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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Valued Credit Union Clients Help Samaha & Associates Celebrate 25 Years in Business

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

By W.B. King

With the uncertainty of Y2K on the horizon, Sabeh Samaha, who began his career more than a decade earlier as a network analyst, found himself on a new career path leading to the credit union industry — its motto of “people helping people” synced perfectly with his approach to business.

“I am an immigrant. America always was the land of opportunity to me (and still is) and the more I learned about the wonderful people in the credit union industry, I wanted to use the skills I acquired in banking technology to help this great industry thrive,” said Samaha, who grew up in Lebanon and Dubai, later earning his International Baccalaureate Diploma at the University of Greenwich at Avery Hill, England. He would go on to receive a bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in technology at the University of San Diego. These pursuits were followed by higher education coursework at UCLA, MIT and Harvard University.

After his noted analyst work with Quantum Network, Samaha joined MidEast Data Systems, the Data General/Apple/Tektronix/DataProducts EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) distributors as a sales engineer where he participated in the design and implementation of strategic technology projects. He followed this post by joining CO-OP Financial Services (now Co-op Solutions) as manager of implementations and client services. Next up was an international assignment with the Global Debit Services division of MasterCard International where he managed the EMEA Region’s debit (Cirrus/Maestro) product lines where he successfully transformed that region from the lowest into the highest growth rate for MasterCard International.

But as the new millennium approached, “corporate life” wasn’t as fulfilling as he had hoped. During one conversation with a former colleague who was working at a credit union, he learned about their Y2K pain points. Samaha happily offered his services, which gave birth to Samaha & Associates in 1998. By word of mouth, he soon gained seven credit union clients, successfully stewarding each through the Y2K transition.

A Credit Union Family

While the Miami-based firm has worked with hundreds of credit unions over the years, completing more than 500 technology implementations and projects, Samaha fondly recalled that Orlando Federal Credit Union was among his first clients. The $362 million credit union, which serves more than 26,000 members at eight branch locations, has returned to the firm over the last 25 years for a myriad of projects, including online banking and mobile banking implementations and a core system conversion.

“The process Samaha & Associates uses has held true throughout the years and that’s one of the reasons why we have had this long-term partnership,” said Orlando Federal Credit Union President and CEO Suzanne Weinstein. “They understand reputation risk and they understand our members have options and that we are here to provide the best service and in turn, they provide the best service to us.”

Sabeh Samaha

Beginning as essentially a one-man operation, over the last 25 years the firm has flourished and now features industry-leading consultants. This team of professionals is dedicated to serving the technology needs of the credit union industry, Samaha told Finopotamus.

“My team is my family. We are a small, tightknit group that always supports each other and will stop at nothing to support our credit unions clients, which we also consider family,” Samaha said, adding that he has never employed a sales force — all of the firm’s clients come from referrals or word of mouth.

“Many of our clients, like Orlando Federal Credit Union, have been with us since the beginning, but we are so thankful that our credit union family continues to grow year after year,” he continued. “This is not just a job to us, it’s a vocation.”

The $1.3 billion Wichita, Kansas-based Credit Union of America first contacted Samaha & Associates in February 2011 for assistance with a core conversion search and implementation project. In August 2015, after the core was successfully implemented, Credit Union of America hired the firm again for a cards (debit, processor, ATM terminal driver) project. In July 2020, Credit Union of America, which supports 87,000 members at 14 branches, engaged the firm regarding a new cards and operations project as well as for assistance with related market search and contract renegotiations.

“We have engaged Samaha & Associates several times over the last decade. One of the reasons we continue to go back and reach out to them is because they really become an extension of our team. When you engage Samaha & Associates, they will see that you work hard, but they will work harder than you. The consultant’s become a part of our team,” said Credit Union of America Chief Operating Officer Eileen Phelps. “Not only do they help us negotiate excellent contracts and pricing, they educate us as to what pitfalls to watch for and to make sure we are getting what we need from our vendors, and to get out of that contract if certain things aren’t met. We will continue to keep Samaha & Associates at the top of our consultant list and look forward every time for the opportunity to work with them.”

When Members Comes First, Good Business Follows

As Samaha and his team look forward to the next 25 years, their collective focus will be on anticipating technology trends and ensuring the credit union industry remains viable and thriving. And while Samaha said some technological advancements, such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), could change certain banking applications, he is confident that the integrity of the credit union movement will not be swayed.

“The credit union industry is based on the ethos of ‘people helping people’ — how can you replace our people?” Samaha offered, referring to ML and AI. “I have always trusted credit unions to do the right thing and I don’t foresee that changing because over the last 25-plus years, the credit union industry has proven time and time again, regardless of the latest technological advancements, that when you put the needs of your members first, a successful business model follows.”


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