Consolidating Payments Management

How Wright-Patt Credit Union reorganized in the face of a changing payments landscape.
Darrick Weeks

Wright-Patt Credit Union has more than $2.7 billion in assets and 260,000 members. It serves southern and central Ohio. Darrick Weeks has been chief operating officer since 2010.

About two years ago, we changed our structure here at Wright-Patt Credit Union to recognize the changing payments landscape. In the process of doing so, and in looking at the change from our high-level service delivery strategy, we had three things in mind:

  1. Remain relevant to our members in the payments space;
  2. Drive down operating costs we were fairly certain that legislatively through the Durbin Amendment and other actions our interchange income per transaction would decline; and
  3. Increase revenue and member penetration of Wright-Patt payments products.


data as of 09.30.13

  • HQ: Fairborn, OH
  • ASSETS: $2.7B
  • MEMBERS: 262,684
  • BRANCHES: 26
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.45%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 26.59%
  • ROA: 1.52%

Previously, we had a manager of card services who reported directly to me. We also had a payments systems supervisor who reported to the manager of card services and basically oversaw ACH wires and like activity. What we wanted to do, keeping in mind our three goals stated above, was create a position that established a higher-level leader who would span the strategic as well as the operational aspects. So we created the position of director of eServices and support. We were fortunate to be able to hire someone internally who had been with us a fairly long time at various other director level positions. The position requires a fair amount of tech savvy, which he has, and he has done very well.

The director of eServices and support oversees three groups:

  1. Cards and ATMs;
  2. eServices/remote services This contains some elements that used to be part of the cards function such as home banking, mobile banking, remote deposit capture, and bill pay but we stripped them out because of their increasing importance; we made an internal hire for this manager position about eight months ago;
  3. Deposit services This owns a lot of our operational process and procedure, our deposit accounts, archival team, and special services such as HSAs, IRAs, decedent accounts, etc.

Note: We also transitioned out a fourth group to our accounting team. This group is what you might call the payments systems piece, it really has to do with moving money, and includes share drafts, wires, and ACH.

These three components cards and ATMs, e-services including remote payments, and deposit services all report to the director of eServices and support. The director reports to me, the COO. To put this in perspective, I have five other individuals reporting to me, including the vice president of marketing and business development, the director of investment and insurance services (wealth management), two directors who oversee market areas (our soon-to-be 30 member centers, which is what we call our branches), and one director that oversees the member help center (our call center).

I realize smaller credit unions don’t have the resources for these kinds of organizational divisions and functions, but it still is critical they do something with their payments or they risk losing relevance. I recommend credit unions put an executive in charge of overseeing the payments functions and hold that person accountable for the P&L performance of those functions. This could be the part-time work of a chief operating officer, a vice president, or a director of retail. The point is, someone has to be looking at payments more broadly than credit and debit cards and embrace emerging payments along with the traditional ones. This individual should attempt to leverage the credit union’s partnerships with its processor and with its Master Card or Visa brand as well as keep a sharp eye on developments in the payments space. We don’t necessarily need to be industry leaders, but we do need to be fast followers.

Whoever is chosen for the role of payments should have a background in credit cards or at least a working familiarity with the function. That person can be from outside the credit union or from another department or discipline, but they should be a quick learner. The person should be good or can become so with process. The person should have a strategic perspective, be comfortable with process improvement so as to drive down costs, and be willing to develop a strong knowledge of products and demographics. We require anyone at the director level or higher to have a bachelor’s degree. General business acumen is required, as is an inclination for problem-solving and for keeping up with quickly evolving technology. Such a person, of course, should have excellent leadership skills.

Credit unions and payments leaders should be aware that the payments industry is not yet settled; it’s changing rapidly. There are many platforms and standards, and the weeding out is far from complete. No one knows what is eventually going to evolve. As I tell our board frequently, it’s like the old VHS-versus-Beta war over a recording tape standard but with even greater consequences and many more players. We must keep a sharp eye on developments and be willing to try some services but remain flexible enough to change with the market if we’ve guessed wrong.

Consolidating the new payments technologies with the more traditional credit and debit card function will help give credit unions a more strategic vision of what is going on in the payments industry. Rather than individuals concentrating on segregated technologies and advances, one person can see developments and pieces of a whole.

As told to Brooke C. Stoddard

February 7, 2014

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