As you enter the Sunnyvale, California, headquarters of Star One Credit Union (CU) (Off-site Link) and walk through its back room operations, the energy from busy employees is evident. What was once a somewhat scary concept of bringing full control over its service solutions in-house, is now a process that is seamless, with staff enjoying the many benefits of added controls.
Founded in 1956, Star One CU is the ninth largest credit union in the United States with assets over $5.6 billion and a continually growing membership of over 86,000. Star One CU found itself, like many other financial institutions, faced with making decisions about how to move forward in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment. Within this environment, Star One's challenge was to consider additional changes that held great promise to provide long-term benefits to the credit union.
Prior to the recent changes, Star One CU accessed services via the FedLine Advantage® access solution. This included Fedwire® Services, FedACH® Services, and FedCash® Services. Ultimately, it decided that bringing the final piece of the puzzle, Check 21-enabled Services, in-house was the answer. So, Star One CU now utilizes the entire suite that includes FedReceipt®, FedReceipt Plus for Returns, FedForward® and FedReturn® Services.
One surprising outcome was that the change was not as difficult as Star One CU staff had anticipated. Being Check 21-enabled and equipped with new software technology simplified the process tremendously, as well as the extensive preparation performed by the credit union itself. “We were pleasantly surprised by the support received both from the Federal Reserve Bank team and the software vendor,” said Lynn Brubaker, Vice President Deposit Services. She further stated that the close contact with their Fed account executive was helpful and supportive and that his extensive experience made the process much easier.
“Initially, staff was a little concerned about bringing all the responsibility in-house, thinking it may be a little scary to work directly with the Federal Reserve Banks. Now our team loves this control so much, we ponder why we didn’t do this sooner.”
Lynn Brubaker, Vice President - Deposit Services
Star One Credit Union
The major benefit gained by Star One CU was control over its check processing operations. “We see adjustments first and can make corrections to the transit files prior to submission to the Fed. This capability decreases errors and improves service to our most valuable asset ─ our members,” stated Ranay Allred, Assistant Manager Support Services. Star One CU also gained efficiencies in that their processes are not dependent on anyone but themselves. The ability to chart its own course has been invaluable. More importantly, Star One CU was happy to see its much anticipated cost savings come to fruition once the cost analysis was completed.
Star One CU found that communication was a major key to success in making each step of the transition a non-event. Brubaker noted that involving staff from the beginning was integral for the team to understand the process. This included all staff and management, all departments touched by the changes, such as Web Information Systems and Accounting, as well as branch team members. In addition, team members made valuable contributions and had a commitment to success based on participating from the ground floor up.
Once staff is on board, indicated Joannie Ojeda, Manager Support Services, it is important to continue the communications effort. She recommends that institutions interested in working directly with the Fed not be afraid to ask questions to ensure staff understands the process and can make necessary adjustments to fit the institution’s individual needs. She also recommends working with other financial institutions to share best practices. Communication with software vendors and Federal Reserve Bank staff, including customer support staff and the account executive, helped make the process extremely smooth.
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