Want To Ensure A Match Made In Heaven? Start With The Perfect Proposal.

Core processors share best practices for crafting a truly useful RFP.


Creating a request for proposal for a new core processing system is no small matter. There’s no one right way to do it, but there are lots of better ways.

Suppliers see hundreds of proposals every year. Here, they share the “do” and “do more” tips that are sure to get any new relationship off to a great start.

Think Deep

An ideal RFP thoughtfully outlines specific business challenges and why changing core providers is critical for future success. That’s from Robin Kolvek, CEO at EPL, the Birmingham, AL, CUSO that provides core processing to 83 credit unions.

“It should have desired deliverables such as pricing and service expectations, culture and value alignment, and any other highly specific needs,” Kolvek says.




This all in addition to a comprehensive overview of system requirements, including “must have” and “nice to have” functionality and features. However, when writing, keep in mind that a 100-page RFP that asks general questions about services that every provider offers is far less valuable than a 20-page document that outlines specific, desired deliverables that speak to how a credit union wants to do business.

“Without a clear understanding of the credit union’s business objectives, operational requirements, and how a core provider can meet its needs, the RFP won’t yield the right facts to match the right system,” the EPL CEO says. “That’s bad for the credit union and core processor alike.”

Be Specific

Know what problems you’re trying to solve, suggests Tony Montgomery, CEO of Utah-based CUProdigy, a CUSO provider of core processing to 22 credit unions. Identify the top five to 10 items per business unit that are must-have requirements for the organization. Include nice-have requirements, too, but avoid duplication as much as possible.

Keep questions focused and specific for better answers. And don’t be afraid to throw in examples.

“Context helps us answer the question you’re really asking,” Montgomery adds.

And if there’s nonnegotiable functionality, say so and ask questions about how the core would make that situation work. Use the RFP as an opportunity to get that solution.

Shorter Is Better. Thorough Is Best.

“The more detailed information, the better,” Montgomery says. “But, generally, don’t include more questions than you’re willing to read.”

The 2,000-question RFP recently sent to Share One — the Memphis, TN, CUSO that currently provides its NewSolutions core to 102 credit unions — is a good example of bigger not necessarily being better.

“It must have had 100 questions about collections alone,” says Don Conrad, senior vice president for sales. “Typically, these kinds of RFPs are the result of consultants compiling information from different systems and different credit unions.”

David Mitchell, president of 36-client NYMBUS in Miami Beach, FL, says he also sees what he calls “canned” consultant RFPs from institutions that don’t need a lot of the requested information.

“The focus should be on how the solution will help the credit union be successful,” he says. “If you have no plans to use a product or service, don’t ask for that information and pricing. Don’t include it in the RFP.”

Still, Conrad at Share One says his CUSO prefers thoroughness to simple yes-no questions, which don’t offer the opportunity to give good answers.

“When we’re asked about failover and backups, we like to give examples and screen shots,” the SVP says.

The focus should be on how the solution will help the credit union be successful. If you have no plans to use a product or service, don’t include it in the RFP.

David Mitchell, President, NYMBUS

Ask The Right Questions

Mary Lou Naso is sales manager at 685-client FedComp in Fairfax, VA. She says a primary reason she hears why credit unions want to leave their current core is because it can’t meet their growing needs. To make sure the next one does, she recommends asking these questions:

  • How often do you update and upgrade?
  • How do you address compliance?
  • How long does it take to implement a requested programming change?
  • How much do such changes cost?
  • Is your help desk available 24/7?

And don’t shy away from asking tough questions like: “How many clients have you lost in the past two or three years?”

Share One’s Conrad points out that mergers cause many losses, but it’s still worth digging into and taking a hard look at the financial condition of the core provider to which the credit union will be tying its fortunes.

Share The Love

Mitchell at NYMBUS advises forming a committee, with a point person, to prepare the proposal. Make sure the parties involved understand the whole organization and its needs. Additionally, take the opportunity to look toward the future.

“Seek online and mobile solutions that can provide an Amazon-like experience,” he says. “We’re seeing fewer and fewer questions about passbook savings.”

What kinds questions does he think would provide useful? For starters:

  • Do you offer a multi-product suite that can eliminate the need for multiple vendors?
  • Do you offer a single sign-on for efficiencies across all product lines?
  • Do you maintain middleware or do you offer a flexible API layer?
  • How can I control my IT costs? How many IT specialists are we going to need to support your core?

“We want everyone to succeed by choosing the right core for their members,” the NYMBUS executive says. “Ours isn’t for everyone.”

The 2018 Core Report

Callahan's Supplier Market Share Guide: Credit Union Core Processors helps leaders fully understand the performance and strengths of core processors in the credit union space. This guide offers:

  • Expert opinion and advice.
  • Changes in market share.
  • Client performance comparisons.
  • Aggregate assets for credit union clients.
  • Newly acquired clients and integration information for select platforms.

Contact Callahan to order your copy today.

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