One Credit Union's Success Accessing Data: Efficiently and Affordably

Access to current, accurate information is vital to sound decision-making and long-term success. But with many end users in different departments requiring data on a daily basis, how do you make information available quickly, efficiently, and affordably? For Citadel Federal Credit Union (Thorndale, PA, $531 million, 80,000 members) the answer was easy: decentralization. By using an SQL-based tool to place data access directly on end users' desktops, the credit union is speeding the process, eliminating bottlenecks, and avoiding the need for costly hardware upgrades.

 

By USERS INCORPORATED - A FISERV CONNECTION

 

Access to current, accurate information is vital to sound decision-making and long-term success. But with many end users in different departments requiring data on a daily basis, how do you make information available quickly, efficiently, and affordably? For Citadel Federal Credit Union (Thorndale, PA, $531 million, 80,000 members) the answer was easy: decentralization. By using an SQL-based tool to place data access directly on end users' desktops, the credit union is speeding the process, eliminating bottlenecks, and avoiding the need for costly hardware upgrades.

Rethinking the Approach

Like many of its peers, Citadel relied on standard reports or an internal report writer to obtain information crucial to decision making - not an ideal situation. Tim Greim, Director of Information Systems, explains: ''The report writer required an extensive learning curve to create reports or extract data for other purposes, so the process was centralized by default within IS.'' Centralizing this labor-intensive effort created a host of problems: delays in getting data to end users due to the IS bottleneck, miscommunication about end users' needs (creating more work and delays), and a strain on the host system. ''We generated a lot of reports that were time-consuming to run and create,'' Greim adds, ''which meant a possible system upgrade for performance and a possible head count increase to turn around the large number of requests.''

In search of a better approach, Citadel worked with its core system processor, USERS, to identify a solution: the supplier's DataSafe/SQL product. DataSafe/SQL uses the widely accepted SQL standard to make information contained in a database easily accessible and usable by non-technical staff.

''We implemented DataSafe/SQL in the spring of 2001, making it available to 20 end users in areas like lending, marketing, finance, and audit,'' Greim says. ''The biggest immediate benefit is that the process is decentralized and more efficient. People have direct access to the information they need, when they need it, and the IS staff has more time to focus on other business objectives.''

Empowering the Staff

Citadel employees now access data for their own purposes and use it within the desktop applications they're already familiar with, like Microsoft Access or Excel. A PC driver gives the end users the connectivity they need to access the data; then the wizards in those applications walk them through the rest, with no need for specialized training. ''Since it works with many off-the-shelf packages like Access, Excel and Crystal Reports, DataSafe/SQL puts the information at your fingertips,'' Greim says. ''It gives our staff the flexibility to retrieve, review, analyze, sort or use the data however they see fit within their day-to-day jobs.''

A prime example is the marketing department. For the most fruitful direct marketing, Citadel uses an MCIF system to evaluate household profitability based on product and service enrollment and use. But the credit union was restricted to extracts from the vendor that focused on loans, deposits and some demographics. ''With DataSafe/SQL, our marketing staff can extract any data from our host - transaction counters, ATM/debit card use, electronic services use, deposit and loan balances, average monthly balances - and feed that into our MCIF system,'' Greim says. ''They can supplement the MCIF system with more data to obtain a more complete picture of the household.''

The lending department generates pre-approval loan certificates, using a query of all new members who join through Citadel's indirect lending program and meet certain credit criteria. ''We want to take advantage of all possible touch points, especially when the account originates outside normal business interaction,'' Greim says - and the ability to quickly pull data from the host to target specific populations makes that simple and effective. ''Our audit staff finds it easy to pull critical data for OFAC compliance,'' Greim adds. And while IS is no longer burdened with generating numerous reports, the staff does use the tool to help other business units with periodic reporting to identify unnecessary expenses and increase efficiencies.

Thanks to DataSafe/SQL's ease-of-use, Citadel has empowered employees by giving them more access to the data needed to succeed - without delays and without system capacity issues. ''Reports that would take hours, if not days, to create, refine and run now take minutes, because our staff can collect and analyze the data themselves,'' Greim says. ''And because we've moved the reporting load off the host and onto the workstation, we can generate more queries and still avoid the hardware upgrade we thought we'd need.''

For more details on USERS' technology solutions for credit unions, call 1-800-523-7282. You can visit the USERS' website by clicking here.
Click here to read about another credit union's success with DataSafe/SQL.

 

June 2, 2003


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