Client Success Story
Digital Banking Success Through Authentic Bonds
CIO, Corning Credit Union
Valued Client Since
Tenure at Company
Experience in Industry
"Building relationships internally and with your partners, chasing a shared goal — that is the deciding factor in success."
Mark Hufnagel, CIO, Corning Credit Union
Making The Choice
Mark Hufnagel sat back in his chair after the meeting, tired and frustrated. As the newly appointed CIO for Corning Credit Union, Mark knew the organization’s current approach to digital banking was not sustainable.
That meeting was one of several that Mark had recently attended to discuss new features for their current online banking platform. What bothered Mark the most was that his growing wish list was not grounded in any sort of strategic plan. Mark said, “I remember it like it was yesterday. It felt like I was playing the old arcade game Whack-a-Mole. Chasing every new technology and feature that caught someone’s eye.” That meeting took place three years ago and that’s when he said, enough is enough. Mark set out on a mission to define a comprehensive digital banking strategy for Corning Credit Union. A strategy that aligned with the credit union’s vision, business goals and member requirements. Mark said, “I really had to take a step back and spend a lot of my time that year pulling together a plan for our end-to-end digital banking experience.
Everything from our core digital banking platform to mobile access, alternative payments like Apple Pay® and mobile wallets, online marketing, and more.” That’s precisely what Mark did, and several months later, Mark and his team had a clear and connected strategy in place. One of the first things that surfaced was the realization that their current online banking platform and partner would not cut it.
The organization would need a new platform that was flexible, scalable and secure and a partner with a vision and technology roadmap that aligned with Corning Credit Union’s goals. Mark remembers that day well. He said, “We immediately hired a third-party firm to conduct a comprehensive evaluation.
We had five different companies come in to present their platform and vision for the future. We did a ton of due diligence and ultimately selected Alkami.”
"Our internal discussions and meetings with Alkami were extremely valuable because they enabled us to get in front of potential issues. We were able to communicate and manage expectations. They ensured we were proactive instead of reactive."
Mark knew this was a game-changing decision for the credit union. He told his executive team and the entire company, “This will be the most disruptive thing we have done since our core conversion.” The first few times Mark said that, people looked at him like, what are you talking about, it’s just an online banking app? Mark knew it was bigger than that so he wanted everyone bought in before the journey started. “If I said that to our leaders and team members once, I must have said it 100 times throughout the implementation.”
Mark understood that setting appropriate expectations and establishing ownership across the organization would be critical. “Through repetition, I was able to get the whole organization on board and comfortable with the reality that this was going to be extremely disruptive, but in a positive way and for a positive result. Establishing shared ownership was the first step because it made the initiative a priority for everyone and it freed up resources that would be required to make it a success.”
From that point forward, every executive management meeting, leadership discussion and company-wide gathering allocated time to discuss the implementation effort. Mark said, “We would always carve out time, even if it was just a 10-minute update to reiterate what was happening and how important this initiative was.”
Another key to Mark’s success was establishing dedicated project teams and assigning executive-level leaders to each team. Corning had three teams: one for technology; another for operations; and a team for internal and external communications. The technology team was responsible for the implementation, while the operations team redefined and implemented new processes and the communications team handled employee training and member on-boarding.
Early in the implementation process, the teams would meet every two weeks and multiple times a week leading up to the go-live date. Mark said, “Our internal discussions and meetings with Alkami were extremely valuable because they enabled us to get in front of potential issues. We were able to communicate and manage expectations. They ensured we were proactive instead of reactive.”
"It’s not just Stephen their founder or Mike the CEO, but the implementation team, their project managers … everyone we work with at Alkami goes out of their way to help. Everyone wants to build something great."
The communications team would prove to be instrumental in the process. “Having our marketing director run the communications team was huge. This team handled everything from creating an intranet that housed our employee training manuals, FAQs and launch dashboards to developing integrated communication programs and tools used to inform and educate our members.” Mark said, “It sounds crazy, but right up front we said members won’t read or remember anything we share with them. But, we can’t focus on that.
We still need to over communicate. Acknowledging this up front prevented us from taking shortcuts and ensured that we stuck to our motto for member communication — no surprises.”
Corning started communicating early and often with members — in the branches, over the phone and online. Mark recalls, “Every interaction with a member would include something that would help them prepare for the change.
We made sure to tell them, here’s what is happening, here is the information you’ll need to access the new system, here’s how you can personalize your experience, and here’s where to go if you need help. Our communications team even built a series of videos that showed members how to make the most of their new online banking experience.”
With the launch just a few weeks away, Mark also had to prepare for his board of directors meeting. As soon as the meeting started, one of the board members asked the big question, “Okay Mark, when you go live how are you going to know that it’s successful and things went well?” Mark took a step back and thought about his response before he said, “It’s successful if it works. If members can log in and see their accounts.” The board member asked Mark to share more, so Mark went on to say, “Look, we are injecting change into the banking experience for 45 to 50 thousand members.
If they can log in and go about their business with little to no disruption, then that’s a win. For us and for them.” Reflecting back on that conversation, Mark said, “Setting expectations and focusing on small wins was critical.”
In fact, Mark’s success metrics for those first few weeks didn’t have anything to do with new features or functionality. “We were focused on the basics, making sure it worked and performed well for members. And that is exactly what happened.” Mark went on to say, “Throughout the implementation and launch, Alkami’s platform and team performed at the highest possible level. They truly delivered.”
With the launch behind him, Mark remembers thinking, “Now we can move forward and start maximizing the true potential of Alkami’s platform.”
"We looked at a lot of technology vendors and while Alkami’s digital banking platform blew them all away, that’s not the main reason we selected them. It really came down to their people and the relationships we quickly formed with their team."
A Partner in Confident Growth
Several months later, after having some time to reflect on the journey he had just taken, Mark said, “When you are launching a new digital banking platform, it’s easy to get caught up on the technology and performance metrics, but just like everything else in business, success comes down to people and relationships.
Building relationships internally and with your partners, chasing a shared goal — that is the deciding factor in success.” He went on to say, “We looked at a lot of technology vendors and while Alkami’s digital banking platform blew them all away, that’s not the main reason we selected them.
It really came down to their people and the relationships we quickly formed with their team. The opportunity to work with Alkami’s smart, technical, genuine and driven team to deliver the best digital banking solution for our members — that’s the real reason we chose Alkami. That’s their true differentiator.”
Fast forward to today and that relationship remains true. Recently, Mark and his team ran into a small roadblock, so Mark texted Stephen Bohanon, the founder of Alkami. Thirty-seconds later, Stephen responded to Mark’s text with the message, I’m on it.
Mark says, “That’s what trusting relationships are all about. Calling on someone and knowing that they will come through for you.” And, according to Mark, when it comes to Alkami, “It’s not just Stephen their founder or Mike the CEO, but the implementation team, their project managers … everyone we work with at Alkami goes out of their way to help.
Everyone wants to build something great. They genuinely want to help credit unions and community banks serve their members. And that is vastly different from all the other companies we looked at.”