An Education In Online Banking Conversion

All hands on deck for phone duty is just one way Educators Credit Union ensured smooth sailing during a conversion.

Educators Credit Union ($1.7B, Racine, WI) recognized the need for a new online banking provider at the end of 2014.

We wanted to update our member experience, says Peter Stein, senior vice president of human resources at Educators. And the [online] system influences the member experience and our reputation.


Educators Credit Union
Data as of 09.30.16

HQ: Racine, WA
MEMBERS: 143,903
ROA: 0.79%

The credit union vetted providers and rolled out a new system in January 2016. But conversions of any sort require both careful planning before the go-live date and the flexibility to handle unexpected challenges after implementation.

Educators Credit Union uses Alkami for its online banking platform. Find your next partner in the Callahan & Associates online Buyer’s Guide.

In this Q&A, Stein discusses how Educators prepared for the conversion and offers best practices for credit unions considering the same.

What did Educators do before to prepare for the conversion?

Peter Stein: First, we extended the hours for our member response center that’s what we call our call center until 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. We gave staff plenty of notice before we did that.

Second, we had every senior manager work most of those hours and answer calls. Everyone was here until 7 p.m., and the staff appreciated that. It was important to show we were in this together, that it was a team effort.

We knew we would work more hours and things could be stressful, because with any new system members are frustrated and confused, but everyone was patient.

What were your biggest concerns going into the conversion?

PS: Any conversion carries reputation risk. We wanted to make sure this was a positive experience for the members and would make their lives easier.

We realized early this was an all-hands-on-deck undertaking, especially for the first two or three weeks. So we asked everyone, not just a few people, to own this project.

What were some of the challenges that popped up at the go-live date?

PS: People don’t like change, so we had a flood of incoming calls.

As with any new system, there were some things we needed to correct as well as help desk tickets to check. Alkami was on-site those first two weeks until 7p.m. helping with that.

We have approximately 140,000 members and some 90,000 have online banking. We went live with a brand new system and had everyone set up new passwords. There were technological issues with individual accounts. We handled these calls in our member response center, and some members even received calls back from senior managers.

Everyone was helping. It wasn’t a member response center problem; it was a credit union challenge. Everyone answered calls, probably not as effectively as someone doing this full time, but we were all pitching in. That was critical.

We realized early this was an all-hands-on-deck undertaking, especially for the first two or three weeks. So we asked everyone, not just a few people, to own this project.

Peter Stein, Vice President Human Resources, Educators Credit Union

Was bringing in the senior team to answer the phones a way to keep employees engaged?

PS: Yes, and we did a few other things. We allowed member response center employees to wear blue jeans. And because we had employees here until 7 p.m. every day for several weeks, we provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Senior managers handed out donuts and poured coffee several mornings for member response center employees. It was the little things that people appreciated.

One Saturday, our COO and vice president of the member response center thanked everyone in person and gave them a new $100 bill.

How did you come up with that idea, and who received them?

PS: We gave them to everyone in the member response center. It was something our COO came up with as a way to recognize their hard work.

How much did you budget for this conversion? Did you increase staff?

PS: We budgeted the number of hours the member response center was going to be open, looked at the average salaries of those employees, and then calculated overtime.

We had only a slight staff increase because we knew we would have other employees take calls as well.

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What kind of feedback did you get from staff?

PS: They appreciated how we shared in the work that senior managers stayed late.

I’ve worked for other companies during projects like this where some people help and some people never do. People ask, Wait a minute, why isn’t everyone here?’

With this conversion, our employees recognized everyone was here, early, and asking people how their day was. That means a lot to people.

What best practices or pieces of advice would you give other credit unions planning a conversion?

PS: Don’t do this in a vacuum. Get as many people involved as there needs to be and understand that any conversion is a huge undertaking.

Everyone needs to be involved from the president to off-site staff. People came in on Saturdays, Sundays, and Martin Luther King Day when they otherwise wouldn’t. It’s a matter of being available and supporting others.

Also, communication is key. We told staff early so they knew what was coming and what to expect. We didn’t tell them they would have to start working overtime the day before. And we told them what we were providing, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Did we have to buy food? No. But it’s the gesture. There were people who did work 12-hour days, and when we gave them food, that was one less thing they had to worry about. I think they appreciated that at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s the little things.

January 13, 2017

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