By Roy Urrico
Over the last seven months the $1.8 billion, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Allegacy Federal Credit Union successfully completed a virtual core conversion and a major digital upgrade.
In the first of two articles about this tech transformation, we focus on the credit union’s changeover from an in-house/hybrid system to a hosted solution featuring Brookfield, Wis.-based Fiserv’s DNA core.
“None of us could have seen what was coming with a pandemic. Our Allegacy team transitioned mock conversion and go-live weekends into primarily remote events. With representation from only one vendor onsite for both events, we pulled off outstanding results,” Annette Knight, Allegacy’s chief experience officer, said.
Greg Flach, director, project management office, Open Solutions Division, for Fiserv, added, “I can’t overstate how impressive the Allegacy team was throughout; this could not have worked without their dedication and engagement.”
COVID-19 Alters but Does Not Stop the Conversion
The Allegacy team worked diligently for two years to plan, prepare and test DNA. This set the stage for the March 2020 mock conversion in which, due to COVID-19 safety protocols, Allegacy shifted much of its staff to working remotely, while those remaining onsite practiced social distancing.
During this process Fiserv established a virtual command center (similar to a help desk) staffed 24/7 with key Fiserv and Allegacy personnel to answer inquiries, troubleshoot and provide direction. The Allegacy and Fiserv teams maintained a tight remote connection to efficiently carry out the mock conversion.
The credit union identified and addresses gaps and issues uncovered during mock weekend. Knight explained, “Our technology and retail operations teams worked tirelessly to identify, and get software issues resolved, at each location. Mock weekend was a true team effort, many working remotely, in an effort to move us forward for a successful core enhancement weekend.”
The two parties established virtual work streams using concurrent WebEx bridge lines and videoconferences for the major conversion teams – deposit accounts, loans, finance and operations through the final stages of the actual core upgrade, which took place over Memorial Day weekend with the new system switched on May 26th.
“We had to communicate effectively with folks in all different locations, some without access to Allegacy email at home or an Allegacy phone,” emphasized Knight. “We utilized our business continuity plan to alert all staff, and requested teammates update contact information in our HR system to ensure we had accurate email addresses to utilize work and home emails during communications.”
“With all we faced, the entire team stayed the course to create, review, and test, and retest, and test some more to ensure a successful implementation,” Knight, recalled.
The Core Delivery
In addition to Fiserv’s DNA platform, Allegacy implemented many new ancillary and third-party systems, all designed to deliver more efficient service to membership and improve staff processes. This included digital banking, card enhancements, and coordination of a Harland Clark contact center overflow unit.
The new core delivered as envisioned. “Throughout the core enhancement initiative, we emphasized the importance of reviewing and adjusting our core processes to improve efficiencies across the credit union,” Knight said. She added, “One process improvement we have already experienced great success with is indirect lending for car and lifestyle loans.”
During the initiative, Allegacy built a custom interface between Allegro (the loan origination system used by indirect lending) and DNA. “This interface leveraged our concert enterprise service bus (ESB) system and DNA’s Core API environment,” explained Knight. The interface onboards the applicant(s) to DNA, creates the share and loan accounts, and conducts the monetary transactions to fund the accounts. Said Knight, “All these transactions are done systematically to eliminate the need for the lender to manually execute them in DNA, which many of them were required to do on the previous core.”
Previously, the most indirect lending loans Allegacy processed in a day were approximately 20. Knight said, “After the Allegro integration, our team is averaging between 35-40 loans per day - a major increase in productivity. On day one, the Allegro interface allowed the Allegacy indirect loan group to book $600,000 of business in one hour. That would have taken two days in the past.”
Since going live, Allegacy smoothed out the rough edges, addressed post-conversion issues, improved DNA performance, and worked on day-two items. Allegacy is also planning for a core enhancement upgrade for early October to bring the credit union the most current Fiserv DNA release.
“In fact, post-conversion, Allegacy provided Fiserv with a perfect NPS (Net Promoter Score); the team there was extremely satisfied with how things went. My team shares that sentiment,” Flach said. Net Promoter Score helps evaluate customer satisfaction and an organization's growth potential.
Fiserv Built to Take on Pandemic Challenges
Fiserv reported within the last seven months, more than 20 financial institutions completed remote core conversions, including the $15.7 million Fort Worth, Texas-based Family 1st of Texas Federal Credit Union, the $61.7 million Hoboken (N.J.) School Employees Federal Credit Union, and Allegacy.
Flach suggested from day one of the pandemic their mentality was, “We are built for this!” He added Fiserv’ implementation team has been built around remote work for some time, and has a proven track record of successfully delivering complex implementations this way. “We had technology and communication practices and capabilities that were proven, and that allowed our teams to quickly shift to a remote environment and be successful.”
Flach explained Fiserv uses the same, proven methodology for all remote projects. “Our average NPS score across these projects is extremely high; if our clients are that satisfied, the model is working.”
Flach provided five specific areas on how Fiserv executes remote conversions:
· “We base our choice of communication technology on our clients’ preference.” Fiserv uses Microsoft Teams extensively, but explained they are proficient with nearly all similar tools such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc. “We don’t want to add the burden of a new tool to the mix if the CU has an existing preference.”
· Establish a central command line for general updates and immediate access to the project management organization for quick issue resolution.
· Leverage multiple open conference lines – create individual, virtual workstreams to answer questions and provide guidance. For example, a specific line for loans and deposits.
· “A remote install is different than being on-site and demands more prescriptive coordination in advance. The steps are the same, but the process needs to be structured to reflect the fact that we are not physically together.”
· “Our project management team and Allegacy took extra time to map out the plans and think outside the box.” For example, they created playbooks for specific tasks and functions including timelines, action plans and all contact information (e.g. personal cells etc.) to ensure maximum accessibility.
· The ideation and planning paid off; in practice, Fiserv subject matter experts on the team project were, if anything, more available in a remote setting. “We reinvested the time we might have spent traveling into being present and to quickly resolving any issue that came up.”
A Spirit of Partnership.
· The conversion with Allegacy is not a Fiserv win; it was a team win that involved a deep sense of partnership. “We were in it together, and that mentality is going to be crucial for any large-scale remote technology project.
· Fiserv, Allegacy and the third parties involved in the conversion had key executives engaged throughout. Top-down leadership permeates, and our teams were even more cognizant of it as we took the conversion remote.
Focus on A Clear Methodology and Process for The Project
· For Fiserv that means a best practice and a consultative approach, training sessions, data conversion work and expertise, making sure everyone is ready to move on to the next phase in the conversion before doing so, executive monthly updates, mock conversions, and completing the conversion.
“An engaged team can successfully deliver more activities virtually than you might anticipate via clear process, open communication, and high levels of engagement,” Flach said. “Our subject matter expert accessibility is, in many ways, better in a remote setting. There is less downtime and churn. For example, not traveling allowed the team to reinvest that time and energy into the project.” He added, “Smaller, more focused training sessions for platforms and products are ideal for a remote conversion; it makes for a better learning environment that sticks versus webinar-style events that have many participants on the line.”
Fiserv is also engaged with credit unions to help them meet member needs during the pandemic. This includes helping them acquire hardware to enable remote work, facilitating Paycheck Protection Program PPP loan origination and forgiveness, and providing digital technology to facilitate remote member service. Brach said, “We’ve also seen an uptick in interest in real-world-based service offerings – for example, Interactive Branch Kiosks that allow members to authenticate themselves via a biometric solution called Verifast.”