Successfully Implementing a Board Portal

Business meeting over a big conference desk
Contributing Writer
Fab Prose & Professional Writing

5 minutes

Three credit union cases in point.

Credit union executives who have implemented a board portal say the success of the implementation will depend on choosing a system that meets your organization’s unique objectives.

For example, Interra Credit Union wanted to support a cloud-based environment and the CU’s workflow systems.

“Our credit union is virtually paperless,” says CUES member Amy Sink, CEO of $1.2 billion Interra CU, Goshen, Ind. “Our board portal (CUES Supplier member Passageways, LaFayette, Ind.) fits our cloud-based strategy; it eliminates paperwork and cumbersome emails, and stores data securely in one place.”

“If we need to download the information to a hard drive, we do have that flexibility through our core service provider,” she adds. “But everything in our IT system today is cloud-based.”

Her directors (who range from 31 to 70 years old) all work from the portal via their iPads. The asset/liability, finance, and enterprise risk management committees work from the portals as well. 

Sink herself uses it for her management duties. “Since we launched the portal five years ago, board response has been positive. Training has never been an issue because of the ease of navigation. We also created the page workflow in the portal to make meetings run more smoothly. Directors can highlight information and even take notes within the program.” 

However, if you’re considering a board portal, implement it with a strategy in mind, not as a one-off solution, advises Sink. “For our credit union, all management work is completed through portals. There is no paper. So, for us, a board portal was the right strategy. But if your team isn’t committed to it, a portal may not be the solution and could make things more cumbersome.”

Sinks says to consider your workflow and how the various (board portal) systems coincide with your board, staff and work culture. “Our board portal matches how we communicate with staff, which is through another Passageways portal. While the portals aren’t the same, there is no difference in the method.”

Similarly, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union wanted efficiency and paper reduction to be the chief outcomes of having a board portal. 

Carol Minges, CEO of $250 million 1st Financial FCU, St. Louis, was looking to help her board become more efficient during meetings and a way to archive board materials. “Paper packets no longer provided the functionality we needed,” she says. 

Before selecting BoardPaq in 2014, the CU distributed board information through secure email. Hard copies were printed and distributed at the meeting. After the meeting, CU staff shredded the packets along with any notes directors had written.

“BoardPaq offered the security, voting, iPad and web access, and archiving features we needed,” says Minges, “and, a library for document storage.” 

Minges and her team implemented the portal in several steps. The first was to purchase iPads for directors. (iPads were gifted but still property of the credit union via an acceptable-use policy.) The credit union configured the iPads to enforce passcodes and security policies, and to ensure remote-wipe capabilities were available.

Minges and her board chair enrolled first. Using BoardPaq’s web-based admin center, they added user profiles, uploaded meeting documents and created the first meeting’s agenda. They were the only two who used it at the initial meeting but shared with others how it functioned. By the second meeting, they handed everyone their iPads, login credentials, training materials and a paper packet.

By the third meeting, board members were expected to use BoardPaq, with no paper packet provided. 

“The group had varied technology skills,” reflects Minges. “But overall, they were excited about the transition and didn’t mind the learning curve. We now use BoardPaq for our ALCO and supervisory committee meetings as well.”

Since implementing BoardPaq, the credit union has reduced its paper costs and increased security, “simply because we don’t have paper floating around,” Minges says.

For $100 million Point West Credit Union, Portland, Ore., efficiency and ease of use with an eye for saving directors and administrators time were the key requisite in its search for a new system. 

“Directors found the previous board portal cumbersome and difficult to navigate,” explains CEO Amy Nelson, a CUES member. “Neither our directors or management team wanted to use our old software because it took an inordinate amount of time to load, download and organize documents; it was not intuitive and lacked mobile compatibility.”

As a smaller credit union, another challenge was finding the right system at an affordable price. “We needed the same extensive security of more expensive portals as well as training and unlimited support without extra cost,” adds Nelson.

After considering its choices, the CU chose CUES strategic provider Aprio, Vancouver, British Columbia. “The system’s design and functionality were logical for us,” says Nelson. “The actions also made sense. For example, if you need a board member to sign the minutes, a pen icon is right there. We could envision board members logging in from their desktop or mobile devices and wasting no time pinching and resizing screens.”

Eight months after implementation, Point West CU experienced measurable gains in board meeting productivity and director engagement as well as ease of administration. The CU has also reduced its meeting prep time by about 85 percent.

“The biggest win is how much we’ve improved pre-meeting engagement, which has led to more productive meetings and better attendance,” offers Nelson. “The system pushes out our agenda and meeting reminders right to people’s inboxes, prompts directors to prepare—for more informed, succinct and decisive discussions at meetings.”

Aprio also makes it easy for directors to pose questions before meetings with answers shared to all, which helps to eliminate the repetitive background questions at meetings.  

Nelson notes that smaller credit unions shouldn’t mistake board portal technology useful just for larger credit unions. “Look for broad functionality and affordability, no matter the size of your credit union.”

Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter@fabprose.

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