John San Filippo
Corelation 2022: The Rob Landis Interview
By John San Filippo
Core processor Corelation held its 2022 Client Conference May 19-20 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Like last year’s Corelation conference, this was a hybrid event, giving people the option to attend either in person or virtually.
The conference kicked off with a slide how that included several key stats:
Corelation has signed 10 new credit unions since its 2021 conference last October.
The company converted 18 credit unions during that same period.
There are now 178 Corelation credit unions, 144 of which are live today.
The conference attracted nearly 400 in-person attendees.
There were about 500 virtual registrations. However, it’s unknown how many people that represents since a single registration could represent, for example, 10 people together in a conference room.
This was also the first Corelation conference since Rob Landis was announced Jan. 4 as the company’s new president. Prior to this promotion, Landis held the position of chief operating officer . After opening remarks from founder John Landis and CEO/former president Theresa Benavidez, Rob Landis delivered an address to the audience. Finopotamus interviewed Landis one-on-one later that afternoon.
On Corelation’s Rapid Growth
Finopotamus first asked Landis about the company’s aggressive growth, specifically its claim of 18 core data processing conversions since October of 2021.
“We've gotten very efficient. We've gotten very good at those,” said Landis. “That was actually the big challenge that I had when I took on the chief operating officer role: to ramp up our capacity very quickly.” He said that due to market demand, the company had to transition from 12-24 conversions a year to its current capacity of 30 per year. However, with an increased number of conversions, the company had to also ramp up in other areas.
“Suddenly those special projects were jumping and then, thanks in part to COVID, mergers were jumping. Every type of project we offer, we had to ramp up capacity really quickly over the course of about two to three years,” he added. “We've gotten to a place now where we can support all the new projects that come along with signing so much new business.”
Landis said that intelligently managing growth means more than adding headcount. “That's a great way to get yourself in great trouble,” warned Landis. “We make sure we're adding quality, experienced people to meet the increased demand and then training them well.” He added that the “curve ball” of COVID complicated matters because both hiring and training had to take place remotely. He said that because of COVID and the company’s new remote workforce, there are a few employees he’s never met in person and have never been to company headquarters in San Diego.
On the Challenges of COVID
According to Landis, being a privately owned company gives Corelation the flexibility to be nimbler as the market shifts. “We're not beholden to any sort of outside investors, so we're able to make decisions that are in the best interests of our people and our clients,” he said. “As an example, we briefly paused our sales efforts to give our new people the opportunity to settle into their new roles in the face of COVID.”
Landis said this would have been much more difficult had there been pressure from analysts and investors. “Everybody was going through a massive transformation and we just wanted to take care of the mental health of our staff,” he noted. “Those were our growing pains: making sure that the processes and the people were able to scale up with the spike in demand. We think we've been able to navigate it pretty darn well.”
Landis noted that while going completely virtual “sounds simple, it's really complicated in practice. We thought about everything we did in-person, then how do we translate that to a remote environment using different tools?”
For example, the company has a practice of pairing each new employee with a mentor or “buddy” that they can shadow until they’ve acquired the necessary job knowledge. “We make sure the buddy has plenty of time to watch that person – not just what they're doing, but how they're doing it,” said Landis.
This mentoring system was easier pre-COVID with everyone in the same office. “They’re still hanging out together; it's just through a video screen,” said Landis “It's not the same. There wasn't any way to totally overcome it. But again, even right down to lunch breaks, we make sure they’re together as much as possible.”
On Having an Open Architecture
Corelation’s KeyStone core data processing platform is known for its modern, open, API-driven architecture. According to Landis, this is advantageous to everyone involved.
“As a community – they as clients and we as we as their partner – we’re all to a certain extent future-proofed by having our KeyBridge API that all these third-party vendors can connect with,” said Landis. “By making it easy, we remove financial barriers. We remove technological barriers. Our business philosophy is trying to add as many vendors to our ecosystem as possible. That means that Keystone will be able to adapt, to grow, to evolve over time.”
Finopotamus asked Landis about the recently popularized notion that, given advances in the banking as a service (BaaS) phenomenon, core processing platforms may eventually lose relevance.
“At some point, no matter how many layers of efficiency and convenience we can add for our members, there will always be a need for transaction processing that is 100% accurate, efficient and compliant,” responded Landis. “There might be some more convenient, direct access to banking, but I don't think we'll ever find ourselves in a future where there is no transaction processing system.”
He continued, “I hear about BaaS breaking apart the pieces of the core so that they can be exposed to different fintechs and all those different channels. That sure sounds a heck of a lot like what we came out of the gate with when we created KeyBridge.” He said that the KeyBridge API provides third parties with access to any system feature or data element.
“It's up to the credit union, it's up to the vendor, what to take advantage of,” he added. “It's completely under their control and we don't need to be in between all of that.”
On Providing Only a Core Platform
Corelation’s largest competitors provide a wide range of ancillary products that were either built in-house or acquired. In contrast, Corelation focuses only on its core platform, leaving ancillary products to the other members of its ecosystem.
Asked whether Corelation ever gets pushback from prospects that favor more of a one-stop shopping model, Landis responded, “We certainly do. But we genuinely believe it that we offer the best of both worlds because of all the third-party vendors in our ecosystem.”
Still, he admitted that this approach isn’t for everyone. “If you're looking for one throat to choke, one back to pat, this isn't necessarily the approach,” he said. “Different credit unions are interested in different things and we're not going to win every deal, but my prediction for the future is that our approach is going to continue to gain steam, because it's been tested and validated.”