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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Rocky Mountain Credit Union Successfully Converts to Mahalo's Digital Banking Platform

By W.B. King

With the goal of providing an improved, unified digital banking experience for its credit union members, the Helena, Mont.-based Rocky Mountain Credit Union (RMCU) decided it was time to sever relations with its digital banking partner and find a new one.

RMCU’s Marketing and Public Relations Director Kelly Fleiner told Finopotamus that the previous vendor’s service and support was “lacking” and that the company charged “excessive programming fees” to make requested changes.

“We [also] had complaints from members, low support response times and frequent outages,” Fleiner said.

The $346 million RMCU supports more than 24,000 members and six branches.

While other vendors were vetted, the Troy, Mich.-based CUSO Mahalo Banking was ultimately selected for a host of reasons, including the company’s “strong background” working with credit unions, Fleiner noted.

Kelly Fleiner

“The ability to tie directly to our core system, all the customization options, responsiveness to questions and the demo was branded with RMCU logo, colors and like images,” were other leading reasons, she said.

Mahalo Banking President and CEO Jim Stickley said credit unions normally reach out due to an existing digital banking vendor relationship that is causing numerous pain points.

“Poor service from the current digital banking provider, nickel and diming, not core-centric [are some of the reasons],” he said, adding that many vendors do not understand what credit unions want and are not able to speak the same language as far as core functionality is concerned.

“Our clients have also found their previous vendors take far too long to release new updates and address feature requests,” he continued. “They also do not feel as if they are true partners with their current provider.”

Being a CUSO, Stickley noted, provides an advantage over competition.

“At Mahalo, we encourage collaboration, and we believe in a true partnership relationship with all of our credit union partners. Being a CUSO shows our commitment to the credit union industry and provides additional insight into the needs of all credit unions,” he said. “Recently, our credit union partners have been instrumental in the new development of [our] business banking, online account opening and online lending solutions.”

From Discovery to Going Live

For RMCU, it took approximately one year for the solution to go live from contract signing to roll out, but some of this time was due to the existing contract term with the previous vendor. Once free of the contract obligation, the implementation process was fairly straightforward.

“We have between six to eight IT employees depending on staffing. We probably had one moderately skilled IT person completely dedicated to the project and two sort of acting as backup and attending meetings to stay informed,” Fleiner said.

An IT department, Fleiner explained, should expect to deal with the following variables during implementation:

  • Provide assistance to programmers/integration teams, such as remote access creation for upwards of four to five users.

  • Be familiar with running batch powerons and processing frequency modulation (FM) changes.

  • Be able to attend to details when completing SymXchange parameters.

Stickley said it most cases Mahalo Banking prefers a nine-month timeline from contract signing to going live.

Jim Stickley

“While we can accommodate less time and our conversions are designed to have an extremely low impact on the credit union members, we encourage the extra time to eliminate rushed decisions,” he said. “This boils down to collaboration and communication. Mahalo has a staff of seasoned credit union people that can help with all the core and vendor questions.”

Since RMCU only recently rolled out the solution, Fleiner couldn’t share any related metrics with Finopotamus. She noted that Mahalo has been “extremely responsive in issues occurring or enhancements needed” for those issues. “Most were deployed immediately. There are some feature items, and they are constantly on top of those as well.”

Denny Howell, chief operating officer at Mahalo Banking, said RMCU is a “perfect example” of what a credit union should expect: seamless conversions, happy members and all commitments being met.

“We’ve worked hard to support the RMCU team in implementing a positive conversion experience that kept challenges to a minimum, while being sure we did not cause unintended disruptions for the members,” he said.

Fleiner explained that this undertaking has been “perhaps the largest or most impactful change for our institution,” as it affects so many members and staff. She offered the following advice to other credit unions looking into a similar solution: Find a vendor that is a true partner.

“We wanted a vendor who wanted to improve based on our recommendations, a vendor who was responsive to issues, and a vendor who communicated well and worked hard to connect with our staff who are connecting with our members, and I feel this was the case with Mahalo Banking.”

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