Making A Change
Senior systems engineer Mike Adams knows Securityplus FCU inside and out. After all, he started his career there 37 years ago. In fact, his first full-time job was at the credit union. So, he knows when tides are shifting in the business. That’s precisely how Mike felt in 2018 as he sat at his desk thinking, “We’re just not seeing the foot traffic we used to see in our branches. Sure, our members still like visiting the credit union every now and then. They like knowing that we have a physical presence when they need it, but digital is the future. We absolutely must be … where our members want us to be.”
Critical moments of thought like that drove Mike and the entire leadership team at Securityplus to evaluate their current digital banking technology partnership. Was the technology still competitive? Were we getting a sufficient return on our investment? Does our vendor see the future of digital banking the same way that we do? These questions and many others had to be answered.
After all, Securityplus was writing a sizable check for their existing digital banking solution every year. Mike said, “We’d reached the tipping point. We were paying all this money and we had to ask … what are we really getting in return?” So, Mike and the leadership team decided to bring in their current partner for a meeting to ask them the most important question of all … why we should stay with you?
After that meeting, Mike said, “The writing was on the wall. It was time for a change. We weren’t getting value in return for what we were paying for. And, worse yet, they didn’t have a roadmap that would help us achieve our business goals in the future. We had to find a partner that could move at the speed we needed to go and deliver the features our members needed today … as well as the functionality they would demand from us tomorrow.”
That’s when Securityplus initiated a formal digital banking platform and vendor evaluation process. During the kickoff meeting, Mike said to the team, “I want everyone to think outside the box. Let’s not replace our existing solution with just another vendor. We need to take a hard look at what’s missing and what type of partner we truly need to be successful.” So, Securityplus set out on a journey that would take almost a year, and it started with clearly mapping out the credit union’s priorities and strategic goals.
Setting a Vision
Mike said, “The ultimate goal was to retain our membership and attract new members through a superior digital banking experience. We knew we had to recruit a new generation of members. Members that started using smartphones in middle school.” Mike recalls telling the team, “You see all those 12-year-old kids carrying their cell phones around. Well, we need to be there. Where they choose to spend their time. We need to provide a compelling banking experience on that digital device.”
“We wanted members to be able to manage their financial lives digitally. Not just give them a tool to see if their paycheck was deposited correctly. We needed a digital banking solution that could do just about everything our members can do when they walk into a branch. You want to open an account? You don’t need to come in, you can do it online 24/7. You want to see if a check cleared? You can look right on your phone. The solution had to enable us to create a branch experience … right in their pocket.”
With their goals clearly defined, Mike and the team began evaluating vendors and technologies. After careful consideration, Mike said, “The team narrowed it down to two major vendors, and Alkami ended up on the winning end. One of the main reasons we chose Alkami was their vision. They knew who they were, where they were going and what they wanted to accomplish. Their vision was fully aligned with ours and after meeting their team, we knew Alkami was the company we wanted to partner with.”
Reflecting back on Alkami’s presentation Mike said, “It was enlightening to see a company come in and say … ‘Let me tell you what we are not.’ They said, ‘We’re not a bill pay company, we’re not a credit card company, we’re not this or that. This is who we are, here is our vision and how we the future of digital banking.’ They also explained how we could deliver one seamless member experience through their platform. It was clear — they knew what they were doing and that they wanted to be our partner in digital banking.”
Doing the Work
In February of 2018, Securityplus started to transition from their current solution to Alkami’s digital banking platform. This was a learning experience for Mike and the team. “We discovered a lot throughout this journey. We learned so much about our members and our business. In fact, we uncovered several processes that were still being done manually and we were like, what are we doing? We are still doing this every day? Oh my, we need to fix that.”
Mike went on to say, “Our implementation wasn’t flawless. In fact, we had some hurdles to jump through and it was a bit of a roller coaster ride. For instance, we had some very specific requirements for how we wanted our member data to be structured and used within Alkami’s platform. This was no easy task and it took some back and forth with our Alkami project manager to get it right. That said, we worked together to find a solution to that issue and others along the way. Even with significant challenges like that, we were still able to make our go-live date and had a little time to spare.”
Looking back, Mike said, “That was some humbling, hard work and it wasn’t always a smooth journey. You don’t just write a check, say you are going to switch and the system is live. A significant amount of energy goes into making a conversion successful and it takes skillful people across your organization that understand how things work to make it happen. But, as much as you want to include everyone … every step of the way … there are times when you need a small committee to make fast, tough decisions. Do we go left or do we go right here? That’s why it’s important that those committee members represent cross functional areas of the business. Because, if you leave it up to IT or just one department, you may get the conversion done, but you may not like what you get in the end. That’s why it is so important to have the voice of retail, marketing, finance, compliance and other departments represented in the process.”
On October 16, 2018, Securityplus went live with Alkami and that’s when Mike said, “I felt all the hard work had paid off. Seeing our members accessing their accounts, transferring money, making bill payments … that was rewarding. Those first few days, our digital banking engagement rate continued to climb. It just kept going up and up. In fact, our Alkami project manager said, ‘You have exceeded the benchmarks set by many of our clients and your numbers continue to rise.’ That was another one of those high moments like, wow we broke some records here.”
A New Future
With the Alkami platform up and running, Mike and the team quickly began measuring member satisfaction. After analyzing feedback from members, Mike said, “We’re just not hearing the complaints we used to hear about our previous digital banking system. Instead, we’re getting kudos from members saying how much they like the experience, how it works and how fast it is.”
Less than a year after the go-live date, Mike said, “Alkami has already been a difference-maker for Securityplus. With Alkami, we’re not just paying a monthly bill to a vendor we never hear from. They are deeply committed to our success. They are constantly listening to our needs and we are seeing enhancements to the platform delivered on a consistent basis. This was the type of partnership we were looking for the entire time.”
Mike hopes that his peers in the financial services industry will learn from his story and experience. “We can’t forget that we owe it to members to find ways to reduce costs and increase the value we deliver. That’s why you have to constantly evaluate what you’re paying your vendors. If you’re not getting sufficient value from those partnerships, it’s time to pull that contract out, put together a game plan, and start evaluating a replacement or at least have a hard conversation with that vendor.”
“Remember, just because the technology you are using works — that doesn’t mean it is delivering optimal value to your members. Digital banking technology will continue to grow and change at an even faster pace in the future. So, you can’t afford to be complacent. You need to be adapting and evolving all the time. And you need partners, like Alkami, who can help you compete with greater speed and agility.”