Posted by Alison Barksdale, AVP of Mktg, CU Members Mortgage on 3/7/2019

As a credit union professional, you take your job seriously. You know that it’s not enough to have great member service skills; you also need to be a student of the business. You read blog posts and the latest letters and circulars when guidelines are updated. You attend training courses and keep your licenses current, and when you’re scanning through social media you read anything about the industry that catches your eye. As a professional, you know it’s important to do all of those things and you’re proud you do.

But, it’s not enough.

Reading up on programs and keeping your license current is vital, but it takes more than that to become an irreplaceable professional succeeding in today’s market. You need to get out and see what’s happening. You need to meet with others who are doing what you’re doing and doing it well. You need to attend events that will give you fresh ideas and help you grow. 

If you want to continue to grow as a professional and reach your goals, you need to make a commitment to professional development. Here are three keys to maximize your development:

  1. Content is King
    When you attend a conference or workshop, you want to check out the agenda. Be sure you’re getting top notch content that will give you some action items to take back to the credit union the next day. Sometimes these sessions become all fluff and no real depth, they may make you feel good, but they don’t help you in your day-to-day routine.  Read through the descriptions and see what to expect before you register. Make sure it’s not a session you’ve already attended, but don’t shy away from speakers you’ve heard before. Great speakers will get hired repeatedly and often write new content to stay in the circuit of presenting.  They are experts after all. Don’t forget to search for speakers you don’t know too. You’ll want a fresh perspective as well.

  2. Take Time to Talk Shop
    Networking is also a necessity at these events and one of the main reasons you must physically attend a workshop or conference. This gives you the chance to sit and talk with peers to learn what’s working and what’s not. You can find out what challenges others are facing and compare notes on how to handle them. You can learn about helpful tools or vendors and even find tips on other events that are worth attending.

  3. Application is Essential
    When it comes to any type of workshop, conference, webinar, class or any other type of professional development, it means nothing if you don’t apply it and let it impact your daily life and processes. A good educational session will spur ideas, give you some applicable actions items and help you make changes to your day-to-day. It will help you grow and achieve or even surpass your goals. Whatever it is you’ve learned at your event, take it back to the credit union and apply it. That’s where you are going to get the most out of your attendance.

If you want to surpass goals and achieve a new level of personal growth, you must make the commitment to attending outside events in your field on a regular basis. It’s not just one event a year; it’s multiple events a year. It might be trying out something new or scheduling something out of the normal calendar too. Attending the same event year after year might not be the best way to develop, although it’s a great start. When it comes to development I challenge you to find new ways to learn and develop your teams. What do you have next to take your professional career, better yet your credit union, to the next level?

Categories: Business Partners, Education & Training
Posted by Mr. Bill Meyer, Communications/Public Relations, Credit Union Direct Lending on 3/5/2019

New technology systems always make at least some employees feel apprehensive. That’s understandable; most people don’t like change.


The $555 million Southwest Airlines FCU kept this in mind as it prepared to launch the Lending 360 loan origination system (LOS) two years ago. To minimize that fear, the Dallas-based credit union had its lending staff participate in testing the system before its November 2016 go-live day.

“We created templates and gave them 14 different products to test,” said Sharon Baker, SVP of Organizational Development and Operations. “We assigned two to three per week. Not only did they help with testing, they learned the system in the process.”


Lending 360 is such an intuitively designed loan origination system, Baker added, employees were only provided with a simple flow chart and received no initial training up front. And yet, she said, they were able to process loans immediately during testing.


“By the time they went into classroom training, they were able to focus on ways to optimize their use of the system,” she said. “The most common response I received from staff after the launch was ‘Is that really all I have to do?’”


Southwest Airlines FCU had been using a loan origination system, offered by its core system provider. When it was announced that the system would be sunset, the credit union decided to conduct an LOS search that included third-party vendors.


Southwest Airlines FCU had typically met or exceeded its loan growth goals, so it wasn’t only looking for a system that would boost loan production. The credit union was also seeking better lending efficiencies, more secure delivery, streamlined policies and procedures and relief from pain points caused by poor system integration.


Not only did the credit union achieve all those operational and compliance goals, it also significantly exceeded its annual consumer loan growth budget of 6%, achieving over 16% growth for the last two years. In August 2018, Southwest Airlines FCU funded $17 million from 969 applications, its highest funding month in history. That figure includes $3.3 million funded exclusively by the credit union’s Ebranch loan officer who handles online applications collected through Lending 360.


That’s pretty remarkable for a credit union with a field of membership spread across the country that’s always on the go, thanks to its primary airline sponsor.


Adding e-signatures through DocuSign was a real game changer, Baker added. Prior to transitioning to Lending 360, staff would send a secure email to members with loan documents as attachments. Members would then have to print them out, sign them, scan them and securely email them back or send them via snail mail. Making efficiencies even more challenging was that loan documents didn’t integrate with the old LOS, which required staff to do manual calculations in order to approve and process loans.


“It was a big convenience and speed issue for members,” Baker noted.


Now, with Lending 360, loan processing time has been cut down to as quickly as five minutes on average. The system’s integration with the credit union’s optical system also eliminated a full-time employee position solely dedicated to scanning docs into the LOS. That employee is now being utilized elsewhere and provides greater value to members.


Loan decisioning is also more consistent with Lending 360. Southwest Airlines FCU utilizes L360’s decision manager feature and uses auto decisioning to approve about 30% of all loans. The credit union plans to further automate the decision process by adding Lending 360’s Decision Challenger later in the year.


Lending 360’s ability to grow as the credit union grows and quickly and easily provide system updates were also important features to the credit union, Baker added.


Finally, Southwest Airlines FCU appreciates L360’s structured workflows and built-in reporting for quick management reviews. The credit union has found significantly fewer errors and increased communication among employees within the system, without having to toggle over to email for approvals.


“Our member surveys have been very positive,” Baker said. “Members have told us that the loan process is easy, our loan officers are wonderful to work with and the overall process is now painless.”

Categories: Business Partners, Strategic Planning & Consulting, Technology Consulting & Compliance
Posted by Kathy L Garner, CUDE, Unknown, Unknown on 2/28/2019

Credit unions, and more specifically, corporate credit unions, have been my life for almost 40 years. I have truly been blessed with a great career. Just days away from retirement on March 4, I want to share a few parting thoughts on the industry I love.

To no one’s surprise, interacting with credit union people is what I will miss most. I have worked alongside wonderful individuals and outstanding volunteers. A highlight of my career was working with boards that trusted me enough to allow me to implement our shared vision. That requires surrounding yourself with great people. I will miss these connections and the stimulus they provided. Knowing I may never see some of these people again, saying goodbye is hard.

Opportunities, with a little luck

So much of my journey has been about timing. When opportunities come to you, you have to grab them, but luck has played a part, as well. Early in my career – at age 25 – I worked for U.S. Central Credit Union. I helped manage their investment portfolio and manage professional executives; it’s where I learned responsibility. I doubt that would happen today. The lesson for women, especially, is to lean into opportunities – and take some risk – but opportunities will also come to you.

Five years down the road, I think credit unions will continue to thrive, but it will be a challenging market going forward. Cybersecurity, and technology in general, will remain a challenge. Credit unions have to try to stay ahead of threats and manage them.

The overall number of credit unions will continue to shrink. Those that remain probably will be larger and more complex. They will need additional services to compete with fintechs, and while they may have the tools and resources to do that, they currently face many federal regulations.

I hope compliance doesn’t eliminate the small institutions. There is no cookie-cutter compliance, but organizations like Catalyst Corporate may be able to adapt their systems to help member credit unions meet compliance regulations. Catalyst Corporate will continue to be a strong partner to credit unions, helping them in many aspects of their business.

Catalyst Corporate has come a long way since 2011. Over the last seven years, the organization has surpassed even its own goals for number of members, income, growth and more. Culture is key – we have great people with good systems, focused on doing the right thing: delivering quality services to our members.

Facing challenges, building on the vision together

Catalyst Corporate’s goal is to be efficient, innovative and remain relevant to members. Although our product set and service delivery may look different in the future, Catalyst Corporate will continue innovating. For example, robotic process automation and blockchain may become commonplace. However, our greatest strength is our ability to execute. Strategy and vision are important, but execution is key to moving services to market quickly. Catalyst Corporate is good at executing by removing barriers and staying disciplined to complete a task.

As far as the organization I leave behind, there is no doubt that Bruce Fox will continue to build upon the strategic vision that’s already in place for Catalyst Corporate. The management and staff at Catalyst Corporate are so strong, they can accomplish anything they tackle.

People ask what I will do when I retire. The answer is travel, spend more time with family and friends, play more golf, work out whenever I want and maybe teach a college class or two. With more flexibility in my schedule, I can enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

I want to thank each and every one of you for the job you do and for touching my life.

Categories: Business Partners, Financial & Auditing, Technology Consulting & Compliance
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