Top tips for core conversion success from a company that has witnessed hundreds of them
Undertaking a core conversion is no small task, and it’s a decision no credit union takes lightly. When reading about the process and talking to peers who have lived it firsthand, it quickly becomes clear that it is a complicated and time-consuming process that can sometimes lead to a whole host of problems for both users and members.
However, as your credit union grows and adopts newer, more advanced technology tools, the need for a conversion can become inevitable. Overall, that’s great news, because it means you’re growing! But because it is such a significant, lengthy and costly endeavor, it’s important to take it on with eyes wide open.
As the largest writer of portfolio protection in the industry and among the longest in business with nearly 50 years of experience, State National has been witness to hundreds of our partners’ core conversions. Following are some of our insights and observations for those who may also be thinking about beginning this significant transition.
Learn From Others’ Experiences and Expertise
While there is no simple solution to make a conversion problem-free, proven best practices can help. Learning from core providers as well as peers who have gone through the process can help set the stage for a smoother, more seamless transition.
- Establish a dedicated team. While often perceived solely as an IT project, the most successful conversions involve senior leadership from the beginning to ensure the conversion aligns with user needs in each department as well as customer needs, wants and expectations. Consider hiring or assigning a dedicated project manager to create a detailed and thorough project plan—and hold all stakeholders accountable to that plan—before the process even kicks off. With core conversion, the devil is in the details. Someone who is fully dedicated and invested can closely oversee project mapping, testing, and training.
- Closely evaluate vendors. The right core processing partner depends on your specific business needs and membership. Important items to consider are marketing customer information file analysis functionality, native application integration, availability of third-party integration, data mining capability, mortgage servicing, and, of course, implementation costs and ongoing maintenance fees.
- Think ahead. Take time to understand the details of each proposal to fully comprehend the long-term impacts and benefits to your organization.
- Select the right business partner. Choose a vendor and core platform that best aligns and supports your organizational vision and direction.
- Have dedicated teams that lead and drive the conversion process. Details, details, details! A core conversion touches every part of your business, so don’t stay high-level. Setting up function-focused teams for each department (such as a customer-facing team and a back-office team) will allow for function-based assessment and will keep the details in sight. Additionally, these teams allow every area of your business to evaluate processes and transactions that will need to change, make decisions about how to set up those changes, and troubleshoot problems in real-time before the conversion takes place.
- Designate a dedicated training leader. This person should train all departments on the new platform and ensure ample time for practice and experimentation before the go-live date—especially for customer-facing functions. Build a variety of test cases to ensure review of every possible scenario.
- Communicate. Everyone, both internally and your membership, should be aware of what is happening well in advance of the go-live date. Also, consider having a plan for ample, even excess, call center staffing during the mock conversions, during conversion weekend and after going live.
- Communicate some more. Collaboration with technology partners and vendors is key to a successful rollout. Communicate with your partners and vendors before you start the conversion process to ensure all stakeholders are involved and invested in the testing plan/schedule.
- Maintain agility and flexibility. There will be inevitable setbacks in any process, so plan for more time and resources than you think you’ll need to allow for adjustments along the way.
- Celebrate! The reason you made the choice to go through a core conversion is to take advantage of the new features, benefits and efficiencies that will be available to you with your new core platform! Keep staff engaged and motivated by celebrating milestones along the way as well as post-conversion, and recognize the teammates who worked so diligently to make the conversion happen.
Measure Twice, Convert Once
Having a clear plan of action from the start provides peace of mind that your credit union will be able to handle the challenges coming your way during the conversion process. More importantly, it will help ensure the successful implementation of a new core processing system that will provide long-term efficiencies for your team and organization as well as long-term value for your customers.
Charlie Miller is VP/client service and operations for CUESolutions Bronze provider State National Companies, Bedford, Texas. Miller leads SNC’s client services, contact center and document processing teams while managing day-to-day activity and short and long-term strategy for more than 280 associates and managers. He plays a key role in driving operational improvement and product initiatives to ensure a win-win for SNC and its clients. Charlie says, “Product strategy and development and increasing operational efficiency are what get me out of bed in the morning! At State National, we know the strain and stress the conversion process can place on a credit union’s business resources. We offer direct integration with the Temenos and Symitar platforms and can automate and customize file transfer with the vast majority of core processing platforms across the industry. We also make sure our programs are smooth and seamless so that whatever your challenges and hurdles may be, portfolio protection will never be one of them.”