Directory to show employees' availability over Cisco's Jabber instant messenger client-whether or not they're on the phone, in the building, at a remote location or on a mobile device.

"When our members do call us, they want help right now. We can reach our experts and connect them with any member question in real time. Everybody's always on the hook and we're always available."

By replacing the PBX boxes and other older telecom infrastructure with voice over IP and unified communications, the credit union is saving about 60% in ongoing telephony costs, Phillips said.

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